Darkness and the Ragamuffin

“Fear – it was an evil and corroding thread, the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It brought about trains of circumstances we felt we didn’t deserve but did not we ourselves set the ball rolling…“

Recently I was invited to give a talk on anxiety. I had been asked to do so by a group of people who had identified themselves as suffering from it and were becoming aware of the negative and destructive impact it was having on their lives. Speaking on topics of that type will always fall on deaf ears unless you can share some experience of your own. It helps the listener tune in rather than mugging you off as just another bozo on the bus. Gaining some identification from the small crowd wasn’t what started this prose. That bit went well. Short and sweet that it was it was still a fucking horror story. People gripped by fear love horror, it alerts them to the fact they’re not quite as bad as they first thought… not yet!

It was more my identification with them as the conversation moved to a solution. Thats what got me scripting this. That look of trepidation, the doubt and disbelief that normally precedes the search for an easier softer way. In an instant I could almost taste the warm nighttime air of the desert as it gripped me, lost in that surreal Californian city as I headed off in search of an easier softer way looking very disheveled – like the Ragamuffin Man. 

Fear has a hundred forms. Anxiety is one of them. Its at the bottom of the list just above worry and sitting precariously below panic and its big brother terror. All fears are born out of the overpowering desire to control imaginary outcomes. Sweeping away the wreckage of the future. An interesting proposition until you give it some thought. Like a drug it would be thrilling and empowering for a short time and then life would become mechanical and boring. Most fun is in the hunt with its surprise twists and turns. A sense of power arises from overcoming challenges when the odds were against us.

No amount of worry or anxiety can alter whatever is going to happen. I had to learn to alter my attitude regarding the need to control. I know this to be true as experience has taught me this. But some things slip through. Some things are just too damn important. Thats the way it had been for months leading up to Fresno. I had felt the darkness begin to rise up in me with a whisper that got louder and louder. Until with nowhere to go but to face myself it began to scream. I had to change my attitude, alter the sails, learn to trust if I was going to recover from the wreckage. Trust means nothing without faith. Trust is a belief that tomorrow will be ok. Faith shows thats possible because so was all our yesterdays. Ok is a very long way from perfect. Some yesterdays were pretty shitty, but we survived them. I have survived everyday of my life so far even the good ones. Faith tells me that will remain the same for everyday but one. Im not planning on caring too much when that day shows up.

Since I got sober many things have happened that I’m unable to explain. The situation leading up to that, and many other experiences I can’t find the words for. Whatever it is I continue to seek the experience. The hunt with its surprise twists and turns that make life really interesting is always accompanied every Step of the way by that old darkness. Its whispers get louder and louder, little by slowly, trying to grip me and send me off looking for an easier softer way. Until theres nowhere to go but face myself. I follow the process to that regularly and something new always comes up. When I say new I mean new angles. Its the same shit with all of us. Just different people, places and things.

In the midst of all this the story of Job (Jobe) sort of showed up without an explanation. I knew nothing of it and don’t suppose most people do. Its an interesting one. Briefly, he had been a righteous and good man all his life and the devil didn’t care too much for that (I guess I’m safe there). Ole Nick decided to see if he could break him and reigned down all sorts of naughty shit in Jobs direction. Cut a long story short Job held firm. But it was with his attitude to his friends’s negativity that ties in with what I’m getting at. They turned up at his wilderness apartment wanting to analyse, deconstruct, blame and find the faults that had lead to his recent misfortune. Job been as seriously pissed off as he so rightly was still had enough about him to realise he was still in the game and no amount of fear created by overthinking the future was going to change anything. Sounds like it was touch and go for a while but he made it in the end. Trust is nothing without faith. Faith without works is dead, there is action and more action. The things that bother me and sneak in to steal peace of mind won’t magically fix themselves. I’ve still got to show up for life, but keeping things right sized as they are in the here and now makes sense. Whats the alternative? Arrive in a different time zone with a brush and shovel making sure everything is neat and tidy for when I eventually land there for real? Insanity! Yet the world over people are attempting to do just that. Along with searching for some easier softer way to escape the intense psychotic pain they experience through doing so. Good luck with that.

“When life takes the wind out of your sails, it is to test you at the oars.” – Robert Brault

“I am open to the guidance of synchronicity and do not let expectations hinder my path.” – Dalai Lama X1V

“Life is like improvised jazz. We cannot regulate the variables. We must play it with panache and flair the best we can.” – Haemin Sunim

D&O in Fresno

Bordering the Clusterfuck

“I’ve come to expect challenges. In fact Ive Came to Believe that at the exact moment I realise sanity has returned I’ve already started the process of restoring myself to insanity.”

Its a recurring patten. Each time I peel another layer from the onion the next one smarts my eyes. Its kind of fun in a sick way like playing heads or tails with a coin that declares ‘Outright Serenity’ & ‘Manic Serenity’ on opposing sides. I get to play and it appears thats my game of choice on this journey called life. Eventually the coin lands ‘Serenity’ side up and during the cooling down period Im allowed the opportunity to reflect. View the progress and collateral damage equally, formulate a plan for the next layer, take a deep breath and relax. Who knows, next time I might just say “Fuck this I’m off to the pub to get loaded” but where would the fun be in that. 

The layer of recent experience has been original to say the least. Ive been guilty of just about every defect in the book at one point or another. Me and the ‘Seven Deadly’ were in the same class at school, ‘Snow White’ joined us later. But when it comes to judgement I only ever had a nodding acquaintance. Hardly strangers, just never quite close buddies. The way I always saw it was we all have opinions and if yours didn’t match mine then you were history. Dropped like a hot stone. Not saying I disliked you or even thought about you. Rather where was the value in bumping heads over different perspectives when there was more interesting topics to wash drink and drugs down with.

Almost 48 years in and my acquaintance of the nodding variety decided it was time for a full introduction. Much more of an interesting chap than I originally thought. A fucking mirror and a teacher. We would of made good drinking partners back in the day. So where am I going with all this…

Lately Ive been fed up with humans. Nothing out of the ordinary there, ‘Those Fuckas’ always find a way in. But normally I can separate (keep this in mind for later) them into groups – those that piss me off and those that charge my battery, keep me going so to speak. Then out of nowhere it seamed as if God appeared with an Oxyacetylene bottle and a blow torch and welded those fuckers together. One big clusterfuck of opposing opinions. Making noise, lots of it! 

