SLEEP

trevor-price-drifting-sleep

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night” William Blake

You don’t have to be an addict to have problems with sleep. It is said that around one in four people have real trouble getting to sleep. I have always found falling asleep extremely difficult. As a child I drove my family to distraction. They attempted to help. They tried everything. For example, telling me to close my eyes and think of a desert island and all the things I could do there. This only succeeded in stimulating my mind even more. As soon as my head hit the pillow, with the light turned out and no distraction, my mind would come to life. A thousand thoughts and ideas would appear, spinning chaotically around and around my wide awake mind.

Later in life when exploring Buddhism, I read of the chattering monkeys. Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching and chattering endlessly. We all have monkey minds, Buddha said, with dozens of monkeys all clamouring for attention. When we lie in bed and close our eyes to try to sleep they come to life.

There are two kinds of sleep, both equally important in recharging our body and mind. Rapid eye movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave is the first phase of sleep. It recharges our physical body, preparing us for the day ahead. Sleep walking has been found to be associated with slow-wave sleep. REM sleep is when we dream. There are innumerable books available on dream interpretation. There are many learned theories going back to the superstitions of ancient man, but only you can truly understand or make sense of your dreams. They are a metaphor for our lives; the place where we work through our problems, anxieties and fantasies. We can experience recurring dreams until that particular worry has been quieted or resolved.

If our sleep patterns are interrupted we fail to achieve both of these crucial parts of sleep. Neither our minds nor our bodies are recharged. When I was using alcohol I would drink until unconsciousness hit. But this would only last a couple of hours until I came round and the cycle would begin again. It was not sleep; it was unconsciousness. My exhaustion grew and I did not dream. Depression is beginning to be seen as a sleep disorder. Many people suffering with depression sleep too much and subsequently have too much REM sleep. Lines blur.

Many recovering alcoholics have severe problems with sleep. But I am lucky. After the initial, nightmare period of withdrawal I have slept like a baby. I still only sleep for around six hours but it is deep and uninterrupted. I dream. In the early stages of recovery I experienced countless dreams about alcohol. They were not about actually drinking, but frustrating dreams about trying to obtain alcohol or attempting to hide the evidence. I was dreaming about the game. Now I very rarely dream of alcohol or drugs. As Anthony Hopkins once put it, I fall asleep instead of passing out and wake up rather than come round.

If you do have problems with sleep, there is substantial evidence for the following advice: Set your body-clock by rising at the same time every day; avoid daytime sleep or napping; get some exercise; avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol after six o’clock; make your bedroom a bedroom, not an entertainment centre: no television, computer etc.  If you are not asleep within half an hour get up and perform your least favourite chore – do not reward your monkey mind. Mindfulness or meditation is also a powerful tool to combat elusive sleep.

My fundamental piece of advice for restful, regular sleep is the same as my advice for life in general. Be busy. Fill your life with action. Reward your waking brain with challenge, stimulation and fun. With a life full of these essential components, your mind and body will need a good night’s sleep.

“I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don’t like myself, there’s no reason to even live the life.”  Gabourey Sidibe

LUCK

Luck

“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”  Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I have always considered myself a lucky man and have previously tried not to think about this too deeply. I have subconsciously worn my luck as a cloak of invulnerability all my life. My inexperience of ill fortune left me free of worries of any kind, and at liberty to try any new experience believing that things will turn out fine in the end. So far they have.

I am lucky to have had a happy childhood. My father was an intellectual and although he put a huge amount of pressure on me to achieve academically, over which we clashed spectacularly, he also taught me to pursue my passions and to be curious about the world and the people who live on it. My parents also instilled in me a love of music, art and the written word. Today the only luxuries I buy myself are books and records. These loves have kept me sane, happy, and have made me think.

I am lucky, not to say blessed, with my friends, who bring me love, support, trust, inspiration and much laughter, which I hope is fully reciprocated. They appeared from many walks of life and backgrounds but they share the traits of creativity and common decency. I have learned from my friends as much as from any book I have read.

I have been lucky in my working life. I’ve had many interesting, rewarding and enriching jobs. I have worked with many stars of the stage and screen, radio and music. Through my work I also met my closest friends and my amazing wife. In the 1990s I met writing partners who lifted my creativity to dizzying heights. The music and gatherings we organised led me to connect with an abundance of inspirational free spirits. It was almost too beautiful.

I was not unlucky when I became an addict. It had nothing to do with luck. Both times I have been in the depths of addiction I isolated myself from the people that I love, which only increased the emptiness and loneliness I already felt. Both times I also stopped reading and lost my pleasure in music and creativity. I locked myself in a prison of my own creation and threw away the key. I drank to stop myself thinking and it worked. I closed myself to the outside world. I was unreachable.

I am lucky to be sober, lucky to have found the groups at Inclusion. In recovery we are taught to be grateful for our blessings. A useful tool is to keep a ‘gratitude diary’, in which you write three things you are grateful for every day. It sounds trite but counting your blessings is an invaluable process. It also shows you how lucky you are. My personal list of blessings towers over my inventory of ill fortune.

Terrible things can happen in people’s lives, things over which we have no control, but it is possible to expand the areas over which you do have control. I believe my luck is due to adhering to my theory of magnetism. You can make yourself lucky by doing things, by doing them the right way, by approaching life, love and new experience with an open mind, heart and soul.

Be lucky.