Thursday, May 28, 2015

Setting an Intention for the Day

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The Power of Intention

If you're like me, when I was on to something new, reading the book was about as close as I used to get to actually doing it.  I'd read it, think about it, and then not actually do anything.  Sometimes just having the book on my bedside table was enough - without even turning a page.

But if I did go and read the book, I could talk and have an opinion about whatever it was – but as for actually doing it – not really.   Too busy or something about business or think of the children or family stuff – you get the picture.

That was the old me for sure – always reading and researching but as for actually putting my swim goggles on and diving in the water – well – maybe tomorrow.  I'd read the book, listen to the soundtrack and even subscribe to the podcast – but as for actually taking that first step outside – well – nope.  I was all theory and no practice.

That's the first thing I learned about when I started this sober / alcoholic journey.  It's all very well to be up on the theory and strategy, but when it comes to game day, and you crumble – it all really starts to become a bit meaningless.  I would even rip the books to pieces and throw them out – in anger at that the silent words on the page were almost taunting me with another failure.

There is a big gap between reading and implementing – and for me this was a wonderful lesson I learned and am still re-experiencing each day – that all the intellectual understanding doesn't really count for much if, when it comes to the moment of action, you stumble and delay and make excuses and simply don't turn up.

It was something that dogged me throughout my life, a mixture of anxiety and doubt and lack of confidence that only grows if it is not being overcome.  That doubt and fear doesn't stay the same – it's not static - over time it only grows if your daily choices let it.  Public speaking anyone?

It is a big thing for me to appreciate that just turning up is half the battle won.  Going for an audition or an interview – they have to pick one of the candidates – right?  And if you are a no show there's 100% chance you won't get picked – but if you go, and do your thing, there's a chance you might get picked, or take the job.  It's that simple.

I remember smoking pot in my teens and completely losing my confidence and ability to just front up and be myself.  How my self analysis and self-consciousness just grew to such a point I was literally sitting in my little one bed flat for like days in a row, eating noodles, watching TV, and cultivating a deep sense of paranoia - verging on agoraphobia.

Then, the day of my student payment - blinking in the sunlight like I'd emerged from a mine shaft –  keeping my head down and shuffling around in the quiet parts of the day –  and buying my packets of instant noodles, cigarettes, wine and some coffee before going back into my lair.  It was dark and gloomy and not a good place at all.

Now, years later and still working on bolstering my self confidence to find that delicate balance between self-belief without tipping over into arrogance – I look back and thank myself that I persisted through that dark time.  It's all about being patient through the bad times and being passionate and persistent when the good times roll around.

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Today, as an alcoholic working each day to remain sober for the long term, I am completely open to all strategies, suggestions and skills to help me stay on task.  And, through my reading I discover tools everyday to help with this.  What I have learned overall is that there is no one true path or single "way of sober” – but there are common threads and themes and they can be applied to sobriety and alcoholics.  Like Intention.

Intention – purpose or attitude toward
the effect of one's actions

Over 800 pages, incl. three titles

I am making use of intention as Dr Wayne Dyer, and his The Essential Wayne Dyer Collection offers it.  Dyer suggests that intention is something we should re-align ourselves with and activate – it is like an unwritten law or pattern that all life follows – and if you are aware of and using your intention, you are are engaging a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals and live a better life.  Or staying sober.

As a part of my morning routine, I write in a journal and one of the last lines I write each morning is about setting the intention for the upcoming day.  Normally, I don't put much more thought into this specific intention than maybe the twenty seconds of so as I am writing it by hand.  I have a list next to my work space with key words and intentions that I can look up to and quickly choose for each day.

Setting an intention still works as a powerful flavor or tone of the day – and I can reflect in moments of craziness that my intention was something much calmer and positive than I the actual feeling or emotion I might be feeling at that instant.

Setting an intention works as an anchor point for my spiritual life for the day – and since the intention changes each day, it can be influenced by what I am feeling or decide to focus on.  Over time, my intention has shown to repeat a certain theme or topic and this in itself gives me insight into myself and where I need to grow.

Always, as an alcoholic, there is the underlying intention to not drink and to stay sober – this is a given – but some days, it needs to be re-said explicitly and spelled out – and I do this.  But most days, I choose an intention as suggested by Wayne Dyer.

