Staying Clean and Sober

I’ve been having a great couple of weeks, but last night I could tell that the good times were coming to an end. I could feel the beginnings of sadness creeping in, stealing my energy. I reminded myself that my mood and energy levels tend to come in cycles – good for a while, but eventually I’ll crash, likes waves on a shore.

(Note: This is one of those posts where I’m just gonna start typing and we’ll see what happens., i.e. it’s rambling and unstructured, but I hope it makes sense. I’m feeling lots of emotion and my rational brain feels half asleep still.)

But maybe it’s all just a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe I’m doing voodoo on myself. Maybe when I think, “My happiness is coming to an end, I’m overdue a depressive slump,” – I’m actually telling my unconscious mind to make it happen, and so it does.

(Note 2: This tune perfectly captures my mood this morning. It’s Help Myself by HWLS.)

What happens when you change the story you narrate to yourself about your life? Well, I know from my own experiences and from those of many other people: your life can transform in the most remarkable of ways.

So, what would happen if I stopped telling myself to expect depression to hit soon because it’s overdue? And what alternative narrative would I put in its place?

I’m frustrated by my 12 Steps sponsor. He keeps badgering me to do the “suggested things”… attending meetings, daily phone calls with him, daily step-work, prayer and meditation, a daily mini-inventory…

I’ve been busy for the last couple of weeks doing DIY, cleaning and chores. For the most part, I’ve been loving it. It gives me a huge sense of accomplishment. Some of the tasks are things I’ve been meaning/wanting to do for a very long time, but somehow I just kept procrastinating.

It’s fair to say DIY has been my latest obsession. And addicts like me tend to be quite “all or nothing” people, meaning we find it hard to balance multiple responsibilities.

My sponsor insists it’s important that I phone him frequently and that I try to do at least a little step-work every day. But talking seems pointless when life has been going so well. And as for step-work, I prefer to do that in longer bursts where I force myself to sit down and concentrate on it for an extended period. Doing just 5 or 10 mins per day almost seems disrespectful.

Anyway, yesterday my frustration with my sponsor reached the point where I’d decided I’d had enough. Don’t worry, I’m not quitting the fellowship (again)… those fuckers are stuck with me for a while longer yet. But I am taking a break of a week or two from my sponsor.

I know he just wants the best for me, but it frustrates the hell out of me that he’s trying to apply a cookie cutter template to me: “Do, A, B and C or you risk relapsing on drugs and might even die.”

I really just want to say, “Fuck off, I know what I’m doing.”

I refuse to abdicate my intellectual prowess and succumb to dogma. I’m not a 12 Steps clone, I’m an individual. My personal history and current circumstances are pretty different from a junkie who used to shoot up heroin every day. My using was occasional and I could be abstinent for months at a time.

There are plenty of other differences between my life and the “generic addict” life as portrayed in 12 Steps literature. I do my best just to gloss over these differences. I try to “look for the similarities, not the differences”.

But I do still struggle with the 12 Steps “lump all addicts together” approach. Why does the 12 Steps insist on treating me exactly the same as every other addict? Why is there no scope for individuality, for customisation of one’s program of recovery?

Yes, I fucked my life up with drugs. But that doesn’t mean I need to submit myself wholeheartedly to a generic program and turn off my brain and ability to reason for myself.

Why can’t I take the bits and pieces of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) that I like, apply them to my life, and ignore the rest? That seems like the best approach.

I understand that for NA as an organisation to survive and thrive, it needs a certain amount of unity. If different people with different ideas are allowed to do their own thing, they risk splintering off into their own denomination. NA would risk becoming like Christian churches… 101 Dalmations (or 1 million and 1 denominations).

So… in NA, individuals are discouraged from doing their own reasoning and tailoring the generic program to suit their personality and their circumstances… and this is done for the sake of the survival of NA as a whole.

I suppose I can see the logic in that. But I’m (selfishly) putting my personal recovery as a higher priority than the survival of an organisation. Sure, I owe a debt of gratitude to 12 Steps, but my own recovery comes first.