Now lets be honest, I don’t give a fart in a shitstorm about who’s right and who’s wrong. I don’t believe there is such a thing. Opinions. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. I don’t go around telling others whats for supper. But it appears everybody all of a sudden wants to be king or queen of the pissing and moaning party. Worse still a lot of them claim to have an understanding of the 3rd Step. They have spoken many times of the disaster zone their life became when they tried to run the show. Now they demand how things should be done according to them. Everything from running the planet to picking the England team’s starting eleven in the World Cup. Its not exclusively them (remember the Big Fella with the blowtorch), everybody’s at it (and I mean everybody. If you think I don’t mean you then take another spin, in fact take as many as you like). The way I see it is if they were in charge of the team sheet the highlight of the season in a few short years would be a derby agains the Bullfarters Arms in some Sunday league over 40’s competition in front of a record crown numbering the grand total of 42. As for taking charge in an office of power then the whole planet would probably implode within 5 working days.

All of a sudden the sting from the onion starts to ease and I get to ask – “Who is the madman here?” What was it the Carpenter said about ‘Forgive them they haven’t got a Scooby what they are doing’ – infants in charge of an ego and here I am judging them like I’m any better. I get to look in a mirror held up by a teacher. Painful like an onion sting to the eyes. Another layer pealed, another layer removed from the core, getting closer, growing through pain. Entered and returned from the illusion of separation. Even though it feels good for brief moments, self-righteousness is still the pathway to self-destruct. I need ‘Those Fuckas’ even though they make noise that robs me of serenity from time to time. Who else would hold the mirror up? I made a decision to face and be rid of the things that feed my demons and block me from whatever has my highest good in its interests (Whatever It looks like, whatever It calls Itself). I got to face and be rid of some more thanks to Judgement and I’m grateful for the lesson so bring on the next one and make it equally as interesting or who knows I might just say “Fuck this I’m off to the pub to get loaded” – Not today JFT.

Step into the fire of self discovery, this fire will not burn you, it will only burn what you are not” – Mooji

“It is easy to criticise and break down the spirits of others, but to know yourself takes a lifetime” – Bruce Lee

“For (because of)  judgement I came into the world, That those who do not see (own faults) may see and those who see (defects of others) may become blind” – JC.

D&O in Fresno

Utopia dipped in Barbwire grappling Demons

Utopia dipped in Barbwire grappling Demons – The hunt for Happiness!

Happiness what is it? I mean really what the fuck is it? I have my opinion on that. Always have, but its changed massively over the last few years. How common is it to hear people say they just want to be happy. If they don’t know what it is then how do they know they’re not. They certainly don’t appear happy. Right bunch of miserable looking fuckers most of them. Its like a scene from the Walking Dead. Then theres those who are always trying to show how good it is to anybody crazy enough to hold an interest. Constant FaceBook and Instagram etc posts and updates orchestrated to prove what an amazing life experience they are having. You can guarantee most of this revolves around “Stuff”. You know – that latest gadget or whatever that really shows the world how much they’ve got it all together and are ahead of the race. Photos of all the latest shit they have acquired accompanied with the wearing of some hideous smile normally associated with a constipated camel. Nights out on the town photographed in some contortionist version of a drunken yoga pose whilst wrapped around some unfortunate slob who instantly portrays a look of gangster hip hop thinking his/her ship just docked. Nut jobs playing at grown ups and thinking they getting away with it. Those Fuckers! If this sounds a little holier than thou – its not! I’ve been all of them and countless other examples. Like I said, my opinions of happiness have changed many times and if Im honest Im still open to ideas. But one thing I know is all the bullshit didn’t fill what was always a massive hole in the soul. I tried to fill it with drink & drugs, enough of that shit to fill the Black Hole of Calcutta. But not the hole in the soul. That gaping nightmare just grew bigger. Extreme adrenaline, unnatural sex acts, contact sports, marriage and many other disturbing activities. None of it brought more than temporary relief.

But there was times when I felt it. Not just happiness but pure unadulterated joy. Even in the midst of the chaos. In my worst days of self destruction, pure insanity, harms done others and periods of it all seaming so mundane I wouldn’t breathe a sober breath for what seamed like eternity. Times my life at best resembled a triple header train crash on the inside but on the out I could wear the mask of some City Gent hoping nobody could view through the fucked up facade. Still it would make appearances, let itself be known to me. How does that happen? No job or amount of money could force the issue. Awesome parents, loving partner and kids just seemed to push it further away at times. Nothing brought about by my efforts added up to anything other than short term excitement followed by a huge crash and disappointment. But still it was there. A quiet undercurrent unaffected by circumstances.

Everybody wants to be happy. I get that. Its not complicated or too much to wish for. But the searching and wrestling trying to force the issue is counterproductive. As are peoples views on what happiness actually is. More so their right to have it delivered to them by somebody equally clueless about all this. Example been, when I first met my ex wife in a bar she jokingly said ‘Do you come here often?’ To which I replied seriously ‘Everyday’. Moons later in the middle of the thousandth manic ugly argument about my drinking she tearfully said ‘But I never guessed you would be this bad’. Some part of the “Everyday” answer had bypassed her understanding. Either that or she carefully chose to ignore due to the pursuit of her idea of what happiness looks like.

I listened intently to a friend last night give a talk on what happiness is to him. It was very psychology orientated and however much that shit bores me he managed to nail it with enough points of interest that I probably hadn’t thought too much about. Until he started to reaffirm his totalitarian believe that happiness is all in the mind. A state of mind he says. That might be his mind state but very rarely mine. Mines normally in a right state. Then again some of us are sicker than others. Could that be down to the fact I grew up with a very negative and destructive peer group where violence (even against each other if there was nobody suitable at hand) and booze were an everyday occurrence. Along with all the shit that accompanies this behaviour Im bound to feel some underlying trauma. Then if so then how come I still love these guys, well most of them? Long after they became ‘Respectable Citizens’ I chose to leave them to it except for occasional visits and text messages. Purely born out of the need to stay sober and nothing else. Hows that for positive thinking? Still happiness comes and goes on its own terms.

