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how fishing saved my life pt.2

“Why I needed saving again”

It was only after my “crash” and during my time of recuperation (much of which was spent on the bank) that I realised I had simply been doing all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons and it had very nearly ended me. I’ve learned over the years that the painful lessons are the ones you remember the most so there was no way I was going to make the same mistake again in my new life, I needed to earn money doing something I enjoyed and I only wanted to earn as much as I needed to get by. The experience of being on the bank and learning that just the basics can be so rewarding taught me a valuable lesson that I could now apply to every area of my life…so that’s exactly what I did. I found a way to earn money by doing something that I was good at and that I took pleasure from, I won’t go into the details of exactly what it was as that’s not important to this story but the principle of how I got to that point is. Without that one year of fishing every single day I wouldn’t have known how to take the most important steps that I was faced with at this time in my life and as I write these words my heart’s filling with powerful emotions of joy and strength remembering that my new beginnings were pure and had grown from fresh roots. Pain had turned into power.

There was however another problem and a very big one at that!

By societies definition I’m unquestionably what’s referred to as an alcoholic and I suppose an addict in general, when I find something I like I want it ALL the time. I’ve learned to stop trying to change that obsessive side of me because in many ways it serves me well and is a vital part of the person I am (and by the way, I now like who I am) so removing that part of me would most likely turn me into a different person. So instead I focus that side of my nature toward positive and non destructive things instead of the other way round…it seems to work well.

Even though I’d managed to rebuild my life based on lessons I’d taken from my past I was always a very heavy drinker, I’d also been through a prolonged stage of the “rave” culture and the party prescriptions that accompany it and that too had been taken to the extreme but eventually I moved away from it…drinking though was still a core part of my everyday life and frankly I hated it and myself for continuing with it but still it went on.

I had always used alcohol as a way of coping with areas of life that I thought I couldn’t handle in a straight state of mind, from fears, worries, lack of confidence around people to the simple frustration of boredom and a lack of sense of purpose. I have always suffered from social anxiety (although “drinking friends” would never have thought so as when I’d had a few drinks I was often known as the life and soul of the party) but at the same time I’d loved the idea of being around people in a fun/party environment, drinking alcohol gave me the apparent confidence to shed those fears and join in with the enjoyment. From late teens I would always arrive at a pub and demolish three or four pints at a great speed in order to simply be able to cope with my fears of being around other people, my friends saw it as me being a party animal but the truth was that without that chemical influence I wouldn’t have been there at all. Even in later years at my local boozer I would often arrive and sit on my own until I’d consumed enough beer to feel like I could fit in and become my alter ego, most of the fellow regulars probably never even knew that this was going on…all they saw was the confident, happy go lucky joker that I would eventually become.

I always (just about) managed to function enough in life to get by and also bring up my two sons but many areas of my life were badly affected by my need to continue drinking. I couldn’t hold down relationships very well because my girlfriends would unknowingly be dealing with two completely different people morphed into one, I always tried to replicate the confident guy in my sober life but not only did it always eventually fail…it was bloody hard work too.

It’s no exaggeration when I say that I hated myself for many years, I had always known exactly what I was doing with booze and why I was doing it and I was fully aware that it was slowly turning into a chemical and emotional dependency, I had accepted that my fate was to become an alcoholic many years before. Living like that made me lose self respect, worth and value, so slowly but surely I came to see myself as direct opposites of those traits but it had become a survival technique that I felt I couldn’t live without.

I’m sure some people reading this will be thinking “what has all this got to do with fishing” and some will already have stopped reading…fine, this story isn’t for everyone. I decided to write this because I feel today that what has changed my life in so many ways simply has to be put out there in case other people in similar situations can relate to it as either a confirmation of their own changes for the better or more importantly see something that they feel they may be able to apply to their own situation and possibly live a happier life for it. I truly hope that at least one person gets that from my story because whether it be from fishing or any other way to find the importance of purpose, there is now no doubt in my mind and heart that it could save their lives too.

So around June last year my drinking had escalated dramatically and taken on a new character…”DESTROY EVERYTHING!!” and it was particularly ugly!

