I became very inspired once I started to teach my “Creative Writing For The Mind, Body & Soul” book as a course. Especially when I started to teach it for different mental health and addiction agencies. I started to really think about the different influences that were in my life and in all our lives. I wanted to dig deeper, learn more because I feel that learning more about what shapes us and moulds us into who we are can also be the key to helping us change who we are, helping us reach our full potential.
Influence in my life didn’t seem like it was there for a very long time. But when I look back at my behaviours, how I was always wanting to fit in somewhere, somehow, influence was always there pushing me, poking me and prodding me in directions that I really never wanted to go in, but I never really noticed, but it was there and in major ways.
Over the last 7 years since starting therapy for depression I had to admit that there were lots of things influencing me. I never thought that I fit into a box where nothing influenced me at all, I was a total original, I was my own man. But then when I started learning how to change my life and my way of living and thinking, I had no choice but to look at myself and all the influences in my life. They had all put me where I was. In therapy I was given tools to use, to change myself and the way I looked at the world and it truly exposed just how influenced I was. It was scary!
Influence is such a strong word and it has many meanings to everyone! But the truth is that influence does play a major part in all our lives whether we like it or not. We are influenced everyday and learning to see that is very important because sometimes we need to let go of some influences and embrace others! I found that by looking back through my life, really paying attention to what my thoughts were and how they were directing me and influencing me was a hard task. It meant I had to be completely honest, seeing things the way they were, accepting all of it and not colouring things the way I wanted it to be coloured. This lead me to some very, very eye opening realizations.
Some Times We Need Proof
I remember when I started therapy, I was about 1 or 2 months in seeing Mastora once or even 2 times a week. But nothing was working at all. I was not grasping any of the tools, I was still having downward spirals and was in desperate need of help! The help was there but I wasn’t ready to accept it, I wasn’t ready to make changes in my life and admit to the things that were stopping me from moving forward. It was at this time that she asked me to do a mood monitoring exercise.
Sometimes in our lives we need proof that things need to change. We crave cold hard proof seeing it right in front of us. Seeing what is pushing us and then understanding that change needs to be made to influence us to make the right choices in our lives. Yes, influence isn’t always bad and I was about to learn that first hand.
Mastora (my Therapist) asked me to do the mood monitoring exercise. I was to go out and buy a stack of cue cards, little cards that people sometimes use when they are writing speeches. I was to pick 3 colours that represented my moods/emotional state for each day. I was to colour these cards and write on the back why I was feeling the way I was feeling. I was to be honest and truthful or this would never work. So I went out and I got those cards and I picked my colours!
Red- was a bad day
Blue- was an okay day, where I wasn’t total down
Yellow- was a good day where I felt good about myself
I was to colour and write on the back of each card every day for a month. I didn’t really get what I was doing until the day I had to bring the cards in and give them to Mastora. She took the cards and she laid them out on the table and it was mind blowing what was revealed
This is what my month looked like and it was scary! One good day a week that was it. Each week the same and the reasons were very shocking to me as I read each card and saw what was happening!
· Thursday was a RED day. I was coming home from work and then either going out and drinking, playing in a band and drinking, or I was at home drinking because I knew what was coming: the weekend when I was going to be in bars playing music.
· Friday was a RED day because now I was hungover and feeling guilty about Thursday night, and then I was in a bar that night playing music and drinking for sure. I was a musician and that is what I did! I drank and played music and got paid for it!
· Saturday was a RED day as well because I was now even more hung over, feeling more guilt and humiliation for Friday night’s actions. I was most definitely back in the bar playing music, I was drinking again because that is what I did.
· Sunday was a RED day because I am getting home at 5am, still drunk, feeling horrible, my wife gets up at 7am and leaves for work so I am looking after my son and he doesn’t care what time dad got home at. He is just a little boy waking up and wanting to play. So I am up as well, drinking a pot of coffee, playing cars, playing Lego, I am still drunk, or hungover and barely coping with my own thoughts, never mind looking after my son.
· Monday was a RED day, I am back to work, guilt covering me, thinking about all I had done over the last week and the weekend. Plus still feeling the affects of drinking, my body is weak and beat up and so is my mind and soul.
· Tuesday was a Blue day. I was coming out of the hung over haze I put myself in and my thoughts were clearing.
· Wednesday was a yellow day! Yes a good day, with the effects of drinking completely worn off! I survived Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday so hell, time to start all over again!
This is what my weeks looked like. Mastora pulled no punches when she looked at me and said “Darcy what are you going to do? You are investing all this money into therapy and you are stuck in this rut! You have to make changes in order to get better, so what are you going to do?”
I look back at this and I know that Mastora knew all along what I had to do but I needed proof. Well it was there on the table, it was real and it was a gift. This gift was given to me at the right time, a gift that I had to accept and act on. This was a chance to change and it was going to be hard. I had to once again use radical acceptance, forgiveness, and change my perspective, then set a boundary.
I used Radical Acceptance
I had to use radical acceptance and realize that if I was going to get better that I had to stop pouring a depressant into my depression, I had to stop drinking.