Those who have found themselves in situations such as Rehab, Therapy or Nut Houses will be familiar with positive affirmations were we try to trick the mind into positive thinking. They go something like this…

I am a wonderful flower pot of the Universe and I’m supported on all side by compassion and forgiveness” – Really!!

How I understand it…

“I am a fucked up lunatic that has spent 47 years bumbling through this life with a vague sense that if it wasn’t for some Higher Power (whatever that looks like/calls itself) I would have been dead ages ago… and yes there was plenty fun along the way”.

I’ve got news for you… the mind is a cunning sniper that jerks off in hysterics at childish attempts to play hide and seek with it!

I’ve Came to Believe that happiness is a gift. It happens to be a lot easier to foolishly throw it away than receive it in the first place. That usually happens through doubling my efforts to bring more and turning it into a drug to crave. Its then that I forget its an inside job. That its already there. How else could I have felt it in the middle of those mental train crashes. Those times when I’m falling about almost pissing myself laughing in the middle of some crushing life experience. Its always there. I still get those experiences of it today.

Life can at times be overwhelming! Financially and materially I’ve never had it so good but theres still times the world and its people force me to withdraw. I can feel the disassociation starting up in me days sometimes weeks before and I know a period of isolation is on the cards. Everything can get double serious and heavy. But never the less even in those dark moments/days when I feel Im been dragged by demons through the cuckoos nest chained at the ankles with spiritual barb wire, its there! Endless feeling periods wrestling some fucked up multiple personality disorder where one of us is more than happy to drown in the quicksand of self-pity while the other wants to don some suit and burst out into the sky and rearrange the Universe to more of my liking. Throughout all of that, every now and again a brief interval of happiness for no apparent reason will give me just enough. A taste of what it is we are all searching for. A smile, a chuckle (mostly at myself) and I know all is well. Even though it feels anything but.

Whether I’m a fucked up lunatic or a wonderful flower pot of the Universe is irrelevant. Happiness comes and it goes and comes back again. My part in it is to just get out of its fucking way. Everything else is just stuff.

Relax and chill out, none of us are getting out of this life alive” – Some Wise Guy.

The purpose of a mans life is not happiness but worthiness” – Felix Adler.

Don’t worry be happy” – Bob Marley.

D&O in Fresno

Spiritual Warfare

“On the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent…”

For a short while… After 4 years of a living hell that with all the best of intentions we are unable to fully comprehend… the guns fell silent! Just a few weeks ago I was looking at some recent photos of the battle fields of France. Even after 99 years the landscape has only partially recovered. The mud is long gone, trees have obviously grown back but the visible signs of the trenches are still there. A fitting tribute to a destruction and suffering of the highest order. The guns fell silent in France and brought an end to an episode and nothing more!

The thoughts and feelings of those guys on both sides when the reality of the ceasefire kicked in is again something we who weren’t there are unable to fully absorb. Regardless of who claimed victory it must have been a huge relief. That silence. That peace.

Unique in its own right because without that extreme human riot the absolute beauty of one second of pure silence can be vacant in a whole lifetime.

Whole lives have been lived without ever experiencing the total wonderment of a moments peace. The world and its people have constantly been at war. We are at war with ourselves.

Somebody with a greater understanding than me once said “All wars are fought due to mans inability to be in a room by himself and sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up” – Spiritual Warfare!

The ego will constantly try to force the idea of separation into the human consciousness… Im right and you are wrong! Like there is such a thing. Right and wrong! Never has there been and never will there be a situation where everybody concerned is satisfied. Somehow it just doesn’t work that way.

Five years ago I found myself at a point in life I just couldn’t go on with. I could sit in a room by myself, in fact thats what the majority of my days consisted of. I could sit down, again most of the time thats what I did. But shut the fuck up… not for one second. Even in my sleeping moments my head was screaming! A Passchendaele and Flanders in my own personal living room. I prayed for a ceasefire and eventually one came. A surrender in a war I had been fighting for over 40 years. A war with myself. Drink drugs violence ego and insecurity had been the machinery of war that I had bombarded myself with in a continuously progressive way. Like France the guns fell silent to an episode. The world and its people are constantly at war. It appears we are made that way. The constant illusion of separation fed by the ego.

We have the option to opt out but that feeling of separation (the ego rebuilds and reconstructs) makes it difficult to “Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up” but I felt it for the first time way back and looked for it ever since…

A few weeks ago I was waiting with my mate outside a locked up yoga studio at 6:55am five minutes before the session was due to start when the instructor turns up in a taxi. I made the comment to him that me and my friend had decided to give him a few more moments then go find a bar. We laughed and hugged then went inside and hit the mat. It wasn’t the first time a drink had crossed my mind since getting out of bed that morning. In fact theres very few days when its not my first thought. Theres hundreds of times Ive found a bar at 7 in the morning if not a shop that serves booze well before that. Theres something about morning drinking that really stroked my nuts from the very first time. Something non drinkers will never understand. That opt out feeling of surrendering to what is…

I remember been around 14 years old coming down stairs first thing and going out into the back garden. My old man was sitting there in his work clothes but obviously not going to work. I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a glass and went back out and joined him. I cant remember much about what was said that day, it was sometime ago, but I remember that total feeling of been at peace. That middle finger, go fuck yourself to the rest of the world. That pure silence response to the bullshit that humans in general seem completely unable to take a break from. Most if not all of them appear incapable of stopping themselves from adding to the noise of that circus ground cluster fuck. They are absolutely unaware of it. Its not their fault, the world is full of sick people – Im one of them!

“Selfisness, Self-Centredness that we think is the root of our troubles” Right or wrong!

