Love Change

I was sent a letter in 2007, from myself in 2014, written by my brilliant mate, Cath Jenkin. It goes like this:
“Dear Dave from like 2007,
I’d like you to meet my friend, Dave from 2014.
See, Dave, my 2014 friend Dave got shot with a life tumble and rolled with it. He fucking rolled with it so much he made it look like he was ice-skating.
This is why, Dave from 2007, you couldn’t last. I’m sorry about that, but the way you chose to skid rather than glide just wasn’t sustainable. You were fun to watch though, but this 2014 Dave? 2014 Dave is good to be around. His energy is so infectious I can feel it right the fuck up the coastline.
So, sorry 2007 Dave. But don’t worry – 2014 Dave has got this. You hang in there buddy, cause it’s one heck of a ride. Good thing you’ve got 2014 Dave driving, because he’s got this shit taped.”
If you know me at all, you’ll know how change scares the living daylights out of me – and yet – it shouldn’t. Every time I’ve been faced with major, unplanned changes, life has actually gotten far better.
  • There were the redundancies in ’99 – I applied for and got a better job at a higher level.
  • There was sudden relocation to London, for work – I learned how to live on my own. In London. That’s pretty decent!
  • There was the company closure and being forced to leave the UK – I ended up working in a great new job and redefining my space and my career and my passion, back in Jozi.
  • There was losing my job, my money and all my possessions as I hit rock-bottom after 18 years of addiction – and I found, instead, a way to heal and talk about healing – and as a result, stepped into a dream job in Stellenbosch, when I thought my career was over.
  • There was the realisation that I had been raped when I was 21 – I learned what forgiveness is, and how to talk about being a rape survivor – and I went on to talk at Rhodes University, the first man invited to share at the Silent Protest Against Sexual Violence.
  • Then there was the company downsizing – and because I have never believed in burning my bridges, through my network of former colleagues and bosses, I stepped into a new job less than 24 hours after taking a severance package.

It was this seamless changeover, and the eventual calm* I handled it with that prompted Cath to write the letter to the old me, from the new me.

If I look at the list above  – everything on the left – all the change that happened – was steeped in fear and anxiety and panic. And what resulted – everything on the right in italics means I never had to fear a thing. And yet we do – change represents a threat. I understand this – because losing a job does not guarantee you another. Losing a parent – well, how does life get better after that? (It does you know, when that parent was suffering with a terminal illness – they are no longer in pain, and in time, you will feel the relief for them, and have only good memories…)

The reality is that not all change is good change – let’s agree to that. But the fact is that I feared ALL change. And that turned my life into a living hell – because in not ONE instance above, did I have any measure of control of the wider situation – there was nothing I could do to prevent the change from happening. No – not even the addiction and its drama – because it was addiction and not merely a habit. Addiction is a loss of control. You’ll do well to remember that.

That fear of change is crippling. It reduced me to a quivering mess more often than not, and – more often than not – there was no need to. Life goes on. Sometimes on a different path. Sometimes on the same path, just differently. But it’s all good because it’s ALL growth and life lessons. Even the painful ones. Especially the painful ones.

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but going forward, I resolve to do more of that ‘not fearing’ thing that Cath wrote about in her letter to me, from me. I’ll meet change head-on, and face it. There may be fear and uncertainty – but I will deal with it. Because it all works out, in the end.

*I confess to having major panic the day before the restructure – because I am human, after all!

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Dear old Me - sit down. New Me has got this...
Dear old Me – sit down. New Me has got this…
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Letting The Dark Win

Letting The Dark Win

It’s been a mad, crazy week of networking and a fresh start. The sense that despite upheavals and retrenchments, life goes on, and because of my refusal to give in to the fear, and to isolate as a result, I slipped pretty seamlessly from one job straight into another, taking a nice severance cheque along with me.

All good… I even said to Sarah as I left her on my way to Richard’s birthday bash that all this has proved to me that my isolation does more harm than good. Sure, some me-time is a very necessary thing, but I overdo it because I am Dave, and Dave overdoes things.

So off I go to Richard’s party – and get a flat tyre. No big deal. I can handle this. I’ve changed tyres before – though never on Cape Town’s busy N2, just after Hospital Bend. I changed the tyre. Like a boss.

I closed the boot and that’s when I saw that all the brake dust and grease was no longer on my wheel – it was all over me and I looked like a backyard mechanic working on a particularly filthy, leaky engine…and I snapped! Poof! Just like that…goodbye good mood! Goodbye positive thinking! Hello angry, infantile slamming of doors, wheel spinning and cussing a litany of filthy expletives. The only thing I wanted now was to shut the world out and be alone in the darkness.

