13 years… unlucky?

How superstitious are you?  Salute magpies? Avoid walking under ladders?

Well 13, the bakers dozen, is often considered an unlucky number.   Today I reach that number in terms of number of years in sobriety.  How has that happened?  Well, to reiterate a phrase I’ve heard repeatedly over those years, “don’t drink and go to meetings”.  Yes there has over time been more than that to it but you have first and foremost to simply not drink before the other stuff can occur. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking inwards at who I am, who I want to be, who I don’t want to be and what is the true meaning of my life today… note not yesterday, not tomorrow but here, now, here, in this place with me in focus.

I often reflect that I regularly still feel like a newcomer in recovery terms. In my regular circle of recovery buddies there are many with 20 years, some with 30 and actually one terrific guide to me who has over 50 now.  Many of the groups I attend were set up by these people not because they didn’t like a particular meeting or the venue etc. But simply because there wasn’t a meeting that was accessible in any reasonable time and distance. My recovery has been greatly aided by being rarely more than 24 hours or a dozen miles from a meeting. I’ve been blessed. 

13 years is significant for me. I judge my alcoholic drinking from age 16 when going to the pub with my mates became regular until that day in May 2004 when I stopped. That’s about 25 years. So 13 means I’ve been sober just over half the time I was drinking. Just to me that feels like I’ve crested some sort of summit on my journey. 

Now if 13 years ago you’d have said that I’d get to today without taking a drink and that I’d be so focused still on my recovery and that my life would be what it is now – I’d have laughed in your face.   I now look forward (ALERT: projection is never something to dwell on for me) if you say in another 13 years I’ll still have never taken a drink, I’ll still be engaged in my recovery and still engaged with my recovery communities (in the rooms, on the web etc)…. ok I don’t scoff outrageously any more but I shrug with a “who knows” feeling, a bit like the dismissive Gallic shrug Frenchmen have so artfully mastered.

For now though it’s just another day…. one day at a time….  The only example I can offer is that if you don’t drink and go to meetings one day at a time you might find, like me, that you pass some significant milestones every few days or so.  

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The end is nigh…

Those of you having been around long enough – since 2013 that is anyway will recall that I embarked on my journey towards counselling at that time.  I went part time at work, signed up for a Level 2 certificate skills course and… well that would take too long to write!

Here I am approaching four years later with a Level 2 Skills and Level 3 Studies qualifications under my belt and so far I’ve passed the external assessment of my skills and written paper.   In only a handful of weeks we’ll be finished on the diploma course.  One more skills assessment, internal this time, one more assignment to be handed in and one more case study to written, handed in and presented.

On our return after the Easter break we got a whole bunch of work back.  Good news is I got the marks I needed.  You have to prove your knowledge against a set of criteria in this qualification.  I got all the ones I was looking for from my case study and reviews.  So I’ve only got a handful still to get.  It all seems frighteningly close now, nearly within grasp.

The only outstanding thing will be hours.  I’ve totally finished with the drug and alcohol service I was with as they’ve withdrawn internal counselling services following a change to their funding from the council.   I have some options all in play, one progressing significantly and I’m all ok with that, I never expected to get the 100 hours in by now and I’m close to where I expected to be.

Soon they’ll be a need to actually answer the question – What will I do now I am a qualified counsellor?

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How proud can you get

My daughter has handed in her dissertation, attended her last lectures and been on the boozy night out.  Yes my little one has finished her degree!  In a few weeks we’ll find out what the result is – she is on course for a first BSc (Hons) in Psychology.  I read her dissertation for her, to check spelling, sense etc.  I could only hope to comment on the work – she’d done I thought a stunning piece of work.  She may return to it, her department has offered her an MRES (Masters through research) opportunity to further her work – bit like a mini PhD in one year.  She’s also had an interview for another masters focused on social work.  In Sept we’ll be watching her hat and gown in place graduate.  I’m so proud.

My son has moved into a really terrific flat in South London.  Lovely location, terrific flat, despite the climb up the stairs! etc.  He is so busy working with Cassini – yes the probe thing at Saturn, he’s in the calls with NASA about the path it takes on the dives and is awaiting the data to start processing it as some of his work is related to the “How long is a day on Saturn?” question.   I mean what can you say?   And he constructed a ton of IKEA furniture without issue when moving into the new flat!

I’m so lucky to simply be part of their lives.  I so nearly threw that all away back in the drinking days.  What would I now be thinking if I was watching this from afar, the rarely talked about absent Dad who they wouldn’t invite to graduation ceremonies or ask to help lug furniture over a wall into a car, out of a car and up three flights of stairs?

These are, for me, the true results of being sober today.  Of course I could throw it all away – I only need to reach out for a drink.