So opting out without taking a drink takes a lot of hard work and practice. The ego screams separation. All that right and wrong bullshit! “Selfishness Self-Centredness…”

The guns fell silent just to mark an end to an episode. One I am doomed to repeat if I “fall victim to the delusion that happiness and satisfaction can be wrestled from this world…”

There is a lot about this world I don’t like. People, Places and Things that just don’t sit easy with me. But Im no better qualified to judge whats right or wrong anymore than they are.

The real peace that those guys must have temporarily felt as news of the ceasefire spread round the trenches can be experienced by one thing only. Surrendering to the fact that the war was always internal “This world and its people are often quite wrong and that is as far as most of us ever got…

“Above everything we must be rid of This selfishness, we must or it kills us” – Big Book p62.

“I should be content to look at a mountain for what it is and not as a comment on my life” -David Ignatow.

“I leave you with a new commandment, Love each other as I have Loved you” – The Carpenter.

D&O in Fresno.

Raging Bullshit and…

a brief acquaintance with Samadhi

A reintroduction;

Thirteen months have passed since the blog first burst out onto the Net. This is currently the 40th post and there have been over 1600 views so far. Averaging 123 views per month from all corners of the globe. Hardly New York Times Best Seller List material but still its done ok across various platforms. August 25th 2016 (first post) still holds the record number of hits in 24 hours (118).

So I thought now was as good a time as any to redo an introduction. Plus with the blogs theme of my daily practice of staying present and real to the moment along with been true to myself, coupled with the passing of the late great Jake La Motta it just seemed too good an opportunity for a great title.

I thought I would update on how Im doing with all this alongside a quick recap of previous posts and a list of my top 5 to date. I need to remind myself sometimes…

The world pulls at all of us, or the ego, whichever way you choose to look at it. People, their bullshit, false drama and constant mild or strong projected irritation can drive the sane totally crazy. Along with things such as debt, overworking, the economy, world war, world peace or any other fucking nonsense have got the majority of the population in the grip of a complete state of anxious depression.

Fuck that! The worlds problems are caused by one thing only – the human mind and its refusal to allow the sufferer to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. What has been seen can never be unseen. Knowing this is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it feels like Im walking through the set of The Walking Dead but along the way I’ve met some incredible people who remind me that’s all I’m doing… just walking through! Simple but rarely easy.

“In samādhi the mind becomes still. It is a state of being totally aware of the present moment; a one-pointedness of mind. It is a growing extension of the gap between thoughts and the conscious realisation of this without actually thinking about it.”

The world is full of sick people, I’m one of them. I can love them or hate them. The spiritual path tells me its better to love them and experience confirms this. Its a daily practice! I have a much deeper understanding now why I remained completely intoxicated with drink and drugs for decades. Along with why its so necessary to practice diligently what Ive learned since sobering up. If I don’t then I start buying into all the bullshit and then the dark side of me starts hinting that the crack pipe might not really be such a bad idea. The purpose of this blog has been to document all this.

Let’s take a look back…

Starting with NYC (15/9/16). Coolspring, Terrorists, Pancakes& Grits (21/9/16). Some time staying present in the big city, meeting up with mutual friends, a terrorist attack and enjoying some incredible food!

Familiar Ground (27/9/16). Connection (11/10/16). All that been back home entails after a trip to the greatest city on earth.

Onion Skin, Rehab and Parliament (11/12/16). Digging close to reality, working in a rehab and a trip to London after an invite to the House of Lords.

(5/2/17 – 9/3/17) Taking time to reflect in the posts…

Learning to let go.

Observing the illusion.

Easy does it.


(15/3 – 14/4/17) The WordPress Challenge brought 16 posts.

My favourites been –

Taking tea with Tesla (a cuppa with anybody you choose).

On Location (write what you can see).

Just Meditation (a critique).

Zenphoric Recall was posted 18/4

Journey of a Single Step (27/4) & Process of Subtraction (25/5) were both published on the U.S Recovery Website DrunklessLife.com

Frontier (31/5) – looks at a close call and some Dejavu.

Night Watchman at the Crease (11/6) – exploring the wilderness of discomfort.

Roland (21/6) – a book review.

Seeker of Experience (29/6) – saying goodbye with a touch of Faith.

You can hear it in my accent when I talk (12/8) – back in NYC.

No Mas (25/8) – Roberto Duran with a 12 Step perspective.

Spiritual Hooligan (9/11) – the latest to date.

My Top 5

5 Thinking and Drinking with Mick & Mel (14/4/17).

4 Just for Today 24 Little Hours (6/4/17).

3 Fear (4/4/17).

2 Letter to Santa Claus (23/3/17 – its a Gratitude List).

1 Zenphoric Recall (18/4/17). Looking at even though the scars are real their influence on today in reality is nothing more than a dvd playing in the head.

As for Fresno she still out there just where I left her. Surrounded by the scorched California desert, her heart pulsing in tune with a flaming nuclear sun. Yosemite to the east and the Pacific to the west. Occupied by a massive Homeless population, some of them surviving daily battles of insane complexities. Some don’t. Alongside all this chaos half the United States’ Methamphetamine is produced and consumed. Block after block of Suburbs gives the City an eerie plastic twilight zone feeling as each resident participates in their own fresh fillet of hell. Somewhere amongst all this are certain groups and individuals who know there is a better way and battle to stay in touch with reality on a 24 hour basis – maybe down but certainly not out…in Fresno!

As for me… well I’ve had a blast.

A Zen Buddhist Poem…

“If you prefer smoke over fire

then get up now and leave.

For I do not intend to perfume

your mind’s clothing

with more sooty knowledge.

No, I have something else in mind.

Today I hold a flame in my left hand

and a sword in my right.

There will be no damage control today.

For God is in a mood

to plunder your riches and

fling you nakedly

into such breathtaking poverty

that all that will be left of you

will be a tendency to shine.

So don’t just sit around this flame

choking on your mind.

For this is no campfire song

to mindlessly mantra yourself to sleep with.

Jump now into the space

between thoughts

and exit this dream

before I burn the damn place down.”

“Its not a daily increase but a daily decrease, hack away the inessentials” – Bruce Lee.