1) Drinking was causing bad days and not just here and there but for extended periods. Days without a break and the cards were physical proof that I needed to change.
2) Nothing good was going to happen or get better unless I stopped drinking. I had to stop. I was raised in a musician lifestyle where drinking and doing drugs were just what you did. I was lucky I did not fall into the drug use part but I was drinking 4 nights a week, never mind the odd beers at dinner or before bed as well.
3) I also had to take myself out of the situations that were causing me to drink: I had to stop playing in bands! I had started playing and gigging in bands when I was 14 so this was my life. It was my normal and it was not good for me at all, and those cards proved it.
4) The thoughts I had on gigs were horrible. Negative self talk, negative self image, hate, anger all clouded my mind while I was playing my bass, and it only got worse as the night progressed and I drank more and more.
5) The stress leading up to every gig was huge. The thoughts that clouded my mind would drag me down before I even picked up a bass or got to a gig.
Walking away from this negative environment only made sense as I looked at the cards and was honest with myself. It was time to make that change and accept that this lifestyle was a major contributor to my depression. This life and lifestyle was amplifying what was going on in my head and the only way to stop it was to stop it. So I did, I walked away from music altogether. It was hard leaving a career and lifestyle that I had invested over 28 years into. But over time it felt great! I was stunned at how my life changed by taking this part of it away.
I looked at myself and what I had been doing for so long. I really knew no better and I was just trying to survive, I was trying to fit in. I was still that little boy, acting and wanting to be part of something. I was making money and I was very successful. I dove into the lifestyle because I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do, living the way I was supposed to live as a musician. I drank because I needed to escape, it was also part of the culture. I was struggling with depression and had no idea that what I was doing was fuelling my depression. Until I saw those cards...
I forgive myself for how far I let myself drift into that hole; I had no tools but the good news was now I did! I could see things in ways I had never been able to see before, and I felt proud of that!
My Perspective Changed
I now viewed myself as a survivor! I viewed my sobriety as a medal of honour. I took pride in how I made a life changing move, put myself first for the first time ever and never looked back. Everything had lead me to this point and it was a learned lesson that I held in high regard! I didn’t leave music, I just chose to better my life and the pride I carried with me kept me sober. I never questioned my decision for a moment.
I Set A Boundary
I had all this wonderful proof from doing the mood monitoring exercise so I was finally able to see clearly what was going on in my mind, body & soul. I drew a line and knew that what I did was right because it was working.
I chose to not play in a band for a very long time but when I am ready, I will play my bass again and it will be for my enjoyment only. I will never put myself in a position where I am going to do something that I do not want to do again. I will say no, speak my mind and never bend or break! I am finished living a life where I seek approval for my happiness.
The fact is there was so much negative in music for me that I stopped playing altogether for a very long time. The negative influence of the alcohol, the environments that I was in was overwhelming. The past experiences and my long history of playing music for all the wrong reasons had pushed me over the edge. I had to make this massive change and not think about it in any other way other than I saved myself and that was what really mattered. I could not keep doing what I was doing or it would have been over completely, meaning that soon I most likely would have ended my own life. I used radical acceptance like I had never used it before. The only way I was going to change was to accept, forgive, and see my new actions as the biggest and best thing I could do for myself.
How I Feel Now
I forgave myself for turning into this man because I had no tools at the time. I was being influenced constantly by people and things since I was 14. I had no idea how to fight for myself or that what I was doing was wrong. I just wanted to fit in, to be a part of something.
I changed my perspective, I survived, I was strong and ready to feel good. And I was feeling good right away. Gone was the anxiety leading up to the weekend. Gone was the constant stress of trying to fit in and playing music with people I didn’t want to play with! I was free. I was enjoying my mornings, my evenings, and time with my family. I was enjoying being home and most importantly, I was enjoying my life.
I had hard times where I thought I had no friends. The phone never rang on my side. I learned quickly that if I wanted to be friends with those musicians and the other people connected to that lifestyle they were still there. They were stuck in the same places doing the same things. I learned quickly who my friends were in that world and who were just acquaintances.
I still have a family-like relationship with a select few. When I look at this boundary I set by not drinking anymore and not playing music in bars, I am proud of myself. This boundary stands for so much more than being a bar musician ever did. I take great pride in being sober for 7 years. I accepted what was happening in my life, I looked at my reactions, my emotions and I said “I do not want to feel this way anymore”. I stopped! I ended that chapter and I moved forward.
I use this lesson as an example in my everyday life because it taught me when I needed to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is a sign of strength, standing up and saying I accept that this happened and I will not allow it to affect me again is a super power! Having this super power is all about caring and loving oneself. Radical acceptance is all about being honest and accepting things in life and setting boundaries moving forward.
I use radical acceptance in my everyday life, I have boundaries I set that are strong, and I take great pride in them. Set some boundaries for yourself, accept that you are worth it, treat yourself with love and kindness and learn that saying NO is a good thing. It is an act of love for yourself and the other people in your life as well.
Learning to see what Is influencing you is sometimes hard, but allowing these things to control your life will lead you down a path that no one wants to be on.