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HEALING CIRCLE | A SPIRITUAL BOOK TO NOURISH YOUR SOUL

Since announcing my brand new Healing Circle, I’ve received a few questions about it. 

This post covers how long each session is and how often it’s held, why it’s weekly, what kind of books we read, and the group guidelines.

womens healing circle

HOW LONG IS EACH SESSION, & HOW OFTEN?

We meet once a week for 1.5 hrs.

WHY WEEKLY?

Growth & healing require commitment – deep, long-lasting commitment to oneself. Being part of a weekly circle is a loving, gentle reminder to stay on this path.

I adore one-off sessions & monthly circles, but in my experience, they are not sufficient to bring about lasting change. I might experience connection, internal shifts and profound insights, but without sustained daily practise, regular reminders and consistent support, I would not be able to implement change.

self healers community

When trying to change old patterns & deeply ingrained habits that no longer serve us, it is often only through the consistent repetition of new behaviours that make this possible. Doing this in community can make the whole process feel more digestible, manageable and tangible. 

Our old neural pathways are deeply entrenched and never disappear completely – we need to create new ones. Establishing a new indelible imprint requires perseverance and a tender tenacity, which with the regular support of a group, becomes a much softer, more manageable practise.

Our healing and inner work is endless, which can sometimes feel intimidating and self-defeating. We don’t tend to reach a plateau of perfection.

By regularly ‘doing the work’ in an intimate community, we are gifted a deeply nurturing, nourishing flotation device whilst we do it.

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Please know there is NO obligation to attend weekly 💛

Many people choose to attend 2 or 3 times a month instead.

But the option is there, to attend every week. I will be there, holding space and available for you.

IS IT ONLINE?

Yes, on Zoom. So the circle is open internationally! 

We will find a day & time to suit all time zones – currently looking at a start time of 5-7pm Monday-Saturday.

WHICH BOOKS DO YOU READ?

All our books fall under the spiritual/ self-development genre. Each one is selected by the group from a poll.

so far we have read/ are reading:

 • Women who Run with the Wolves – Clarissa Estes

 • The Body Keeps the ScoreBessel van Der Kolk

 • The Inner Child Workbook – Cathryn L Taylor

 • The Wisdom of Anxiety – Sheryl Paul

 • A Return to LoveMarianne Williamson

spiritual book club

HOW DO YOU IMPLEMENT BOUNDARIES IN THE GROUP?

We have some very gentle guidelines that ensure that whilst the conversation is flowing, everybody feels safe, is heard equally, and feels they can share without being judged.

• When someone is sharing, please allow them the space to do so and refrain from interrupting.

• After someone has shared, please refrain from offering advice. Our ‘MO’ for sharing is to share our experiences, never to offer opinion or advice (unless specifically asked for)

• Please be mindful of the length of time you share. Everyone should have the same opportunity to share.

These gentle guidelines really create a safe, intimate space where everyone can feel comfortable.

HOW TO BOOK

My weekly womxn’s healing circle is priced at £25.50/ month and is available exclusively through my Patreon.

  • I will be creating a special tier for the group as soon as all the spaces are filled. This entitles you to all the rewards of my other tiers, in addition to membership of the healing circle.
  • To secure your spot beforehand, a £10 deposit is required. There are only 8 spaces available. Please email me for details how to pay, or DM me on instagram(Deposit refunded once Patreon subscription is made.)

Any questions at all, please just ask! Drop me an email here.

I’m so looking forward to welcoming you,

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*NEW* WOMXN’S HEALING CIRCLE

At the end of this year, I will be introducing a brand new WEEKLY WOMXN’S HEALING CIRCLE.

Our aim is not to ‘fix’ ourselves, but to make peace with the ebbs and flows of growth, of life and transitions, of being human.

In a world that seems saturated with courses and workshops that promise to fix you in a matter of hours or weeks, this circle acknowledges that the commitment to our growth and inner work is endless. We come together in circle to honour and hold space for ourselves and each other.

WOMXNS HEALING CIRCLE

 • We meet once a week in a deeply nourishing, safe and loving (virtual) space, to discuss spiritual & self-development literature.

 • We read beautiful books* at a very gentle pace, sharing with each other our experiences and insights about what we’ve read each week.

 • We explore and discuss spiritual ideas, concepts and practical exercises.