I got home, showered and texted my apologies for going M.I.A.

And then my sponsor called. And asked why I hadn’t called anyone to help change the tyre. Why hadn’t I gone to her house to clean up? Why hadn’t I relied on my network of friends, in the crunch, like I had just a week ago? I couldn’t answer. Well, I could. But I didn’t like to.

Because through the anger, I’d let the darkness win. I’d played out another aspect of codependent behaviour – I refused help.

She urged me to get dressed and go out – because isolating was letting the darkness win all over again. I refused.

I’ve been holed up ever since. I’ve made excuses, saying it was the rolling impact of the shock of suddenly being unemployed, then suddenly employed without any time to take it all in. I’ve lied to myself and said it was just a Sunday day of rest thing. It wasn’t. I’ve been a shit, sulky human. My inner child exerted his tantrums – and that’s the kick: because all of these feelings, this acting out – it’s all got to do with as a child, not feeling the world was a safe or friendly place, of being left behind, left out, in the way. All these conflicting motifs seem at odds but are all just childhood insecurity that was never placated in a way that felt credible, sustainable or like it really focussed on me, on making me feel safe.

Of course, I could write that tomorrow will be better, but those are just words. It’s action that counts. It’s learning from this situation and putting that lesson into play next time life throws a wobbly. You know – like I did last weekend…I’ve done it before. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I’m done beating myself up over this. The darkness won a battle; but I’m still owning this war.

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Identity

Identity

There is a place I go. I’d like to tell you about it, but many friends have talked long, and earnestly to me about overshare on social media.

“People can handle a lot” they say “people can deal with the story of addiction recovery…but they don’t understand this. Keep it off your blog.”

So a beautiful piece of writing will remain hidden, and private. Because you can’t handle the truth of being human, and when being human sometimes means putting your human identity on hold.

“We cease to exist when we denounce our identity….” a very wise friend texted me, today. Her concern is not for what I write in my blog, but for the things I do that necessitated that blog piece that you will never read.

There is a place I go, where I have to stop being human, in order to engage. It is cold and emotionless and fueled by a hunger that seems endless and all-consuming, and I thought if I could write about it, you could tell me how YOU deal with these feelings…but I can’t. I can’t write about it and tell you all about the…things I see.

My friend is right, about identity. I have no identity in this place that I go to; I do not exist there. I lock out every human emotion; I shun my name and the names of everyone I encounter.

I’d explain more, but I think I’ve already said too much.

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Love & Destruction

Love & Destruction

Sex, drugs and ham and cheese rolls.

It comes as something of a shock to have the nature and pervasiveness of my addiction revealed to me, when I have come to believe I have it all under control; that I understand its cause and am safely protected from its symptoms.

One of the addicts at Narcotics Anonymous says “I am addicted to ‘more’…more drugs; more speed; more alcohol; more sex – more fun”
His message resonates. It hits home. But it only scratches at the surface; ‘more’ is merely how my addiction attempts to realise my desire to self-destruct.

The urge to self-destruct plays out in other aspects of my life: food, sex and high speed driving. Just like when I would do crazy things – crazy even by the standards of drugging – like snort an entire gram of cocaine in one hit, or take 17 pills at a concert – so I push the limits with food, sex and driving.

The results? I’ve piled on 37 kilograms and pushed my cholesterol and blood pressure through the roof. I started bleeding because of my diet. I was nearly arrested for doing 190km/h on the freeway. And then there’s the sex…although nothing has happened to me as it has with my diet and driving, it is a game of carnal Russian Roulette…so how long before the inevitable happens?

I am not addicted to more. I am no more addicted to drugs than I am to food, sex or high speed driving. I am addicted to self-destruction; a desire to end – fueled quite simply by my own lack of self-worth. I don’t believe I belong / am wanted / needed / have value. Oh, I know that I AM all these things, but I don’t FEEL it, alone at night in my head.

As long as I can remember – even as a child, I have battled with this; and it’s defined much of my personality as a result: always the loud one, always seeking the spotlight, the attention and the affirmation and the validation. It has an ugly selfishness to it, on the surface, though it is as simple yet as important as self-preservation. Ironic, isn’t it? My constant need have external reasons to live drives a very internal rebellion in the form of a wish to die. Because if I cannot find an internal need or will to survive – if I have to look towards other people and things to do what should be a basic instinct, then what value and worth have I really got? What happens when ‘they’ stop believing in me or loving me? Then it comes down to me – just me.

Nobody else.