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Ménière’s Annoyance

My Ménière’s disease has been back with a vengence recently.  A couple of weeks ago I woke in the middle of the night to a room spinning around.  That led to a horrid night of being sick and not sleeping and my poor wife having to help me through that.  About a week later I had another awful attack in the middle of the day out of nowhere – well not really as the pressure in my ear and the tinnitus has been bad since that first attack and I’d felt really unsteady earlier in the day.  But this one was awful, imagine a 2000rpm washing machine with you in it on the worst roller-coaster you can imagine.  Yep that was close to it.  I just lay on the floor hoping it would go.  After a while I crawled to the bathroom and lay there until my wife came home.  I lost the rest of that day as whilst the spinning slowed it basically didn’t stop all day and I had another spin attack (not so violent) the next day.  Since then the tinnitus and pressure have felt bad most days and I’m “walking on rubber” most of the time.  That’s a great description from the Ménière’s society which I’ve recently joined.

I’ll be honest I had two weeks basically off work over Easter but did relatively little, partly due to the problems.  I try in particular to avoid things like gardening etc. as bending up and down certainly don’t help and I think might be a trigger given two of the attacks above followed a few hours after gardening where I was bending up and down weeding.

So I’ve been feeling a bit down about it.  Which then I get annoyed a bit about – I mean there are people with many other issues that you could argue are much more of a problem than I’ve got.  This isn’t terminal.  I have all my mental faculties. etc. etc.  Easy to say but still I get angry with it which probably isn’t helping.  It has been a big topic of conversation in my recent therapy sessions.

In other news – looks like I’ve lined up at least one new placement.  Just need to go through the various stages of DBS etc. now.  I’m still pursuing others to see what happens since once I’ve finished in July with my formal studies I’ll have some more time hopefully.  My placement finishes this week but I’ve actually now completed with my clients.  So I know I need 63 more hours to get my diploma.  I’m hoping that will be all that is outstanding as I’m working hard to try and complete everything else before we formally finish in early July.

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RIP – Allan Holdsworth

It was announced early this week that Allan Holdsworth had passed away.  Allan is a legend guitarist.  I’ve written a longer eulogy on my other blog .

However here I’ll also stuff in a great tune – one of my favourites of his – Joshua off the album Secrets.



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Buzzkill Podcast

Paul’s latest podcast over at Buzzkill is on a topic I raised in his request for things to discuss as mentioned by a couple of commentators to the last post.  Loved hearing his views on it.   Would love to hear what others think too.



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I’ve not written much recently on here.  I’m a poor blogger, do I have much to say?  Not really.  But anyway here is an update on things.

Firstly – I passed my exam that I took back in January.  Woohoo!  One of the big steps out of the way on my way to being a counsellor.  Sadly one of my peers didn’t.  I so feel for her – plus I was frankly simply shocked and surprised that she didn’t pass.  I’ve considered her a bit of a role model this year.  She has had her own self-confidence really knocked too as she thought it was good enough to pass too.  However my observation is that part of the exam is “easy to fail”.  To explain, the exam is split into two parts.  One is an audio session with a peer on a roleplay.  Second part is a written paper,  a lot of the questions related to your session you recorded.   Let’s look at how these are marked.  On the written paper you start with nothing and you gain marks until you pass.  On any question I could write 7 things that are wrong and then the 2 that are right and probably pass.  You only need to get 50% to pass btw.  On the audio though you start with 100% and you lose marks.  Actually it is 7 marks and you can lose a whole mark, half or quarter depending on the indiscretion and how the examiner judges it.  You need to get 5 to pass.  Yep about 70% – high…. and you are losing marks not gaining them.  So if you say something early on the examiner doesn’t like and they mark you down on that, they are attuned to that and other things you may say that they may have let go on another recording they notice and another little mark off…  you get the picture.    I also passed another internal assessment as well.  All good ticks against progress to the diploma.

My placement is ending at the end of April.  I’ve taken the bull by the horns and approached some other places.  Now I’ve heard that getting a placement is really hard esp given I’m sort of at the worst time as all the year one diploma folks are trying to find their placements.  Well… I contacted 5.  One has no placements at all, in fact they are winding up the service due to funding hassles too.   The other 4… all offered me an interview.  Wow!   So I’m playing all of them out as from July I’ll be finished on the course and have a choice to then work on that day too.  I hope to try and get my 100 hours completed by the end of calendar year this year.  I’m mid 30s at the moment.  We’ll see but getting so many responses was really encouraging.

What else?  I had some real issues recently with some issues in a couple of different environments I’m in where there were personal attacks on people and anger and resentment etc. etc.  It made me feel yucky – I didn’t like it. I was upset and felt annoyed and angry etc.   But I wasn’t the person directly in the attacks etc. so… I did nothing but talk in confidence to those I can trust to air my feelings.  I did though stay out of the issue.  Held my tongue and just sat it out.  This for me is really a sign on my development that I can let it go.  I let it be and didn’t jump in to fight or rescue or whatever.  Progress… indeed.


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