 • You will be given the opportunity to share openly and freely in an attentive, non-judgmental environment.

 • You will be listened to, supported and held unconditionally.

*(We select the books as a group – each of which fall under the spirituality and self-development genre.)

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This is a community where our stories no longer have to be swallowed, they can be shared.

We show up as our glorious, shining, authentic, wounded, imperfect selves and come together to form a truly unique healing circle.

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 • Day & time TBC – currently looking at Mondays 7pm GMT London time. (This could possibly change to accommodate more people if necessary.)

 • Limited to 8 spaces – this allows us to build trust and intimacy within the group.

HOW TO DECIDE IF THE GROUP IS FOR YOU

This women’s healing circle could be for you if:

  • you feel alone in your personal development journey and yearn for support as you take steps to grow
  • you long for a community of like-minded individuals, also committed to their spiritual growth, but don’t know where to find them
  • you read spiritual/ self-development books already and wish you had people to discuss them with
  • you sometimes struggle to find the motivation to take the actions you know will help you
  • you crave gentle, non-coercive encouragement to stay focused on your personal growth
  • you like to read spiritual/ self-development books, but often skip past the exercises as you’ve no one else to inspire and energise you
  • you feel shy in groups of strangers/ sporadic healing circles & need familiarity and connection to share your vulnerable side
  • you belong to a 12 step fellowship and wish to read more spiritual literature to expand and deepen your existing practises
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REVIEWS AND FEEDBACK

This is a replica of a group I already run, but which is now at full capacity. It’s been such a beautiful experience for everyone involved so I felt drawn to creating a new one.

Here is what some of the current members of my womxn’s healing circle have to say about belonging to the group:

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HOW TO BOOK

My weekly womxn’s healing circle is priced at £25.50/ month and is available exclusively through my Patreon.

  • I will be creating a special tier for the group as soon as all 8 spots are filled. This entitles you to all the rewards of my other tiers, in addition to membership of the healing circle.
  • To secure your spot beforehand, a £10 deposit is required. There are only 8 spaces available. Please email me for details how to pay, or DM me on instagram. (Deposit refunded once Patreon subscription is made.)

Any questions at all, please just ask! Drop me an email here.

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blog quote trina
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YOU ARE FUCKING AMAZING | BRAND NEW SOBRIETY CARDS

After months of quite frankly an extremely emotionally draining lockdown, I have re-emerged from my cocoon and re-entered my studio! 

It had been my intention for a long time to extend my range of sobriety celebration cards, and I’ve now added four more sobriety cards to my collection.

YOU ARE FUCKING AMAZING

‘You are fucking amazing’ greeting card – click here to buy

The first card is not exclusively for those celebrating sobriety milestones. It can apply to absolutely anyone who is quite simply, fucking amazing! Or it can be for you, from you 💖

If you’ve survived the last few months, you are fucking amazing.

If you’re still trying to get through this, one day at a time, you are fucking amazing.

If you’re committed to your healing journey, despite how much pain you may be in, you are fucking amazing.

If you’re trying to shift your mindset from shame and judgement to compassion and curiosity, you are fucking amazing.

If you keep picking yourself back up after you fall, you are fucking amazing.

If you’re feeling your feelings, or even trying to, you are fucking amazing.

If you have reached out to ask for help, even when it was the last thing you wanted to do or felt capable of, you are fucking amazing.

If you’ve had to exercise flexibility and adaptability when these things don’t come easily to you, you are fucking amazing.

If you’ve managed to limit your scrolling for even a short period of time, you are fucking amazing.

If you’ve managed to unclench your heart and loosen your grip on old, unhelpful ideas and beliefs to allow space for new ones, you are fucking amazing.

HAPPY SOBRIETY BIRTHDAY

‘Happy sobriety birthday’ greeting card – click here to buy

I wanted to create a gloriously bright and sunny yellow sobriety card and after months of thinking about it, it finally came to fruition.

This was the first piece I created with the inks after a 6 month absence from my studio. It was made with alcohol inks on ceramic tile, scanned into my computer at high resolution, then collaged butterflies and text added later in Photoshop.

SOBER AS FUCK

‘Sober as fuck’ greeting card – click here to buy

This one pretty much does what it says on the tin! For all your sober as fuck, sober AF buddies and loved ones out there, help them celebrate their enormous achievement with this beautifully vibrant rainbow card. Blank inside (as are all my cards) for your personal message.