Here’s what I know about successful organisations/companies… they adapt and evolve. They don’t stay the same. They constantly re-evaluate market conditions and develop their products and services accordingly.

Organisations which try too hard to stay the same, those ones tend to die. They become rigid fossils.

My fear is that NA is like that… too stuck in the past, too inflexible.

AND YET… I still feel I get enough benefit from NA that I can overlook all of its flaws and continue my membership. It’s just that there’s a lot I must turn a blind eye to.

Historically, I’ve always been a maverick. I’ve always wanted to do things my own way. I’ve attempted to influence and shape the organisations I’ve been a part of to fit with my own ethos, ethics and ideas of what’s right. Apparently this trait is quite common amongst addicts.

So: here’s my plan… I’m going to do NA my own way. But I’m not going to attempt to influence the shape or direction of the organisation. Not yet, anyway. There’s huge institutional inertia and scope for conflict if I try to change things.

I don’t want extra conflict in my life right now. I want to stay clean from drugs (in my own way), and rebuild my life into something meaningful.

That does mean I need a sponsor who can be flexible with me. I have a horrible suspicion my current sponsor doesn’t have the capability to be as flexible as I need him to be. I guess I need to have a chat with him face-to-face about this.

I had a horrible dream this morning…

[Warning: contains gory imagery which some people may find disturbing]

In my dream, I’d blacked out after a party involving copious quantities of drugs and alcohol. It was now morning and I was trying to piece my life back together,

I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t operate my phone properly. I desperately needed to talk with my wife, but I couldn’t work out how to get my phone to call her.

I’d relapsed… and not in a small way. I felt gutted that I’d ruined all my hard work in staying sober.

I’d been in charge of our 4 dogs while my wife was away. But I’d neglected them because I was too obsessed with getting wasted and partying. I’d let them out the house to roam the neighbourhood – anything could happen to them.

I found Seth, our second-oldest dog. He’s sweet, gentle, highly intelligent and avoids any kind of confrontation. I offered him a piece of ham, but he wouldn’t come towards me… I knew something was wrong.

Then I noticed that his eyes were rolling back. Something was very wrong. I got closer to his face and I noticed a large wound on his cheek – he’d been bitten by another dog. He looked like he was really suffering. I needed to get him to the vet immediately.

SHIT! How had I allowed this to happen? I desperately tried to get hold of my wife on my phone. I needed her to phone the vets and let them know we were on our way. But again, I couldn’t work out how to operate my phone properly – my mind was clouded by drugs and alcohol. Last night had been wild.

I spent a while wandering the streets, trying to work out how to get home. I was somewhere in London, lost. I accidentally got on the wrong train and became even more lost.

I managed to get hold of my wife on the phone. Apparently I’d been involved in some kind of public disorder last night and was being prosecuted and fined by the police. I couldn’t even remember where I’d been or what I’d done.

I saw Akira The Don (famous music producer / YouTuber) in my dream. He told me to get in touch with him, “about the thing”. I think he was talking about some music track we were working on together.

That’s about it. A horrible, stressful, depressing dream in which my life was falling apart.

Maybe the memory of that dream will help to keep me sober.

Maybe I should contact Akira the Don and see if he wants to collaborate with me in some way. I have zero music production skills, but… I don’t know his views on drink and drugs, but maybe it’s worth asking.

OK, rambling post over. What title shall I use? I know…


This post details my intuitive, amateur analysis of the tune Places by Catnip Cloud and Tiril Hognestad.

[UPDATE 26/08/2019: The artists have given me permission to share their own thoughts about Places. See the bottom of this post.]

(Click the play button to listen on SoundCloud. And then read my analysis below.)

This song is the most meaningful piece of music in my life at the moment, so I thought I’d write about it.

The first few seconds are a slow rewinding. I imagine a human figure falling horizontally into a warm darkness. Their fall slows as they reach the middle of the scene.

