The Meaning of Life 

  The Meaning of Life. Well, the meaning of MY life, really, is simply measured in friendships. 

It doesn’t need a thousand words exquisitely arranged. Just watch the video above. 

That is all.

© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

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Weep

My third therapy session today was not as difficult as my second one; we talked about loss, and death and fear and anxiety.

It is easier to talk about these as an adult than to imagine myself as a child – I mean actually picture myself – my face – as I am told my dad is leaving; my dad is dead; my mum is sick; my mum is dead; my stepmum is sick, my stepmum is dead. It is easier to intellectualise that death happens, than to picture the soft, innocent eyes of my childhood self melt into tears as my world collapsed around me.

My dad died when I was 13; my mother when I was 32 and my stepmum when I was 33 – but today, talking about these deaths in safety of my therapist’s room, I felt each one of these with the same raw horror that hit me when I heard dad had just left home when I was 6. That gut-wrenching, stabbing ache that rips the breath straight out my throat – I felt it over and over again, pounding at my head: “He’s gone. He’s dead. She’s sick. She’s dead. She’s gone. She’s dead.”

It punched me, over and over – yet the tears wouldn’t come. Not one. Years of fighting the tears – of fighting back the emotion have made me one hell of an expert at keeping that flood at bay. I left therapy and went to Mandy’s book launch, all calm and happy to see Mandy. I felt love, seeing Mandy. I felt good.

I drove home. I ate dinner. I showered. I got into bed. I watched the YouTube video of NASA’s 1.5-billion pixel image of space…and the flood gates opened as that video scanned the myriad stars and constellations. Such aching, exquisite beauty – it broke through and unleashed…well, not a flood of tears, no. But some. Some precious few tears rolled down my cheek before my default setting shut me down completely.

No more tears. Not today.

But one day. I will let go and grieve.

© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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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…

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.

What if…

What if…

(with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

What if you can’t keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and it is affecting you,
What if you can’t trust yourself, and think all men doubt you,
and can’t make allowance for their doubting too;
What if you can wait no more and tired by waiting,
And being lied to, won’t believe the lies,
Or being forgotten, after all the waiting,
And so don’t feel too good, nor feel too wise:

What if in your dreams—your past becomes your master;
What if you can think—but all thoughts bring you pain;
What if you meet with Triumph or Disaster
But fear those two impostors just the same;
What if you can’t bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Blanked by apathy and painted you a fool,
Or recall the friendships you gave your life to, broken,
Because all humans, at heart, are vicious, cold, cruel:

What if you can’t make out all your winnings
But feel instead the weight of your own cross,
And wish to start again at your beginnings
And never remember about your loss;
What if you sense your heart and nerve and sinew
Turn against you and remind you, you’re almost done,
You can’t hold on as there is nothing in you
But a voice which says: ‘I can’t go on!’

What if you talk with crowds about that which owned you,
Or talk with strangers about your common touch,
What if neither family nor loving friends can save you,
What if all men count without you, and it becomes too much;
What if all you can fill the unforgiving minute
With is sixty seconds’ worth of life undone,
Yours is the hurt and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be this broken Man, my son!

With apologies to Rudyard Kipling
© 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