“Recite the seven words that represent the seven faces of intention: Creative, Kind, Loving, Beautiful, Expanding, Abundant, and Receptive.” page 37.

I have even gone so far as memorizing these words as I touch the fingers on my hand, so I can quickly recall the intentions as I am going for a run or during a yoga class.  It is a good way to re-align my focus when I drift into negativity or self-criticism.  It has almost become like a mantra that I use to bring me back to the present moment during my day.

Setting an intention is taking responsibility for where my mind will go, and makes me very accountable for the rest of the day.  I particularly like the idea of intention as it works like a focus mini-goal for the short term and really gives me something substantial to focus on.

I can focus on the word as I run, and repeat it every breath, or every step, and just by saying “beauty” over and again and thinking of the types of beauty, and how I have seen beauty in my day – it brings me away to a well, “beautiful” place for my mind to be.

Not distracted or ruminating on the days “to do list”, or old hurts or past failings.  But meditating on the mantra of the intention word itself.  It is very powerful for me.  I hope it works for you too.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Been a While

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It's been a while.

I'm back writing again.

There is so much to be grateful for.  But I don't want to come across as all smug and self satisfied - there is still struggle and I am vulnerable and I am still working hard and learning everyday.  Just that I am in a good place right now and working hard to maintain it.

Let me fill you in.




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First thing is I haven't been drinking for nearly 18 months, so I am well into the longest stretch of sobriety since I have been quitting alcohol - which is for the last five years or so.  I appreciate that it is a real challenge to share humility and simple gratitude when I am feeling like this - and I am feeling both.  I am not losing sight of the simple hard work of maintaining a simple life balance.  And keeping my life meaningful and connected as best I can.

I still suffer from a weird feeling where I can feel a building joyful and exhilarated high for no particular reason and want to go and destroy /annihilate - which used to mean go and get fall down drunk.  It is a feeling of joy and exuberance and simple elation - but instead of channeling it into something as destructive and negative as drinking - I am learning to re-direct it into other things.  Like running and yoga.  I am learning this feeling is my simple joy at being alive - and that it is not something to quell or crush - but to embrace and celebrate and nurture.  It is life - the life force.
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It is such a thing to start a blogpost after an extended break with "Sorry I haven't been here but life has happened and all that kind of stuff..." so I didn't want to touch on that here.  But I have and I feel it's something I wanted to write about - the starting with an apology as if the reader is somehow a privileged guest and as the writer you are begging for their approval.

It's not - it's actually the other way round - and from what I read on other alcoholic blogs (if that is the niche) we should all be grateful and thankful that people go to the effort to share and reveal their thoughts at all.  I love being able to lurk on a blog and dip into other people's thoughts - it is a real privilege.

So I'm not really apologizing - instead I'm making a commitment to write more and bring this old blog back to life.
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It's about getting sober and finding some peace in being who you are - and letting go of all that terrible, shameful history.

It's about moving forward and working hard and staying patient and hearing your wife wistfully sigh "I just thought how much better it would be to meet you now for the first time; like not having to go through all those years of shit with you."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Growing Up Alcoholic

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 Growing Up Alcoholic
When I was growing up I remember always being thirsty.  We even brought it up one time with the doctor and they ran some test to see if I was diabetic for some reason.  And no, I wasn't diabetic.  Of course, I was alcoholic.  Just they didn't have a test for it.

But it was clear with hindsight that I had the personality type that leads to being alcoholic as an adult.  I like to call it the ego driven personality type, and now I can say it is just a stage of development humans go through on their way to becoming full adults.

But yeah, being driven excessively by ego had me a sitting target for the alcoholic personality when things were to grow with me.

For starters, I had this overwhelming feeling of sentimentality and nostalgia - I could invest incredible power and awareness into some mundane experience and build such a story around it that I would find myself teary with sadness.

I would raise my arms above my ears and look around saying to my nine year old self "You know, you're probably never going to be here again in you life..." as I looked up at the rafters in the church from the little projector room. 

Like it was a real destiny moment and the power and sheer awesomeness of the moment was something to be mourned.  But all it was in reality was that I had snuck into the back of the church and wasn't supposed be there.