YOU’RE A FUCKING MIRACLE

‘You’re a fucking miracle’ greeting card – click here to buy

Any addict/ alcoholic who gets sober is a fucking miracle. It’s literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done and still, 11 years in, I’m constantly in awe of others people’s recovery journeys.

When you’re so deeply entrenched in a pattern of self-destructive habits and you find a way out and a way to heal, it’s truly miraculous. So many people don’t and it’s utterly heartbreaking.

If you know one of the lucky ones, please celebrate them. Addiction is an illness, not a choice. To recover really is a miracle and takes work every single day.

 

For Olivia’s full range of sobriety cards, shop here.

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UNSUNG HEROES OF COVID-19 | LGBT & ADDICTION SUPPORT

With the temporary closure of in-person meetings during lockdown, all addiction recovery groups have been forced to migrate online. Zoom meetings are now the ‘new normal’, with AA meetings, support groups and counselling all taking place in this format.

I questioned how ‘behind-the-screen’ connection could possibly be an adequate substitute for the real thing, but from my own experience and witnessing that of others, I have been reassured that my doubts were largely and surprisingly unfounded.

The adaptability and resilience of addicts in recovery consistently leaves me awe-struck and deeply, deeply inspired. Their ability to lean into uncertainty and dive into new territory with so much strength and grace always amazes me, and I wanted to celebrate these wondrous cape-less heroes. 

I spoke to Simon, a Dramatherapist, drug & alcohol counsellor, and  LGBT meeting facilitator, who in 3 months time will celebrate 13 miraculous years of sobriety. His capacity to meet a situation that looked like it might defeat us and transform it into an opportunity for more growth and healing is truly inspirational.

Simon – an unsung hero of Covid-19 – doing extraordinary things for the recovery community

You describe yourself as a Drama Therapist. Drug and alcohol counsellor. LGBT meeting facilitator. Please could you tell us about what these involve.

Dramatherapy is a form of  psychotherapy. It powerfully fuses the therapeutic process with the creative arts, in order to help heal inner wounds and trauma. Many of these wounds may have developed in childhood, and so the practice also involves working with and healing the inner-child.

Dramatherapy works differently from traditional talk therapy by bypassing the cognitive and analytical thought processes, instead connecting directly to the unconscious, where hidden aspects and ’shadow’ parts remain obscured. Working with stories, myths, the body, character and play, these parts can be projected, explored, expressed and re-integrated to help the reparent the whole self. I work both individually with clients, and with groups.

As a dramatherapist who specialises in addiction and  LGBT mental health,  my work is specifically focused on helping these two minority groups find recovery of their wounded-parts, to help overcome their ‘inner-demons’.  

As well my work as a dramatherapist,  I also work in a rehab as an addiction counsellor and talk therapist, and also facilitate a gay men’s discussion group called A Change Of Scene – as well as facilitate a private gay men’s talk therapy group. Most of my individual and group work has been moved on to Zoom during Covid-19.  

Simon’s weekly group therapy sessions are now running on Zoom

What did a normal work day look like for you, before the pandemic? 

A day was split both between my private practice, and my work in rehab – both of which I love very much.  Usually, it meant lots of travelling to and from South London to where the rehab is based  – to Central London where my private practice is. It’s usually a very full week! And then in between that, there were regular meetings for my own recovery at the Soho Recovery Centre.  I live pretty centrally between these places, so by the time I got home, I had dinner and went straight to bed!

The Soho Recovery Centre – a dedicated space in the heart of London for 12-Step recovery meetings, temporarily closed due to Covid-19.

How has this been affected by lockdown? What changes have there been in terms of your role and daily structure?

A few weeks into lockdown I was furloughed from my rehab. Understandably, the daily working practices there changed, with no new residential in patients or day/ clients being taken in.

I’ve been very fortunate that my private work has continued, and moved on line.  Actually,  I’ve had more enquiries from new clients during lockdown.  I think that’s because people’s mental health has obviously been affected by this whole process.   Obviously I’ve had to make sure I look after my own mental health and recovery too.  I continue to do meetings online myself, as well as attend various workshops,  meditations and yoga – all on zoom – which have really helped keep me grounded.