I was at one of those points where 3 or 4 bad things had happened at once and as ever I had been turning to my nemesis in order to deal with it all, as ever this didn’t help at all but simply magnified the problems and send me on a negative and destructive course. The normal several pints of lager weren’t numbing enough so I had begun to add spirits to the occasion which as most of us know is rarely a wise thing. During that month I had “let off steam” in a few ways, I treated someone I had cared about for a long time very badly and I had been kicked out of Residence in Nantwich for fighting…at this point I was 52 years old and behaving like a rabid child. I could see the bad in how I’d been acting and it made me feel like a moron….so I drank more and more.

Around this time I was very unhappy with myself but as usual was trapped in the booze triangle and didn’t see a way out, I started to go out less and drink at home which kind of suited me because I was far less likely to get into trouble. I watch a lot of Youtube videos as I don’t have a television (15 years without that nonsense) and I had started to watch fishing videos, anything from Cornish sea fishing from kayaks to monster GT popping in Australia. Then I came across Graeme Pullens channel “Totally Awesome Fishing”, I found his humour and penchant for the simple methods extremely interesting and in a two week period watched every video he and his son Mike had ever made. On more than one occasion my afore mentioned son Jonjo had been round to visit me and noticed that I was watching fishing videos a great deal and one day he made a suggestion.

“Why don’t we find a local fishing tackle shop and just go and check out what gear’s available and how much it is?” he said…after a few days of umming and erring I agreed.

On the 18th of July last year Jonjo and I drove to HF Angling in Shavington full of excitement and with some saved up money in our pockets “just in case” we decide to buy anything.

This was the first time I met Jon Bailey, he’s the sales and marketing manager at HF but at that point to us he was just the guy with the knowledge and the products, a very nice helpful guy at that. We explained to Jon that we hadn’t been fishing for many years and that most of the stuff in there was a total mystery to us both. All we wanted was a simple setup each that would get us on the bank that very day and Jon obliged in his usual knowledgeable way…we were ready! We thanked Jon and set off that instant to the river Weaver in Nantwich where we’d both fished so many times before and I had spent my year of recovery.

As soon as we got to the bank I knew that we’d done something very important, the returning feelings were instant, there were strong emotions stirring up inside me right away…we even caught!

I’ve thanked Jonjo a few times for pushing me toward the tackle shop that day, of course the reality is that he had been watching his dad slush around in a pit of frustration and getting into trouble and he wanted to help me find focus. He certainly achieved his goal and I will be eternally grateful to him for doing that, the man is unlike any other I know and I not only love him dearly but respect him hugely….awesome!

Once again I was soon fishing pretty much every day and enjoying it even more than I had before, the magic was back in my life and little did I know the spell it was slowly weaving into me.

I continued to drink but not as heavily as I had been, my head was still in a mess and it would take a little time for me to be ready for what was coming. I started to take steps toward making me feel better about myself, I apologised to a few people that I had upset that year and made a firm decision that spirits were no longer going to be a part of my life. 3 months and a whole lot of fishing later I woke up one Monday morning and made the decision that I knew had been coming, moderation with booze had never worked for me so I knew the only way to sort my life out was to stop drinking completely…so that’s what I did. My love for fishing and the pleasure it was giving was strong enough to replace my need for alcohol, 3 months on the bank had reminded me who I really was and how much in love with nature and tranquillity I have always been. I had started making new friends through the sport (Jon and Chris at HF Angling being two of them) and these were friendships that weren’t based around booze or pills, they were based around a true passion that I had always had in me but I had allowed life to beat out of me. I was and still am hungry to learn about tactics, feeding patterns and anything else that will help my pursuit and these new friends were not only funny, interesting and good people but they also had bags of experience that they were always happy to share with me. Little did I know that I was going to learn a lot more than just how to be a better angler, this part of my life has taught me so much about being a real person, it’s unbelievable and it’s still happening. At the end of the next part of this story I will list things I have learned and it will be as surprising to many as it has been to me.

Part three “I’ll NEVER be carpy!!” coming soon….

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