It is something we alcoholics do all the time without realizing - invest way too much meaning and depth to simple coming of age moments as though they are real turning points or game changers, when in fact they are what happens to everyone.

Making a mundane everyday part of life into an imagined movie moment was something that served me well when I had to choose between buying two bottles of wine on the way home, or just finishing what I already had and worrying about it later.

"But I might not ever have the chance to drink while I'm watching the Ross and Emily get married on Friends episode again..." would work, turning an everyday weekday watching TV into a sort of 'life moment' where getting a tattoo to remember the occasion would not be out of place.  Or at least getting as drunk as possible.

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Growing up alcoholic I remember being addicted for the first time - and knowing the just-fucking-have-to-do-it-no-matter-the-consequences feeling of smoking out the side of my grandparents house.  And them blinking at me when I said I wasn't smoking.

"It was a man at the bus stop"  I lied, unpacking my lunchbox, "He was breathing all over me."

And being caught again and then, the time staying at my grandparents and opening my little packet of 15 cigarettes and seeing a tiny scrap of paper in my grandfather's copperplate hand "Bravo Brendan, Join the idiots" placed delicately alongside the three cigarettes.

And me smoking and breathing out in that forced, open mouth blowing way, thinking to myself "Fuck them, I'll show them!"  and building another deep story around the episode, like it was a swirling technicolour outtake from the movie of my life.

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Growing Up Alcoholic

My grandfather in Ireland was a fucking alcoholic - I say fucking because he was such a drunk bastard, so the story goes, that my own father had to walk down the street and pick him up from laying in the gutter drunk and exhausted. 

And again, like a true alcoholic, I have this movie clip in my mind, sentimentally embossed with that sepia gloss and utterly tragic trill from a Irish whistle as my Da' (as they are called in Ireland) taking shameful steps in his too-big hobnail boots as he walks through the early evening rain and the other neighbours peer disdainfully out their windows, washing slung low across the street, shiny cobblestones and maybe even a little terrier dog skipping alongside him

And the grandfather, my very own grandfather, face slumped against the wet gutter, as my Da' comes up to him and nudges his shoulder with the toe of his boot, and sees the grandfather's eyes slurr open and he tries to say something but he is so completely spent with drink that all he can manage is "It's gone" and my father knows he means the money - he's drunk all his pay and gambled the rest.

And my Da' turning to look up at the tsk tsk neighbours as they silently close the windows and draw their curtains, and looking down at the grandfather and knowing he loves him and tugging him by the shoulders, urging him to make one last effort to stumble home.  Like soldiers on the Somme.

And the screen fades to black and the sombre lilt of Danny Boy rises in the background as my father walks back home to his own mother, knowing the cupboards are bare....

It's a part of my growing up alcoholic that this is about all I know of my grandfather - apart from knowing he would eat dinner before us all, separately, because he would be already drunk and my father didn't want the children to see the grandfather drunk.  Like it would make me an alcoholic or something.  Well, that one didn't work...


And then he died and my own father didn't even mention it to me.  So that grandfather, Aeneus was his name, has started to erode from the family history and you can see the sands of time filling in the serifs around his name as we speak.

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I went to Ireland as an eight year old and sat in the dank, narrow room as the grandfather burned peat for heating.  And I felt my asthmatic lungs filling with mucous and me too proud to say what was wrong, holding my shoulder blades wide so I could draw breath and trying so hard to understand his thick Irish accent.

And then the toilet outside.  And me writing a story on hotel stationery about a my travels and taking photos in my mind to fill the gaps in the story.

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Growing up alcoholic I always placed such a pressure on myself and such an anxiety on myself that enjoying the moment was simply impossible.  As an alcoholic it stayed much the same - never being able to enjoy the moment without a drink or a drink in the very near future.

Like the times going to the beach to swim with the family and me having beers in the car on the way, at like 9am in the morning.  Perfect day, sunny, kids, umbrella, waves, bikinis - and me not coping without an early morning beer buzz.

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Growing up alcoholic is part of who I am, and I can't change any of that history now.  It is part of the past story of me and writing this helps me exorcise those embarrassing shameful moments and be at peace with how being an alcoholic is just part of who I am.