What have you found to be the biggest challenges of lockdown so far?

I think the isolation.  For both LGBT people, and recovering addicts, isolation and anxiety can often seem like a normal part of life.  There is a often true desire to connect, but perhaps a fear of intimacy for so many of us – with many experiencing rising levels of anxiety.  Really I think this is what addiction is,  an escape or  attempt  to cover-up and numb very painful feelings and anxiety we may have about ourselves, and our difficulty in connecting to others.  

Often addicts and many LGBT people are highly sensitive. I believe that’s what so many of us have in common –  our sensitivity, which can be a gift. But because our sensitive nature also be experienced as intensely overwhelming, we might use alcohol, drugs,  shopping, food, sugar, sex, work, codependency, relationships – or  whatever else it may be for you – to escape it.  

In recovery and the therapeutic process, the limbic brain needs to be around others – especially like minded souls. We crave it, and may not even realise it. This is why group therapy, and fellowships in recovery, tend to work so well. They allow the limbic brain, which may have been traumatised, the chance to heal by connecting with others. It is the nature of the ‘herd instinct’ in all mammals. We were not intended to be alone.

Of course in lockdown, where imposed  isolation has been enforced, it can be devastating for people in recovery (as well as anyone else trying to improve their mental health to stay connected). Loneliness, fear, grief, loss, depression. They are experienced by sensitive people at alarmingly high levels. 

Has there been a silver lining of lockdown? What joys/ blessings/ lessons have you and your clients experienced?

Yes absolutely.  Some have talked about feeling like they have been in their own private rehab!  It’s been a unique chance to be with their feelings, without the usual distractions and business of life. By staying connected to online meetings, recovery and therapy, many have gone through huge shifts and transformations in their lives over the last few months. Generally, I think it has given people a real opportunity to slow down and take stock of their lives.  

I have been witness to many people finding their way in to recovery or being able to ask for help and support for the first time.  I was very grateful, as were others, when recovery fellowships began appearing so fast on Zoom. For those in and seeking recovery, it has meant the difference between sobriety and relapse – literally life and death during this time.
 

Obviously lots of people will have been affected by Covid – physically, emotionally and financially. And devastatingly, many have lost loved ones.  I can’t begin to imagine what this must be like.  I’m always very mindful of this process of gain for some, and loss for others.

I think there’s been a collective grieving process going on. The loss of life, culture, routine, society, commerce, economic structure and so on. As we come out of lockdown, there’ll be another process to come as we try to re-intergrate back to life and a new kind of acceptance. But there may be denial, anger, bargaining and depression to work through too. 

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How are you being supported? How are you looking after yourself and your recovery?

For me, I think getting the balance right between my own recovery, and being able to support other people is vital. As quite a busy person professionally, it’s been wonderful for me to slow down and be with myself more.

Like many people, I have missed being around people I love –  friends, family and my home group meetings especially. I have been attending recovery meetings online which has really worked for me.

Also – just after lockdown began I got the app Disney+.  That was a real gift for my inner child!  I must have literally gone through the entire Disney back catalogue from Snow White to Inside Out!

What have you learned about yourself throughout this experience?  

That my own inner-child needs more time to play. I’ve realised that he really loves – and is quite good at – jigsaw puzzles! 

What are you looking forward to most after this all ends?

Being able to hug my friends and family. Friday night curry after work. Scented candles from Muji. Coffee in Old Compton Street watching the world go by. And a night out at the movies. 

Simon facilitates a weekly gay men’s discussion group called A Change Of Scene, now on Zoom

For more info you can contact Simon at simon.marks@thepractice.org.uk or find out more about his work at  www.thepractice.org.uk 

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TO ALLOW OR TO WALLOW – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

To allow or to wallow… what’s the difference?

Just one letter. One tiny letter with huge significance.

How do we make the distinction between wallowing and allowing our feelings? Should I allow my feelings when they’re based on cognitive distortions/ faulty beliefs? 

Thoughts create feelings. So should I allow my distorted thoughts to create distorted feelings? By allowing these distortions am I then wallowing?

There is this trend at the moment encouraging us to allow all of our feelings, but I think there is an extremely fine line between allowing and wallowing. I invite you (and remind myself) to tread very cautiously with this paradigm.