And my self-destructiveness seems hellbent on making THAT a self-fulfilling prophecy…

The thing is… I KNOW that the reasons to live, and to love, and to BE loved must come from me. Only I can fix myself – that message comes through loud and clear often enough in group therapy. Only I can know and understand exactly what value I have for myself. So there’s the second irony – it really DOES come down to just me: I just have to flip the picture and see instead of all the failings, all the reasons I have to believe in myself.

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.IMG_3284.JPG

Growing Pains

Growing Pains

Conversations with my junkie self

Day after day, night after endless night the words come, until every moment, every silent pause, is filled with an urgent susurration of half-complete thoughts, incomprehensible asides: madness wrapped in cold sobriety; a wispy fug of reality forever chased by the opiate dragon of disconnection.

The escape, it murmurs, is just one line away; one pill – a snort, the deep drawing of crystalline chaos that promises if not heaven, then a very different and altogether more palatable hell. Far more palatable than the hell of constant sobriety, with only more sobriety to follow, unable to take the edge off the daily grind of life.

There were never any monsters born of psychotropic delusions more terrifying than the stone-cold awareness of living life in the unchanging present; feeling each minute – each hour – dragging by, waiting for God to end the tedium. Depression is madness – only slowly.

Drugs are lies fused in chemicals. Drugs are life on pause while we dance to the glib jingle of a life otherwise; ephemeral and enchanting. Drugs hold no power that lasts more than a handful of selfish, introspective and happy hours, yet the lies they weave are built on the foundation of years. Lies that last well beyond the last fix, fueled by guilt and conscience; shame and regret. Lies are, at last, the death of an unreal life when the husk of a man steps out of youth’s carcass, and holds forth his frantic spells in twelve commandments – the hopeless cries of the helpless reborn.

There is a necessary schism separating ‘then’ from ‘now’ and the pining monologue recalling the life narcotic is merely my growing pains. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I would never choose to go back to that madness. I am grateful for the new life and the luxury of tedium, and clarity I have now…and yet…when those years call out to me across the clean time I have amassed, I feel the sentimental tug for that first, unrepeatable high.

By confessing my cravings, I disarm them.

Step one: I admit I am helpless in the face of my addiction…

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Conscience

Conscience

A nightly journey into the madness of sobriety

It’s well after midnight, again, and the constant torturer that is my consciousness cracks its knuckles as it prepares another night of unrelenting, unwavering wakefulness.

The pattern is the same: twitching nerves or an itch that can’t be scratched annoy and aggravate until I am fully awake, and in the silence, my past stalks across my inner vision on legs of shame and regret. The harsh voice of memory recalls at random the sins of my selfish chemical seductions – a litany of cruelty, of lies, of betrayal; treating friends and strangers alike like objects to manipulate and coerce into a rush of heady, careless drug highs and bodies to be used for depraved and emotionless interludes.

My memory, often so fallible when I need it in the mundane daylight hours, pulls from the past with searing clarity the cruel words I’ve thrown at friends; clamouring to get a laugh, a joke – the spotlight on me at any cost. Just so long as I could get a laugh, I didn’t give a damn about how these words would cut and sting and drive people away. Just so long as in that moment, everyone else would smile and laugh.

These words ring out in the midnight silence to accuse me over and over again; to cut me down like I did those friends and lovers. If you’re reading this and knew me then, you could be forgiven for thinking I deserve this self-induced torture. Your own sense of vengeance may mask itself as a sense of justice, and curse me to far more pain than I already inflict on myself. But that is your demon to wrestle – we’re already full, round here…

I truly understand the appeal of drinking to forget; to drown out the judge who delivers a nightly dose of guilt to weigh me down, and drag me away from the light of recovery, and the new life I have fought so hard to maintain.

How long can I hold out? How many nights of self-imposed anguish and pain before I feel…before I realise retribution is not the way to heal? How many nights before I crack, and fall…into madness; off the wagon, or worse?

Surely this is not the reward for living clean, for an honest life? Is this just a trick – a sick game – my mind plays on me? I was once a vengeful, angry person – am I turning that angry vengeance on myself?

I can’t endure these tortuous inner thoughts for ever but I will never allow them to drive me back to drugs – so something has to give: me or my sanity; a true battle of wills and both are my own.

Until then, I am clean… and anything but serene.

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Least favourite

Least favourite

I have a long list of favourites. Favourite food. Favourite memories. Favourite friends and colleagues. Favourite animals, books, music, movies and porn stars.

But when it comes to time, 01:30am is fast becoming my LEAST favourite time. This seems to be the time I wake up craving or asking questions about life I don’t want the answers to.

01:30am seems to be a time of uncertainty, and neediness and self-pity – a time when sleeping pills in excessive amounts make more sense than at any other time.

01:30am can go fuck itself. I’m not engaging.

© Dave Luis 2014. All Rights Reserved.
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