“You punch like you take it up the ass” – Jake La Motta.

“Life’s tough… get a helmet” – Aiden.

D&O in Fresno.

Spiritual Hooligan

The world is insane. That’s reality! Every generation, century, millennia find their own way to both make their stamp on that and deny any responsibility. Its always the other side or somebody else’s fault. Nobody escapes this fact… nobody! Especially those who can always prove its somebody else’s fault, always have an answer why! If we spend so much time researching facts to win an argument that doesnt leave too much time to look in the mirror. Its the way it is for all of us. Escaping from reality is just another way of trying to escape from ourselves. That’s insanity!

Finding myself at a turning point five years ago I somehow sensed the root of my troubles was me. That was my first encounter with reality. Been forced to look at myself required me to deepen this sense of reality and in that I found my troubles were a lot bigger than I initialy thought. That was a real slap in the face that woke me up to the fact that shit was about to get real! I didn’t know who I was! I knew where I’d been and what I’d done. I knew I felt like a train crash and I was deeply fucked up. I had a brief understanding of who other people thought I was. But in reality I was a fucking stranger walking about in somebody else’s skin. So I had to take some time with the mirror and ask the question “Who is this fucking lunatic staring back at me through my eyes?”

What I found was, with the help of great teachers (other fuck ups who had been forced to look inside rather than keep blaming outside events), is its Ok! Let’s face it, this life doesnt come with an instruction manual. Yes we have parents. Mine are amazing people who did the best they could with what they had at the time while dealing with their own shit. I turned up looking like Christmas ticking like a time bomb! A fucking booby prize who would drag them through four decades of chaos. Stepping things up little by little as time passed.

I can blame a lot of outside events… there was a lot, a fucking hell of a lot! The peer group I grew up with were compleatly mad and dangerous. Some later proved to be a lot more than others.  School was an experience. I fought my way through it and they just kept coming and I just kept getting better at it as they did. Put in a school for delinquents where it was all about behaviour correction, and education was non existent (Wonderful opportunity has recently presented itself where I have been offered the chance to go into a similar place and talk with the kids). Fighting at the Football while been filmed getting arrested, Police getting knocked unconscious, likewise at the miners strike. Detention centres. Psychologists. Getting in trouble serving in the Forces. Sick toxic relationships. Prison. Deep periods of self imposed isolation etc etc. This list is by no means comprehensive. The abnormal became the normal. Though there was many good times and the old me still cherishes some of the fantastic friendships I made along the way the truth is this… I knew something was wrong right from the off. My earliest memory of a conscious thought was “What is it with me?” I’m talking pre school and that on its own is a very fucking strange thing for a child to think. I had no benchmark to judge this on and its not like I was going to ask somebody else. But whatever it was/is I could feel it and still can at times when I slip off the beam I’ve been walking for quite a few 24 hour periods now.  I know this as reality – not long after asking myself that question I was to encounter alcohol and something happened right there on the spot! A very small amount of alcohol for what was at that time the smallest this problem has ever been. It worked and the game began. A hooligan woke up inside me and I spent a long time trying to escape from him, escape from myself. Escape from reality. That’s insanity!

So – Fast forward to 41 and I had spent just about all my life trying to drown this mother fucker. He just keeps getting stronger and I just kept soakining him. Until I can go no further. That in itself had just about finished me off and many of the situations it took me to could have ended a lot worse than they did. Check but not quite checkmate! Back to the mirror, who am I? Am I a product of my experiences? If I am then who’s this hooligan I’ve been carrying around? I stop trying to drown him and does he go away? No! He keeps getting stronger!! I’ve had to learn to love him, that kinda confuses him. After all this time he finaly gets my attention and I accept him – me. Because of that life can be wonderful. Not constantly but a lot of the time. In a way that I thought I would find in a bottle but it wasn’t there. I was looking in the wrong place. It was always in the last place I would look. Deep inside is were I found the Great Reality. With it comes a sense of Joy.

The Ego is so powerful it can sicken the Spirit –  It can tear through our being like a tornado battening our very life force! So badly we grab for answers, always looking to cast the blame. Always looking to separate from those who we hold responsible. While the answer to the problem, for this hooligan anyways, is to look within and realise its Ok to be fucked up. We all are! I have to feed the Spirit and get it in awesome shape just to have a chance. I’ve needed a lot of help with that from those who have been put in my path to teach me cos I just didn’t know. I had accumulated a lot of messed up shit and it needed unlearning. It hasn’t been easy. At times its been by far the hardest thing ever but worth every moment.  Life is a wonderful journey of self discovery. So many people are starving to death because they are eating the menu. They don’t want to experience anything that sits outside the comfort zone. They want to run from it, like I did right from the word Go. But the Hooligan that lives in my Spirit just wouldnt let me escape… He got my attention and I know he will again if I let things slide.

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to loose” ~ Yoda.

“Im the rainbow in your jail cell every memory of everything you’ve ever smelt” ~ Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Don’t Forget Me).

“EGO – Edging God Out” ~ Annonymous.

You can hear it in my accent when I talk…

I love traveling. Not in any geographical escape manner, though I’ve tried that a few times. It doesn’t work. Everywhere I go I take me with me. However there is one place I love to visit that allows me just to be comfortable with exactly who I am. That place is New York City. There is something about that particular spot on the planet that just swallows me up and gives me a head space which could best be described as “not giving a fuck!”
I’ve just returned from my 5th time in the greatest city on earth and again it was a wonderful experience. With all its hustle and bustle, near constant flow of people, traffic and obvious problems on the surface around homelessness and mental ill health. I’ve never felt more at home! Staying present and focused on the here and now, exactly what’s in front of me while dealing with reality feels totally intuitive there. It seems to happen in a way that I have to work hard on a daily basis to achieve anywhere else. I fall more and more in love with the Big Apple each time I go there.