Like just last Saturday, at the in-laws winery, and me not drinking, laughing that I always wanted to marry a girl whose father had a winery - and now he finally has one and I finally am making some real progress not drinking.

And sharing with a friend who is walking the tightrope of drinking - and she asking, as if to reassure herself "but you haven't stopped because you're alcoholic -  it's not like you had a problem or anything?"  And me, a little proud of myself, a little melodramatic perhaps, maybe even reverting to my own personal movie again and saying

"Alcoholic?  Yeah, it's like I was born to do it."

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Is Yoga Good for Alcoholic Recovery?

undefined Newcastle NSW, Australia 3 comments:
Is Yoga good for alcoholic recovery?  As you may know I have been going to Yoga three times a week to give me an opportunity for some spiritual development and physical release. 

Just now I got back from my Yoga Class - it wasn't on!? - and coming back home un-yoga'd I thought I ought to share what I just missed.  I like to say to myself the hardest thing about pre-dawn yoga is getting into the car and driving down the street - once I'm out of bed and in the car on these cool winter mornings - it all takes care of itself.

The first few times I went to Yoga I was overwhelmed with the intense mind space I entered.  Intensely self-conscious - I had a negative self talk going throughout the class and simply did my head in with all the shit I was telling myself.

Yoga is good for that.  In the class silence - or with some gentle Asian finger-plucking lilting tune meandering in the background, your mind is totally free to wander where it takes you and in those first dozen or so classes, my mind took me through all the negative baggage I was holding onto.  I had built my own identity around all these past hurts and painful experiences from years ago - and moving through flexibility poses early in the morning with nothing much to distract me - it bubbled to the surface.

So I wanted to stop doing yoga.  I found that is pretty common for novices - wanting to quit after being exposed to the raw shit that is floating around in your mind.  So I thought I should keep going, no matter what, and look further into what I was experiencing.


Don't Stop Doing Yoga
Until You've Done 10 Classes


My untrained and unprepared mind - the totally neglected alcoholic brain - let's compare it with a surging, fecund rainforest, wildly growing whatever seeds happen to fall from the sky with vines of confusion and weeds thickening into trees without any management apart from the rain and winds and the occasional bird fluttering by.  That was me as I bumbled along from drinking episode to drinking episode - not putting any effort into what I cultivated - letting whatever happen to flourish in my thoughts. 

And somehow, like all of us, a tendency to hold onto and nurture the most appalling negative incidents as thought they were what defined me and made me the man that I am.  So I had a rainforest brain filled with weeds that had grown tall and emerged at the top of the forest proudly standing against the buffeting of anything I tried to dislodge them. 

It was no wonder that the paths and tracks I hacked through the rainforest brain were around these landmarks - and that I was entirely comfortable trudging alongside a negative tree that had buttressed roots and threw long shadows all around it.  The shadows stopped anything else growing - nothing would really change whilst those big trees remained.  I was literally defined by those negative moments in my life and I had let them grow and become hugely part of who I was.

Enter Yoga.  Part of each Yoga class is the teacher or Yogi sharing insights and snippets of knowledge as you move through poses.  A big part is not consciously striving with with results oriented approach - but instead doing the yoga for the sake of doing the yoga.  The simple beauty lies in the method, not the getting somewhere or achieving something.  And alongside this is the truth of being in the moment.


Being Present in the Moment - Great for Sobriety


Now, after nearly 100 classes in the last five months, I can sort of talk of Yoga as though I am a developing novice.  It is at once humbling and inspiring to be waking up each morning and facing my own body, with all its limitations and stiffness and awkward reluctance to embrace twists.  But still do it anyway.

What I'd like to share with you if you are considering the stark reality of sobriety after career of drinking is to do it as soon as you can.  Waiting and delay are always the best friend of staying drunk and trudging back to the shop for more booze.

Fuck - I know I used 'just staying put' as a great way to drink another thousand bottles of wine when all the signs were clearly urging me to go sober.  But I was so scared of life without alcohol - and that's all it really was - sheer terror at having to be present with myself and do some personal development to get my shit together. 