Absolutely acknowledge your feelings with gentleness and self-compassion. Meet them with love and hold space for yourself. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself that you are listening. Denial after all is no one’s friend.

But then gently investigate your thoughts that preceded the feelings.

I can experience feelings of sadness, anger, overwhelm etc that all feel hugely justifiable and valid, but if I skate on the thin ice of allowing too long, I invariably fall through the cracks into the icy waters of wallowing.

So allow but investigate. Challenge the thoughts that led to the painful feelings.

Have I been outsourcing my strength and power?
Have I been fearful of not getting what I want?
Have I been fearful of losing something I have?
Has a situation or person not turned out the way I thought it/they ‘should’?
Are things not going ‘my way’?
Am I indulging in black and white thinking?
Am I being single minded, obsessive and unable to see the wood for the trees?
Am I believing my own inner critic?
Am I trying to manage someone else’s life, thinking I know what’s best for someone who isn’t me?
If everyone is pissing me off, am I considering who the common denominator is?
 
Meet your fear and disappointment and anger and frustration with an open heart. Let go of self-condemnation and self-expectations and be sure to drop all those ‘shoulds’! Nurture yourself and practise self-empathy.
 
But then investigate. Release your tears and explore with curiosity. Journal, meditate, sing, dance, create, bake. Whatever works for you.
 
Thoughts are thoughts. They don’t represent truth but they do create feelings and those feelings can feel very true.
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Red flags for when we’re wallowing rather than allowing:  
 
  • Self-pity and resentment 
  • Self-righteousness & justifying anger
  • Endless thought loops – stagnating in the same thoughts
  • Feelings of resistance to flow and growth
When we’re allowing:
 
  • Curiosity about our thoughts, rather than self-criticism
  • Self-compassion & gentleness
  • Self-responsibility over blaming others
  • Openness to lessons and growth
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UNSUNG HEROES OF COVID-19 | ONE RECOVERING ADDICT HELPING ANOTHER

Addiction stops for nothing. It doesn’t wait. It doesn’t choose its time. It can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of age, race, gender, corona virus or no corona virus. So what happens to those addicts reaching rock bottom, ready for recovery when there’s a global pandemic and the world is in lockdown?

There are no in-person AA/ NA meetings at the moment but there are rehabs still open. Rehabs admitting addicts at the start of their recovery journey in desperate need of help. And it is only because of the wondrous heroes working in those rehabs that this is possible.

I wanted to speak to those people, going about their – quite literally – life-saving jobs in spite of corona virus. Jobs that are utterly essential and entirely under-appreciated. Jobs requiring immeasurable empathy, humility and love and where social distancing isn’t always possible.

I spoke to Pete, a recovering addict who has just celebrated 3 years clean! His role as a support worker in a rehab includes accepting admissions, clinical observations, distributing medication, maintenance of client records, general welfare and support, and under normal circumstances, accompanying clients to 12 step meetings.

There’s an unmatched resilience and capacity to adapt in adverse circumstances that often shines through in a recovering addict, and I believe Pete embodies this beautifully. 

What did a normal day look like in the rehab, before the pandemic?

Work starts at 7.30am with a handover from night staff. We would get clients up at 8am for meds and breakfast, then clients go into groups all morning. We are left to clear up breakfast and empty cups. Lunch is at 12.30pm, meds at 1pm. Groups start again at 2pm and we clear up lunch. We complete patient notes during the afternoon. Tea is at 5.30pm, meds at 6pm. We also clear up tea and finish the day at 7.30pm, with a handover to night staff.

Groups include workshops on addiction, co-dependency, 12 steps, SMART, ACT, group process, check ins and check outs, music groups, art groups, and counselling workshops and therapies.

How has this been affected by lockdown? What changes have there been in terms of staffing, your role and daily structure?

There was a decrease in admissions at the peak of lock down but as we have put screening processes in place the numbers are creeping up again. People need help and we continue to provide that. We just have to safeguard clients and staff alike.

Not much has changed in our daily structure though, as we try to keep things running smoothly and as normally as possible for residents.

However, there are no visitors to the centre for residents now & we don’t take residents into town or 12 step meetings. They have to engage in meetings online a couple of times a week. 

They can go on socially distanced walks once or twice a week. We have precautions in place for admissions, and carry out health checks on everyone regularly to keep an eye on any changes in wellness. There are staff off due to the lockdown, so we are having to fill in for them the best we can.

