Fail Safe: Look Both Ways

So, here I am, having not written for several months…  Honestly, I’ve somewhat lost my writing mojo and have been consumed with the roller coaster of life. It has been a ride!!

Over the past week or so, I’ve been reading blogs looking for inspiration for my latest post and I’ve come up with many ideas; my new found love of cycling, my weight loss update etc. And I came across this blog from Hip Sobriety – ‘10 blogs that saved my life‘. Number 9 on te list was a Brain Pickings blog on an essay written by Debbie Millman, entitled ‘Fail Safe’, from the anthology ‘Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design’. It spoke to me.


Let me explain… I’ve found the past ten months so life changing, painful at times (a lot of the time) and I’ve grown emotionally. Massively. And downsized my ass, considerably. For someone who’s instinct is to run from my feelings, and life, I’ve developed a pretty present life today. But, honestly, there are times when I struggle, I mean really struggle. Fear gets the better of me. Sometimes I think I can’t continue. Other times, I wonder if I was ever suffering with addiction and feel like I’m fully embracing life and riding it like a wave.

What has become apparent is my unrelenting desire to control. A really good friend of mine often says to me in my moments of despair ‘Liv, you are the sweetest control freak.’ And she is absolutely right. So much of my life I spend wanting to know what is happening, and when, where to position myself, and if the situation before me will validate my feelings so that I know its okay to feel the way I do. To a non-addict, this may sound a little odd – or so I imagine – as people embrace life and get on with it; and they should have had some practice by 35 years old. But what I forget, and non-addicts who often brush my feelings off as ‘the rich tapestry of life’ [suck it up, Liv], is that I only have three and a half years experience in dealing with life and not trying to escape it using substances. Given the statistics that many recovering addicts rarely get to a year clean – approximately 25% make it beyond one year – that’s pretty good going.

Fear is the heart of my condition. Fear that I am not good enough; not strong enough; worried people will reject me, discover the real me; fear that I’ll never fulfill my dream of having a family; fear of uncertainty; fear that I can’t continue; and plain old truck load of FEAR! So when I read this blog about an essay exploring ‘existential skills as living with uncertainty, embracing the unfamiliar, allowing for not knowing…’ it caught my attention.

In her essay, Millman writes “…John Maeda once explained ‘the computer will do anything within its abilities, but it will do nothing unless commanded to do so…’. I think people are the same – we like to operate within our abilities. But whereas the computer has a fixed code, our abilities are limited only by our perceptions.” And this is where my problem lies, or my challenges if you like. Shit is warm as we say in recovery. In spite of that, this year there have been a plethora of decisions I’ve made and actions I’ve undertaken that were well beyond my comfort zone: if you’d have said to me a year ago that I’d no longer turn to food in comfort; I’d use a bike as my sole source of transport; and I’d be in a relationship, I wouldn’t have believed you. In many ways I think I am in a state of flux,  catching up with all of these achievements and catching my breath. To continue seems frightening. Paralysing at times. My instinct to bolt is as strong as ever. Sometimes, my anxiety feels like a brick in my chest. I can’t pass go.  I don’t know what is going to happen, I don’t know if taking the risks are worth it. I sure as hell don’t want to get hurt in the process.



She goes on to write: “The grand scheme of a life, maybe (just maybe), is not about knowing or not knowing, choosing or not choosing. Perhaps what is truly known can’t be described or articulated by creativity or logic, science or art – but perhaps it can be described by the most authentic and meaningful combination of the two: poetry.” And by that, I read it to mean that life is uncertain, its scary as hell, but we need to dream big and we either choose to jump out in faith, or back in fear. I really do need to look both ways. 

My friend, Lizzie, has recently moved to Canada. She is an inspiration. She has an awesome blog: in which she writes of her experience in a new country and how she tackles the risk I guess. Last week she wrote of her down days and how she dealt with it. Essentially through being the witness. Observing what is happening, and not becoming it. And she is right. Read it here:

Recovery is all about being a witness to what is occurring and responding to it, rather than reacting. I can just pause with the feeling, let go of the urge to control it, and just sit there and be with it. If I do that, then I see the beauty before me, I become less anxious and more mindful. Serenity returns. If only it were always that simple.
Millman concludes in quoting Robert Frost, encouraging the reader to heed his advice: “Start with a big fat lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy love sickness, and run with it. If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.” I read this to mean, take life by the balls.

My favourite poem, by Rilke:

Nearby is this country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.”