This tune uses a lot of backwards-playing sounds. To me, this evokes an other-wordliness, totally appropriate for an inner mental and spiritual journey.

The backwards sounds are also a hint at the fact that human awareness is capable of time travel. We can skip backwards (remembering the past) and forwards (imagining the future).

By 9 seconds in, we have reached a deep sleep, very removed from the conscious world.

Between 00:16 and 00:19, we hear a piano-like sound alternating between 2 notes several times. To me, this focusses the attention on one specific moment, just a note in length. It’s saying, “This moment is particularly important.”

Then we have a short melody, which is a strange, twisted flute sound, rising in pitch. I think of this melody as being like a guide through the dark, deep sleep.

Then we get the start of the beautiful female vocals, “Fall into deeper places.” This is deeply significant to me. It’s the process of inner discovery, finding our souls within, finding peace. And it’s kind of a never-ending falling. Or rather, a falling which can repeat itself over and over.

“Fall into what I call home” – your soul, your deepest unconscious, this is where you are the truest you possible. It’s where you’re totally safe and nothing can hurt you.

From 01:14, we have a slowed down repeat of an earlier melody. The slowness represents yet another level of going deeper into our unconscious minds. And it’s in full alignment with the previous depths. This segment of the song is almost like complete sleep, it’s very deep and very peaceful.

“Watch me fall” – this is a request to the listener to imagine the singer falling deeper into her soft, deep, warm unconscious. But it’s also hint that our conscious awareness, as a listener, is a kind of witness to what’s going on. Perhaps it’s us, as the listener, who is actually doing the falling.

“Such a powerful exchange of human energy” – this whispered phrase almost always gives me goosebumps, especially if I listen to it via headphones. I never thought ASMR-type sounds had any effect on me, but those words speak deep into my heart. I also imagine that the exchange of human energy can mean two things. Firstly, it’s what happens when two people are in close rapport with each other and carefully listening to each other. Secondly, it’s the musical artists transferring their music’s magic into our minds and souls, as the listeners.

From about 02:11 to 02:17, there’s a whirring sound, escalating in pitch. This is a charging up of spiritual energy.

Where the chords strike at 02:45, for me this is an extremely powerful moment. We’ve heard this chord repeatedly through the song, but for some reason at this point it feels it’s strongest to me. The chord is reinforcing and strengthening all of the energy and the information being communicated by the other parts of the song.

From around 03:08, we’re starting to wake up. We’ve discovered something profound, been given a spiritual gift. Now it’s time to unwind the beautiful madness we’ve been experiencing and start heading back towards consciousness.

The final “Fall into what I call home” is an appeal to come back again soon. We are fully welcome back anytime we need to recharge our spiritual batteries.

I can listen to this song on repeat over and over again. I love it so much.

[UPDATE 26/08/2019: The artists have given me permission to share their thoughts about Places. See below.]

I wrote the lyrics to “Places” after hearing the instrumentals Kjartan made and the feeling I got from it. It has a solitary, almost cold sound but not in a repellent way. It has a comforting note to it. I envisioned all the times looking at my boyfriends face when he just looks out the window, staring at nothing. This nostalgic feeling was the inspiration for the lyrics. It can also be seen as a homage to all the introverts out there. Or those in favour of being alone with their thoughts and imagination rather than being surrounded by others in social settings.
Introverts have always intrigued me. Being a clear extrovert myself, I’ve always imagined the mysteries in their minds, like a beautiful ocean. Today, I feel like it’s more recognised to be a extrovert. We tend to think that if you won’t share everything about yourself you are “shy” or “boring”. “Places” is written for and about those who’d rather dive into their ocean of thoughts rather than proclaiming them to the world, and that [there] is nothing wrong about that.

Tiril Hognestad, vocalist on Places

I love how closely Tiril’s description seems to match up with my own intuitions in several ways. I’m definitely an introvert and I usually prefer exploring the contents of my own mind rather than socialising.