How are the residents coping with no visits, and how are they finding online meetings? 

They are mostly new during lockdown so are used to no visits at the moment. But yes it can be challenging not seeing loved ones during a difficult time in their lives. We just support and explain the current climate and they do understand. We make sure they can have phone/ video contact when they need to. They are taking part in the meetings on their phones or tablets. Some take to it regularly, some not so well, but no more than regular meetings. People will always fight against meetings in early recovery so no different here!

What have you found to be the biggest challenges of lockdown so far?

Keeping an eye on our own health I think. And trying to balance health with wealth! If I have time off how do I pay bills if on sick pay only? I had to have a couple of weeks off as I was worried about my health as I have asthma. Now we can get furloughed so its not as big a worry if I become ill. I have now used a home test kit for the virus and hope we are a bit safer in the management of the illness.

Has there been a silver lining of lockdown? What joys/ blessings/ lessons have you and the clients experienced?

We have all been up for the challenge. We have spent a lot more 1 on 1 time with clients and the whole virus situation has brought us together as a team.

1 on 1 time is spent carefully! The facility is quite cosy. We have a lounge and outside smoking area (I don’t smoke) and we just spend the day with clients as they live their rehab lives. Sometimes we chat in the office or in a therapy room.

Pete connects to NA meetings via zoom

How are you being supported? How are you looking after yourself and your recovery?

I continue to take part in online NA meetings and help with service in the function of those meetings. I don’t mind them. When the lockdown happened and our NA meetings stopped at the church, we very quickly jumped online and adapted really well. A blessing of all this is we are connecting all over the world and are connecting with each other a lot more. I really pray we continue with this unity when its ‘business as usual’!

I also continue with my step work and connect with my sponsor and friends almost daily. Work supports with our recovery and understands when we must take time to get well.

What have you learned about yourself throughout this experience? 

I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with myself. I have a meditation program in my life which I lacked before. Spending time alone and with myself and my feelings has always been a challenge and I can now do this more comfortably without it slipping into isolation, an addicts biggest contention! I’ve also learned I can deal with any situation and still not use! Its been a massive challenge for all of us.

What are you looking forward to most after this all ends?

Getting together with friends and get to a meeting! To travel to outside meetings as the lockdown is connecting us far and wide. To visit my family in Shropshire. To finally go to Croatia which has been postponed!

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CREATIVITY IN QUARANTINE | INSPIRATION, CHALLENGES & ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Last week I was invited to take part in a New York based meet up for creatives – Creative in Quarantine: Finding Inspiration in Isolation – a space for artists of all disciplines to come together and discuss the challenges we are facing during lockdown, and to recognise our achievements. 

It was an absolute honour to be asked to participate, and despite a deep aversion to speaking on camera, I dove right in and loved every minute of it. Afterwards I felt super exhilarated and inspired, in awe of everyone’s eloquence in discussing their creative journeys during Covid-19. 

creative in quarantine

We were asked by host extraordinaire Tricia Patrick:

What does it mean to be creative in this time? Does it have to yield products/ advance our careers? Or can we just be creative for creativity’s sake? 

Such an interesting question and something I consistently find challenging. For me, there’s an enormous sense of having to use this time productively. Create to produce a product. Create to provide content. Create to make money. When art becomes your business, it can be very difficult to separate the two.

But when the intention behind creativity is multi-faceted and not purely for the joy of creating, it can become a pressure instead of a release. 

In an ideal world, creativity has the capacity to

  • yield a sense of joy
  • provide a release
  • be utilised as a coping mechanism to navigate emotionally difficult situations
  • connect one to oneself
  • bring about a sense of purpose
  • eradicate boredom

With that in mind, are we able to explore creativity separate from our artistry? Is this something you are able to do?

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We were also asked to share the creativity challenges we’ve experienced and overcome during lockdown, our accomplishments, inspiration and self-care practises. 

Here are my reflections on these areas.

CHALLENGES

Fluctuations in motivation – one week I’m energised and hugely motivated, the next I’m devoid of enthusiasm, lethargic and uninspired. How can I meet these inevitable changes with self-compassion, gentleness and grace?

