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The Healing Power of Addiction

Caspar Walsh. November 2018

As a kid, I was into war. I watched the movies and made the sound affects while holding invisible guns; the usual stuff. But when do normal childhood games move into something darker? When does the need for power move beyond the imagination of play?

Having a dad in prison, being removed from too many schools and an absent mother, left me feeling deeply powerless. Not in the way I would eventually understand in 12 Step Fellowship as powerlessness but a sense of having none of my own personal, healthy, life giving power.

My birthright: to know I am welcome here, that I have something loving and real to receive; kindness, consistency, a roof, food. To know that I have something unique to bring to the world. But before I could experience or realise these things, my need to numb myself against the onslaught of the darker world took hold, claws in deep, for decades.

I moved from the fantasy worlds of play to drug and alcohol in my early teens, believing chemicals would give me a sense of control and power. The opposite happened. It was all about giving away my power to something darker back then.

I’ve been in chemical recovery since 1988. Relationship recovery since 2001. Work and activity addiction since 2015. Despite the problems with non chemical addictions, I have also found identity, meaning and connection through my work and relationships, it’s a fine line to walk.

The way the world is, the way our species seems to be walking off the edge of a cliff, can be tracked back to addiction. To the dysfunctional childhoods of humans not loved enough; who then carry that lack of love into the rest of their lives. Creating dark strategies to cope with so much loss and grief and exile. Strategies that more often than not are connected to the accumulation of any kind of external power to fill the power voids inside. But this, true to cosmic form, is a black hole of fear and insecurity. No amount of gathering goods, cash, property, status will tend or heal these wounds to the soul. No amount of power over others will ease it. We will only ever want more.

Only love and care and patience will heal this wound. Only reflection, community and connection.

Take a look at the external manifestations of so many inner worlds. Like the wasted landscape of The Fisher King. The chaos we see on the outside, mirrors inner turmoil. Nature and how we view it is at the heart of this ravaged landscape. We aren’t, as so many believe, disconnected from nature. We may have simply forgotten and need reminding that we are nature. The sooner we realise this, remember this, the deeper our trust and respect for its healthy power will be. When we realise the love we have for ourselves, deep down, a love that has always been there, we will realise and remember our love and respect for the land. And within that, we will see and feel a loving power greater than ourselves and of ourselves; a power indistinguishable from inside or outside our skin. And we will instinctively choose to protect it, ourselves, the land, the earth and other beings.

The solution is in the trees and hills, the valleys and mountains, rivers and oceans. Walking into them, letting the cells of our bodies remember where we were born to be and breathe and connect. Less about the power of addiction, more about the healing power we can each derive from the story of our addicted lives, from embracing our grief and loss. The power to feel and connect and empathise. It’s all about remembering who we truly are, beyond the lies we tell ourselves. It’s about how to meet our human needs to feel real, grounded power. And when our needs are met, the next question is, what unique gifts can we bring to the world? How can we make a difference to the lives of others?

The Mindful Man - Caspar talks about his new book

An Interview with a Mindful Man…

…with Caspar Walsh about his new book “The Mindful Man: Words from the Earth”, published in the June / July 2018 edition of Reconnect magazine.

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Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us Caspar.

Where were you when you first had the idea to write the book?

I’d been given the book, Mindfulness and Surfing. Think I was reading it in the bath. It was the first time in a long while I’d held a book that looked and felt beautiful. I thought, ‘this is a publisher I could write for’.

The book isn’t a novel, it’s set up like a manual for the mind, with mindfulness exercises, and a travel through guide to feelings and emotions. What inspired you to present it that way?

I see it more as a manual to be human, how I dealt with an early life trauma and the ensuing madness that followed. For me, becoming truly whole is all about the relationship between mind, body and how we connect to the natural world. I walked, talked and meditated on what is important to me and broke that down into areas that I feel help us become human and whole.

It also contains a host of quotes, and prayers from luminaries down the ages. Which one is your favourite?