This time it was that bit extra special as I was travelling with my son. It was his first time in the States and it was great to be able to show him round. I know the City well. I can find my way around without any real difficulty. Im at home there and have friends who I like to touch base with as soon as I land. This time was no different. We met up with my good friend Eoin as soon as we dropped the bags in the hotel. We sat down to some Korean food then walked the High Line Park. It was built out of a disused railway line on the Lower Westside running from 14th street up to 34th along 10th Avenue some one and a half miles. It is elevated and has a constant view looking down on the City and over at the Hudson River. We walked and talked, taking in the incredible views, stopping for ice cream along the way. It quickly became obvious that my sons eyes where opening to the fact this was a little different to anything he had experienced before. I resisted the temptation to start taking control and becoming a fount of information. I just rolled with it, allowing him to experience it his way while dropping into the conversation anything I deemed important.

Hitting the street at 5am to take the Subway from Hells Kitchen up to 96th street to meet up with “Mutual Friends” Im aware of the fact my mind is calm and tuned into my surroundings. Unlike the instant attack of compulsive thoughts I awake to back home. Something Ive grown to be grateful for. The routine I’ve developed to cope with this has gave me so much more in return. Still it’s nice to have a break from it and be able to walk out the door on a morning after a quick wash and grab a coffee on route.

The week itself was incredible. Mostly just to be with my boy. He stuck by the old me through thick and thin. When everybody at one point or another turned their back on me for a time as I sank further and further into a drink and drug induced madness and the chaos that brings. He was always there! We have always been close and have a solid bond. But like all relationships there comes a time when some space opens up and he has forged his own life. We never really get time to spend more than a day here and there together and thats cool as long as he is happy and healthy. So having this week together on the other side of the world in a place I feel so relaxed in was a massive privilege.

We got round quite a bit. A visit to Gleasons Boxing Gym in Brooklyn and walked the Brooklyn Bridge. The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. Times Square and a steak at the world class steak house ‘Gallaghers’. Central Park. “A Bronx Tale” at a Broadway theatre. A Baseball game at Citi fields. Football (Soccer they call it) at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. A train ride out to Jersey Shore to spend a day at the beach, and various sight seeing, restaurants and bars. I know it couldn’t have been easy on the boy enjoying a few beers with a middle aged man and former hell raiser as I sipped on ice cold Coca Cola. But he made the best of it. Something I would have found extremely difficult at his age. We had a great time. All the while knowing that like minded “Mutual Friends” are never far away in this Metropolis and always pleased to see me as I walk through the door. A true miracle and one I cherish and feel blessed to be so firmly connected with.

The whole week the weather was hot and sunny. Except for the day we came home. It rained heavily in a thunder storm those few hours as we prepared to head out to the Airport after lunch. It would be easy for me to fantasise that it was the City’s way of saying “So long, it was great to see ya again, sorry your going come back soon”. I like to think so, who knows!

Back home all is as I left it. Same crazy head, same little struggles. Same tried and tested 80 year old program that delivers sanity on the grounds that “half measures avail us nothing!” Back to a new job I started 2 weeks before jetting off. All is well. Its great to be alive and even better to be sober. All of it thanks to an amazing world wide fellowship of people that started with 2 men, one from NYC, sitting down together admitting that on their own they were fucked! I thank ‘Him as I understand Him’ for including me in that and all that it has given me.

“You can hear it in my accent when I talk I’m an Englishman in New York” ~ Sting.

D&O in Fresno

Seeker of Experience

“I seek experience. I no longer seek faith or belief, I seek experience. When I find experience faith and belief take care of themselves. I urge you to seek experience.” – Peter M from New Jersey speaking at the Primary Purpose weekend at Camp Hill Pennsylvania 27/8/2004

I remember it well. It was a Sunday morning and I had risen to the thought of how fucking amazing I felt. I was 3 months out of rehab, 6 months sober and for the briefest moment I felt totally in control of my own destiny. For the first time in my life I held the deck and the cards where stacked in my favour. Oh how deep the darkness just before the dawn..
A family commitment I had that day had been cancelled. The sun shone. I had a whole day to myself. A blank canvas to paint as I choose. Then the thought hit me out of the blue, with the power of a freight train. It was the voice of a madman. My voice but not my words… an obsession so subtle and so powerful.
In under half an hour I knew I was going to get drunk. Within the hour I had acquired enough alcohol to find oblivion and was marching through it at the same insane pace I’d left off.
4 weeks that felt like 4 years. I could write exclusively on that period, but not this time, maybe another day. I fell deep inside a Hell State that could wipe just about any human from the face of this planet. The illness dragged me through debauchery, depression, misery, mayhem, isolation and public examination. It brought a pain so sweet I clambered for more.
Coming to and to what seemed like out the other side I found myself at a meeting dripping with self pity looking like a traffic accident. I could see the horror and the relief that it wasn’t them on the faces of those listing to me share it with the room. Except for one! An old timer. He approached me outside and he was laughing! I didn’t get the joke. I remember anxiously explaining to him how I had done everything right, I was working the Steps (remembering this I both laugh and cringe – I’d made 6 months haha what the fuck did I know about working the Steps), I was trying to get honest and making meetings. He asked me to name one thing I had done for somebody else over that period of self indulgent destruction. I felt speechless, unable to comprehend even the idea of what he was talking about. Had he not been listening? I had been waist deep in the shit. How could I have even thought about helping somebody else? I didn’t know how to do that, nobody had ever shown me! “Selfishness, self-centeredness that we think is the route of our troubles” – I was 41 years old and I had never gave a flying fuck about anybody or anything but me! Then he said – “ask God to show ya, He will send an angel, He always does”.

Visiting my counsellor back at the rehab he heard me describe what had happened, that complete lack of a mental defence against the first drink. He informed me I was getting to know my enemy (true knowledge of my condition) and he made some definite and valuable suggestions.

4 weeks that felt like 4 years, 4 weeks that brought 4 years of experience!

I remember that night praying to just be fucking willing to be willing…

What happened next is well beyond words that can fit into a blog post. I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon. What it’s been is beyond anything I could have imagined or wished for. An incredible ride on an incredible leg of this miraculous journey. Things have been massively high with excitement at times and at others like trudging through treacle. I’ve worked alongside some amazing people and been privileged to serve some truly wounded souls who have at times made my heart bleed and at others made me laugh in a way I had forgot. During this time I’ve traveled the country and the world in connection with my work, and again been blessed with the experience of connecting with others in a way that for 41 years was alien to me. The sign was always on the door, always opening to some room, always a seat I had qualified for. It always was and always will.