So I thought it would be best to stay a drunk for another eighteen months or so - heck - no-one ever
said everything's easier when your older and even more set in your ways!


Yoga Works For Alcoholics


I know it can be pretty intimidating turning up to Yoga Class for the first time in your loose clothes and being around all these fit hard bodies.  It is especially challenging as a male to turn up to mostly female classes and be taken seriously - so always go straight to the front of the class and take a position in the front row or the second row. 

They'll appreciate your honesty and brave show that you are less experienced.  And it is a reverse sign of humility to go to the front of the room - it says you need more guidance and you are a learner and importantly for males in female dominated classes I've found - for the first few classes anyway - they'll see that you're there actually to do Yoga - not steal glances at hot chicks in awesome poses!  But seriously - ahem...

It is a great irony that the less experienced are encouraged to the front of the room whilst the rubber yogis all writhe effortlessly at the back of the room.  I felt like I was on display for them others to laugh at - but this was just my mind playing tricks on me - everyone is concentrating on their own poses and staying in their own moment.


Learning to Be Patient with Yourself


By far the most important mental strength I have developed these last few months doing Yoga is patience with myself.  I remember all too clearly my frustration and impatience was like one of those coffee urns always just on the boil - ready to spew steam and hot water over whatever happened next. 

Doing yoga has taught me - through my own flawed canvas of my body - that I am what I am and no amount of extra pushing or breath holding will give me the flexibility to twist into a certain pose today - no matter what I do. 

To get to that deeper stretch of the pose - I might get there by Christmas, or in 12 months - but that's OK - I'm not chasing any certificates or badges or status level ups.  Yoga doesn't really have them - you just benchmark yourself - honestly, patiently and with loving kindness.

Something we alcoholics do every day - stay sober and whatever you need to do - start TODAY!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dry July

undefined Waratah NSW 2298, Australia 1 comment:
This year I've nominated for Dry July - a community fundraiser for people who abstain from alcohol for the month of July to raise money for cancer.  It's a great concept and a worthy bandwagon to hitch to - so it's hi to everyone who is going without for such a worthy cause.  If you've got a few to spare it would be greatly appreciated.

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This time last year I wrote The Meaning of Life - at the time I sort of did not realize I was at the top of a steep decline that would see the bottom out and end up the Psych Ward.  I was up here again, at the winery, taking care of things whilst the in laws were away, and the weakness to get into all the wine lying around was just something I didn't fight.  So I caved and was glugging wine and burping and chewing lavender buds to cover my breath - but people aren't stupid and sure enough it led to some pretty stark confrontations.

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It wasn't long before I sort of sobered up for a week or two and then it all fell away and I was back into the daily drudge of waking, drinking copious amounts of water, then slinking around skulling from a bottle to chase that warm feeling.  I didn't write another post for three months and in that time I was basically resigned to the ride - knowing it would slide disastrously into some sort of climax but not giving a fuck because i could drink and have that glorious empty bravado of complete peace in a bottle.

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It's ironic how a relapse that started in wine country ended in wine country.  I was sleeping about 25kms from the winery in a stiff bed with some sloppy adolescent on methaphetamine next to me.  He was forthright and to the point "Mate, are you gonna turn the fucking light off soon?" and I was honestly a bit scared of his thick fingers and tradesman's tattoos - plus he was coming off his own crazy bender.  I wanted to pull some seniority thing, but I couldn't really say "I've been fucked up since you were in grade school" could I.  So I let sleeping dogs lie.

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The mental health unit welcomed me with serious frowns and that jaded look allied health workers have after taking a little too much overtime.  Sure, spending a few days eating food from under glass with plastic cutlery was just what I needed - and to connect face to face with some 'real' crazy people.  I have to check myself here - it's the massive ego elbowing in again - setting aside some other patients as more crazy than me, just a simple old school alcoholic - or as one of the other patients said - 'not that bad'.

But I was bad - and it's really refreshing and a source of some self respect that I am staying the course this year after such a messy failure in 2013.

Anyway, keep sober and if you can make a contribution to Dry July.