I spent days sourcing the quotes. They frame the ideas of the book. This one is a cracker: “In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Beloved.” Toni Morrison, winner of The Nobel Prize for Literature.

If you could only offer one piece of wisdom from the whole book to our readers, that you are most proud of having written, what would it be, and why?

No pressure! To see myself as wise? Not sure about that. Maybe at times, in a curb tripping kind of way. How about this: They (books) can be keys to the door, for sure, but reading alone won’t walk you through the peaks and valleys of life. Books are tool kits, manuals for self-discovery and understanding. They are not the answer. You are.

It must have been quite an exercise to complete, who are you most grateful for supporting you on your journey, and what do you remember them doing that most motivated you when you felt at the lowest point?

Without a doubt, Amber, my loving and tenaciously patient partner. If I’d known it would be as challenging to write as it turned out, I’m doubtful I would have started. She encouraged me to rest, take my time and not buckle under the pressure of seemingly endless edits. To remember that my life as a writer is a small part of who I am and what I offer the world. To loosen and lighten up!

If you were to describe the book in one sentence what would you say?

Feels like a ‘this is what I did next’ after my memoir ‘Criminal’, how I made it through, made sense of the madness, found peace and did something meaningful and adventurous with my life. It’s about how I got back home.

Read more about Caspar’s new book: www.wordsfromtheearth.co.uk

Explorations from a Mentoring Day - July

July's Mentoring Day took us to the Dart valley for a swim.

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Despite the attempts to get directions from locals to our destination - 'Courgette Island' - (What? It's not on the OS map?!") there were no courgettes to be found when we got there.  Fortunately, it remains a secret spot and there were some explorations with the other than human realm around the theme of Home - in ourselves and through our connection to them. 

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Here is a list of distilled qualities that came from the exercise:

Connection
Wonder
Juicy
Inquisitive
Beautiful
Life giving
Adaptability
Consciousness
Focus
Acceptance
Peaceful

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We very much look forward to seeing some of you there at future mentoring days.

Rebecca Card

Boundaries are key to a healthy recovery and a happy life.

Caspar writes about the importance of personal boundaries in our work at Write to Freedom and in our wider lives.

The magic with W2F is in our ability to connect and hang out together, to be in our village, work together and at the same time be able to support our individual recovery and growth. The ease I feel and see others experiencing in our work is the result of many years of gentle, loving work, building the foundation stones of what we do and who we are. Key to this is creating a safe space or ‘container’. We don’t offer therapy as such but what we offer is therapeutic in many ways. So even in the hanging out by the river, duding around, swimming, talking, laughing, walking, there is always an awareness of the work we are offering, how we can help maintain a strong container and how people can feel safe and supported while still relaxing, learning and growing together. This is one of the key areas of skill and expertise our facilitators need to keep the good vibes flowing and the recovery growing as beautifully as it does.

We help heal many levels of trauma. This is a complex, steady process and is at the heart of our vision. We have ‘in house’ psychotherapists both on our residentials and in our ongoing support programme. Much of the trauma we work with connects to the crossing of boundaries at some point in our lives and the need to heal these wounds. Maintaining healthy, respectful boundaries is essential to keeping the balance between a tangible sense of safety and an ease in being and growing together. When W2F began we were a male only programme. In a lot of ways this simplified our focus, particularly as we were working with young men between 16 and 18 years of age. I had for some years been wanting to create a programme for addicts in recovery. Creating a village of different backgrounds, ages and gender. Having run several pilot residentials, we made the official transition to addiction recovery in 2016, a bold, exciting leap. This quickly led to an amazing flowering of our work in many positive, life changing ways for us all.