Big Book Page 152 (A Vision for You) – “I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I, have you a sufficient substitute?”
“Yes there is a substitute and it is VASTLY more than that…”

Without this program I have no idea where I would be, but I know the experience of the last four years wouldn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t either.
As this leg of the journey comes to a close and I prepare to leave my job as part of the Sunderland team of Changing Lives. As I move into a new role within the Organisation, in a new location with new experiences I remember my greatest teachers have been those whom I’ve struggled with. Everybody is a mirror or a teacher. I’m truly grateful for all they have shown me. Especially the angel who was sent to give me an opportunity to grow by stopping been so fucking self obsessed. If she had saw the shit storm I was just a few short weeks earlier she may have thought twice, but then again I doubt that. Somebody who guided and supported me in a way I will never be able to repay. Unless someday some other fuck up going through a shit storm gets asked the question what has he done for somebody else during that period, then shows up asking me how he can help!

There has been a massive growth in the project over the last 4 years. Many faces have come and gone. Ive connected with all of them on one level or another. I respect and care about each of them. We have moved offices from an over crowded unit in a block shared with many others to a huge and very comfortable environment half a mile away. What started out as one small project has expanded and morphed into a multi service multi disciplinary team. As a result the people we support have benefited in many ways. The people who do this work are more than something special. I have loved my time as a part of all this and know it will continue to grow and move forward. Adapting at every turn, it doesn’t need me! There is currently only 3 of us left from my first year, soon that will be 2. I have tried to remain present as much as possible throughout the whole experience and wish to remain forever teachable.
I am in the process of asking “how I understand Him” to provide me with another great teacher, I don’t know why I’m asking, He will anyways, He always does!

What I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it” – Hugh Mulligan.

Opinions are great, we all have them. Only problem with that is when the truth shows up it doesn’t give a fuck about opinions” – Heard in a meeting.


D&O in Fresno


Radiate – “Diverge or spread from or as if from a central point”

It was dark and pissing down with rain. I was in a state of emotional and mental disrepair. Very different from how I’d been throughout the previous moments of that day, which in itself was surprising. I was seven days back from a relapse. A short excursion back into the madness, it had lasted only a few days but it had been extremely intense. The suffering brought about by reacquainting myself with my old friend wasn’t unexpected. I know how it works. He try’s on a daily basis with a cunning so baffling its beyond powerful, it’s tripped me up more than once. I’ve never took a drink I didn’t need, it was always to shut that fucker up!
I’d spent that morning and afternoon the same way I’d spent the last week, in the rooms of the Fellowship. Surrounding myself with those whose old friend is on first name terms with mine. 2-3 meetings a day. Though still obviously shook up I had quickly began to repair physically. I was tired but felt satisfied that I’d put 24 hours between me and the assassin that lives somewhere deep in my psyche. On that I decided to take some time to rest up and spend the night on the couch. The obsession kicked in within the hour and even though Im more than fully aware I can’t beat it on my own I chose to play with it rather than disclose it.
So… I find myself soaked to the skin, takin the longer way to go buy what I need. There’s a quicker route but that would mean taking the chance of bumping into people who would want to help me. The mental obsession has got me in its death grip now, literally. I’m conscious of the fact that I’m fucked. I haven’t got the strength to repeat the last 7 days. I put a drink in me now then I’m gone, along with everything that came with staying sober.
It’s a Saturday night and the street is unusually quiet. It’s never a busy tread path, except for the steady flow of amateurs on a pub crawl, always somebody around. Not now. Just me and the dark rain! Im half way to where I need to get. The mental obsession along with the growing physical compulsion has me feeling exhausted. I see the bar all lit up like Christmas. Standing across the road staring at it as it calls me in. The pull is amazing, everything I need to make this go away is in there, everything I need to make everything go away! The rain is getting heavier.

In the book of Genesis after God discovers Cain has murdered his brother Able he decides to banish him way past the frontier rather than destroy him. Stating his reason for sparing him as “Man is inherently evil by youth”.
Interestingly ancient civilizations and believe systems of Spiritually orientated peoples have a theory that we hold in our DNA – mental thought processes, personality traits and more importantly – Memories that we inherent from our ancestors. Passed down from generation to generation at the time of conception. More times than not this happens at a stage in the parents’ lives that could be considered as youthful. This would explain déjàvu, a phenomenon that most people are aquatinted with at least casually. I’ve experienced it more than a few times but most powerfully during my first trip to New York. Granted it was before I got sober and I spent the whole trip intoxicated, but turning a corner from one street to the next I was suddenly aware of a deep recognition of my surroundings. I felt sure I had been in that street before! Only that was impossible as it was the first time I’d crossed the Atlantic. It’s a fucking big Ocean so I couldn’t have accidentally found myself there previously during a drunken blackout unable to remember making the trip. However my Grandfather had been there during his time in the Navy back in his youth!