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Friday, June 6, 2014

Turning Forty

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What other people think

It's still hard walking into a room and not caring what other people think. Now I have a real distance between my last drinking episode and have been working hard on my personal development, I sometimes get these moments where I see who I am and where I am headed.  At times it can be completely terrifying and humbling, - at other times I feel I am slowly turning around like a big oil tanker in the harbour.

Now and then we all recall little snippets other people have said to us years ago and it has been a real fault of mine to nurture a throw away line into a mantra and let it define who I am .  Like the girl who said when I was in my late teens "Stop apologising all the time"  and I took to to heart - or the guy at college who said "you're always seeking approval" - that was a real strike deep into my being, or my father saying "But you've got something about you that people just don't like"  or my mother "All parents like one or another of their children a little more than others"


Sitting next to a dead elephant
it's a sombre moment bringing down the elephant in the room
He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time...
George Orwell Shooting an Elephant.


It is part of my sobriety and personal development to process this historic and  out of date information and set it aside so I can move forward.  But in saying that, it still hurts and taking the heat out of ancient pain is where I find myself right now.

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I'm turning forty in less than a week.  It's funny how as a young boy you set these milestones around random ages or dates and there is simply no escaping the authority that four zero has.  Like all ages that end in zero, 40 is a defining age, a time that has in-built social triggers and a whole expectation built around it.  In a google search for turning forty there is plenty about personal development and taking stoick and assessing where your life is headed.

What if I told you I don't have a regular job?  What if I explained I'm still sort of chasing butterflies for my next business venture and I spend my days tapping away at a keyboard looking out my front window?  What if I told you I've stopped drinking six months back?  What if I told you I'm doing 6am Yoga three mornings a week?  What if I told you I'm feeling content and grateful and in the right place right now?

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My plans for the future are exciting and leave me breathless with anticipation whenever I share them with someone else.  The next decade shapes as my time to flesh out who I want to be and add the detail and colour of all my frustrated dreams and wasted opportunities of my twenties and thirties.  It's like I know who I am and what I want, and I am definitely pointing in the right direction.  Being sober is a given - if I drink I die.

It's taken me all my life to get to this point where I can know the difference between confidence and arrogance - between me and my ego - and know that what I need from life is not necessarily what other think I need.  Or that I should be running some disconnected race that isn't who I am for some silly status or to jump through some ridiculous hoop.  It is amazing to disconnect who I am from where I live, or what I do, or my wife or my children or my family.  Seeing me as a gentle, flawed human who is not always striving to be something is key.

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I'm not a big one for parties or having people around looking at me - what other people think is something I cannot control or even really want to consider.  So there is not going to be a party or a gathering - it is just plain awkward to have a non-drinking party and I don't think it will serve any purpose other than highlight what I am not instead of what I am.  Anyway, the last two fortieth parties I went along to had a sombre underlying feeling of getting old and just drinking for drinking's sake.  For sure turning 40 is a time for reflection and new growth, but waking up with a hangover and slobbering drunken nonsense is not who I am anymore.

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I can look out my backyard and see my tree ferns I planted and fed and watered now tall, out of reach and casting dark fairy shadows on the ground.  I can see my daughters talking and walking and writing and surging through their childhood.  I can feel my body getting limber and loose and releasing the tension and angst from years of neglect.  It's not that bad at all - I'm not mourning the loss of anything - but seeing me as a sum total of all my decisions and choices and not putting a label on myself or who I am.  I am forty, and I'm alive and sober and in the best shape ever to go forward with humility and gratefulness to whatever comes my way.

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There's something about Yoga that re-wires my brain - facing face first into the mat, breathing and opening my body at the same time as consciously not thinking - of just breathing and going with the flow.  It is a great lesson in non-resistance - in acceptance and self love and not striving and just doing the postures without putting a story to it or having to be anything.  My yogi called it comeing home to the mat - the incredible simplicity of bending forward with your hands out in front and bent at the hips - downward dog - it is grounding and humbling and exactly what I need to step away from my mind chatter and just release.

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My drinking was always about resisting, I used to see it as a badge of honour to have a disrespect for authority - to resist sometimes just for the sake of feeling the current push against me.  As though I was fighting upstream, when I all need do is tumble along with the current and let it take me wherever it leads.

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What other people think is what other people think.  Simple.  Not what I think.

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