With the programme now mixed gender, 18 years plus, and individual trauma healing in the forefront of our minds and hearts, another key area for us all to take real care with is around the potential for intimate, sexual relationships to develop between those involved in our work. It’s not that we are looking to stop this happening, that’s outside our remit! It’s more about bringing awareness to the need for those of us in early recovery to be mindful of the impact of our attentions, intentions and behaviours on others in myriad ways. It’s also very much about how to develop an intimate relationship with ourselves before we reach out to connect romantically to another. Like the suggestion says, begin with taking care of a plant in the first year of recovery, then possibly a pet in year two and if we’re lucky maybe a special, intimate relationship in year three!

We ask everyone involved, staff and participants, to be aware of attaching too closely to any one person, or people. To stretch out of our comfort zones and see if we can find common ground with everyone we meet in W2F. To learn to track our old behaviours as we forge new ones. It’s all about developing a watchful, loving, inner parent in all we do. Exploring old patterns and feeling into whether the connections we have or are seeking with others is appropriate, safe, respectful and all importantly, reciprocated.

Having had a long history of not really understanding healthy boundaries (as a result of bad role modelling from those around me), it’s taken many years of gentle, loving focus to learn to contain myself in a healthy, loving way. To know when to express my thoughts and feelings and knowing when an attraction is mutual. W2F offers an opportunity to explore these new ways of being and seeing ourselves in a professional, safe and gentle way. It isn’t so much as doing it right or wrong but in finding support and feedback along the way to help us each (staff and participants alike) find out who we truly are, what we want from life and what we can bring to the world. Healthy boundaries are essential to help nurture self-esteem, self-love and above all a freedom to be who we are, who we were born to be. Its all about our individual and collective, right to freedom.

Caspar Walsh

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May Mentoring Day - a photo blog

Gathering for one of our monthly Mentoring Days on a gorgeous sunny May weekend in the magical beauty of the Dart Valley, mutual support and shared friendship.

Mentoring Days - a photo blog

Photos from our February and March Mentoring Days on a wintery and snowy Dartmoor.

New Administrator

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Hello! I'm Jo, the new administrator for Write to Freedom - I joined the team in December.

I work behind the scenes helping the organisation run smoothly and I'm likely to be the one that answers your emails if you get in touch with us, and other tasks like keeping the website fresh and up to date, writing occasional tweets, managing systems and basic accounts.

I come to this role with a lot of previous experience in supporting the running of small organisations working for positive change. I have a deep love for the outdoors and wild places, and believe in the significance of connection to nature for everyone. It is one of the aspects of Write to Freedom that drew me to join the team, and something that I'm really glad to be supporting.

I have a long love of and heart connection to Dartmoor, having previously lived in south Devon for 15 years – always somewhere close to the river Dart and the last few years on the edges of the open moor. Dartmoor, and especially the wild Dart Valley remains one of my favourite places in the world - I find such a magical energy there, and the continual flow of the river so connecting.

I left Devon 3 years ago to seek some further afield adventures, beginning with a nomadic year and a half that led me to various stunning places around the world, and eventually to Greece, where I now spend a lot of my time. The main work in my life at the moment is as a long term volunteer, working with the refugee community. This part time role with Write to Freedom supports me practically to be able to continue this.

I came here just over 2 years ago, at a time when the arrivals of mainly Syrian refugees by boat from Turkey was at its height. I went to the island of Lesvos to help run a kitchen tent in an unofficial camp there, where we served up to 6000 meals a day as people passed through on their journey into mainland Europe. I expected to stay in Greece for a couple of months, but connecting to the situation very personally, and the massive ongoing need I experienced, I decided to move to Athens to be part of starting a longer term and more sustainable grassroots project. A collective of us set up the Khora Community Centre, offering vital services and solidarity to some of the thousands of people stuck here.

It is one of the most amazing things I have ever been part of – I am constantly challenged, inspired, exhausted and heart-opened by what I experience here. I write occasionally on my blog about my experiences here and the wider context of Athens. Devon always pulls me back every few months for a spell of nature resourcing, and I'm looking forward to attending my first Write to Freedom residential this spring.