I knew both my Grandfathers well, as well as you think that you know anybody, we are never sure. Both had similarities and differences. One grew up in an Orphanage and climbed on-board a ship for the first of many times at the age of 14. The other stayed at home nearly all his life building boilers that powered those ships. They were both hard working, heavy drinking men. Both incredibly stubborn and self-sufficient. My father fits the same bill. I can’t imagine any of them ever asking anybody for help. Inherently I fit them same description. With one difference – I had to adapt. Had to otherwise I can’t seriously imagine sitting here today writing this blog. Not when I’ve saw with my own eyes what happened to those who I could see where not yet at the stage I got to. They sharp did. Not all of them, some didn’t make it!
Humans are powered by ego. All of us! We suffer from a collective insanity. The world is full of sick people totally identified with the bullshit swirling through their minds. In a near constant state of fantasy, anxiety, guilt and resentment. Always planning, plotting, scheming and day dreaming. Never really present to the moment by moment miracle of life itself. Never fully connected to the ever present reality of the Now. Spirituality is the realization that survival is a savage battle between me and myself. A battle that I can’t fight alone and one that can never be won. One that will continue till I either die or quit, there’s always a chance that could happen on the same day. Today I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I made a decision to practice a different way to live, a way of living that gives me a life beyond my wildest dreams. Not OF my wildest dreams… that shit would kill me quick! Staying focused on what’s in front of me and always finding something to be grateful for… it’s always there!
At work I’m in a position to help others, people with a complex chaotic lifestyle that have multiple difficulties, none of them lead to a healthy conclusion unless big changes were to happen. However most clamor for my attention without a desire to make changes. They want a quick fix for whatever problem confronts them and then to go on with the normal level of self-destruction. I was very much like that myself. The Gift of Desperation can only be found at “Rock Bottom”. As crazy as it seems, some people just never find their way there no matter how bad it gets! I love the fact I’m not just in a position to help others but also that I’ve developed empathy and a willingness to think of others. It’s the opposite of the immense selfishness I displayed for decades. That is where the whole problem starts. “Selfishness, self-centeredness that we think is the root of our troubles”
But having said that it never serves anybody well to rob them of their own personal rock bottom. They say if you can’t remember it then you haven’t been there yet! I was 41 years old and what I found there was the ability to ask for help. That was a first!

If you’re wondering what happened that night as I stood in the rain staring at the bar, soaked to the skin, needing a drink. Not wanting to but knowing I had already lost the ability to choose whether I would or not. That night when the inherent insanity drove my thinking and compelled me to go ahead and continue where I had left off… on that desperate mission of self-destruction.

The short answer is you had to be there!

I don’t fully understand it myself, don’t expect I ever will. I try not to demand understanding nowadays, accepting things are just the way they are. I reached out for help and it came. I found myself putting one foot in front of the other and backtracking what felt like a marathon. It was a short distance, only a few hundred yards but it felt like I was wearing deep sea diver’s boots. I flopped down on the bed and slept till morning. Waking up sober I spent the day with my young son. He was oblivious to what had just happened the night before and I was just too happily relieved, not needing to talk about it.

We carry more shit than we realize! If we are not there for each other than where are we? If we don’t ask for help then how can we receive it? If we don’t know how it feels to be helped then how can we help others? If we can’t help others then how do we expect to survive, and more than that, how can we expect to be happy?

This blog entry was inspired by the WordPress “One word – Daily Prompt” (Radiate) and also a Facebook post from my good friend Justin – C. It was as follows…

“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life ….today I will be trying to bring as much joy as I can to myself and others ..there’s enuf shit and pain In this world already the last thing it needs is me adding to it ..peace”

“Your wounds happened for you not to you” ~ Jeffery Van Dyk

“Am I my brothers keeper?” ~ Gen 4:9

“Deep beneath the white there is a redskin suffering from centuries of taming” ~ Adam & the Ants


“The Mission should you choose to accept… meet Me alone.”

Before we start lets get one thing straight, I don’t claim to be an authoritarian on the God idea, who is? I mention early on in the intro page to my blog that I follow no organised religion. Thats not to say I’m prejudiced against them, on the contrary I respect a lot of their principles and don’t judge to harshly their mistakes. I try not to judge anybody nowadays. Its easier said than done at times but I do practice. I find it hypocritical how we can damn somebody for committing an offence, any offence, just because they have been ordained into some believe system, while on the other hand show a massive unrealistic approach to rehabilitating the sicker, non remorseful repeat offenders of our society. It is what it is and I’m cool with it. Lets face it none of us are perfect. I love Brad Warners recount in his book “Zen wrapped in chocolate dipped in Karma” – of a Zen Buddhist Master seducing his pupil then the rest of the flock screaming for his crucifixion – even the Zennys are at it.

What do we think God makes of all this, who knows… who knows if there is a God? Western society has moved quite a distance in recent times away from the whole idea of some Heavenly Father. I certainly reject the idea of some old man with a beard swapping seats from cloud to throne, but the question still remains – who moved?
As the years passed I bought into the whole “Self -Sufficiency” theory where nobody admits to their mistakes, hides there feelings and true beliefs and generally sooner or later collapses under the shear weight of unrealistic expectations. We certainly know how to throw a party!
Getting back to it, I don’t really give a rats ass about religion, I don’t believe God does either.
My encounter with the Big Guy is a deeply personal and intimate relationship. I do the work and He makes the outcomes into whatever He decides best and I’ve learned to grateful for that in a big way. Its never what I would have planned, always something better.

Things were very different in my life for a long time. I no longer believe in coincidences, but back when I did quite a few happened in short succession, in a time and a place that I experienced a loneliness I never knew existed. The bottle had me beat, had done for quite some time, but by nature I’m a tenacious bastard so I wanted to go one more round, and another and another. I took quite a beating and even the sicker element of my character had ceased to enjoy it.
I can identify totally with “Bills Story” (Big Book AA) when Ebby Thatcher visits Bill in his former grandiose Brooklyn home (then a disheveled wreck – like Bill himself). Bill mocks Ebby for his new found believe in a Power Greater than himself, even though he admits his friend (who he had always considered a more hopeless drunk than himself) was looking and sounding fantastic. “My friend then suggested I choose my own conception of God”. A few days after in Towns Hospital NYC (1935) Bill-W experienced something that not only changed his life but that of millions of others, he was alone at the time! His own concept, and in his own words – “It is better to meet God alone than with one who may not understand.”

Thats were I am with it today – my own concept and alone with it. Everybody must find their own way, and thats the beauty of it – the second Step says CAME to Believe!, “God doesn’t make too hard work of those who earnestly seek him.” The realisation is that when earnestly seeking – He’s everywhere. I mean where else would he be. He is the man alone in the church, the desperate drunk chained to the bottle, the warm handshake of a friend, a smile from a stranger, the gentle quiet voice whispering encouragement under the screaming bullshit of the world. He is everything in this Universe that we don’t understand. Everything we miss and take for granted. Because to truly begin to understand what can’t be understood we must first develop a courage to walk in there alone.