Time management – how do I balance creating with all other aspects of my business – blogging, social media, newsletters, making videos etc.  Once I create a routine, how do I stick to it? Can I practise softness and flexibility instead of self-criticism and rigidity?

Adapting – having redirected my focus to in-person workshops offline, how then do I shift back to online offerings? Trying to embrace the necessity to learn new skills eg. how to make downloadable colouring pages; how to make video tutorials 

Expectations – mainly of my own productivity. How do I manage the demands and sense of urgency I impose on myself? Can I set myself small manageable tasks and be content with a slower, more organic pace of ‘getting things done’?

Comparison – my susceptibility to a ‘compare & despair’ mindset: other people got online quicker, other people are more productive than me, other people are more resilient and resourceful than me. How can I bring my attention back to my own lane and my own voice?

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

It can be SO easy to focus on what we haven’t done, what we haven’t yet achieved and quickly descend down the rabbit hole of ‘not enough’, so a practise of gratitude and self-recognition can provide a glorious antidote.

My lockdown accomplishments so far:

Website launched – I’d been procrastinating, endlessly refining and struggling with the inevitable tech difficulties of trying to build my own website, but I launched it! Ahead of schedule. With all its imperfections and unfinished bits. I did it! I built it and I launched it.

Youtube channel launched – quite literally after years of procrastination and ‘valid’ delay tactics, I’ve finally done it! Expect to find lots of tutorials, time lapses & much more. Please do subscribe 💖

Colouring pages created – a series of hand drawn mandalas, scanned, adjusted in Photoshop, and added to my website as downloadable printables for you to colour.

More blog posts & newsletters written – I love to write and this has gifted me the inspiration and opportunity to write more.

Sold more sobriety cards than ever before! From Tynemouth to Texas, Carlisle to California, Watford to Washington, my cards are reaching far and wide. It truly makes my heart sing to see my cards fly all over the world 💖

Created ‘Unsung Heroes of Covid-19’ – a series of interviews with extraordinary people with ‘ordinary’ lives, modestly, humbly making a huge difference but with no applause, no recognition. This idea was inspired by my friend Del and I am excited to see it grow.

MY INSPIRATION/ MY ‘WHY’

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What inspires you? What is your ‘why’ behind your artistry, behind your business? Has it changed during lockdown? It’s so easy to forget these but so important to remember and reconnect. A sense of purpose propels us forward and provides grounding amidst uncertainty.

My whys:

To find an oasis in the chaos – to feel grounded myself and provide tools for others to do the same.

To harness a deep sense of connection – within myself and with others. 

To find joy, beauty and colour within the array of grey – it’s so easy to descend into a scarcity mindset, especially at a time when so much of our security structure has been dismantled. But despite the darkness, there is always joy. It is my commitment to myself to find it.

SELF-CARE PRACTISES

What helps you on a day to day basis stay sane? What keeps you connected to yourself and others? 

Here are my essential tools to keep my mental health in tact:

One day at a time – by keeping my focus rooted in today, I am gifted a reprieve from the frenzy of future worries. If I allow my thoughts to drift into the weeks and months ahead, I can experience a sense of panic and anxiety rise in my chest. I can still make plans and set goals for myself, but my attention is on the day ahead.

Routine & flexibility – despite a deep rebellious streak within me that fights against routine, I know it serves me tremendously. I set myself a daily and weekly routine but also allow for space to modify it.

Morning ritual – this is my saving grace. My daily grounding practise. It can vary each day but always involves a combination of yoga, meditation, journaling, affirmations, reading spiritual literature.

Exercise – I am too often too comfortable sitting on my backside, so this one requires a little extra work for me! Joe Wicks I am not. My favourite exercise is dancing in the garden or walking in the park, music in my ears and singing at the top of my voice. I probably look like a lunatic but I always feel exhilarated afterwards & there’s something very freeing about letting go of what other people probably think of me!

Online connection – for me, this is recovery meetings, my ‘home alone’ meet up for local solopreneurs, and my spiritual/ self-development book group. Seeing that sea of faces over Zoom has become an immeasurable support for me and provides a surprisingly soothing level of connection.

Phonecalls – there’s something still immensely comforting about a familiar, disembodied voice at the other end of the phone. Just a good old-fashioned phone call where I can’t see their face and they can’t see mine; where I don’t have to care that my hair looks shit and I’m still wearing pyjamas.

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UNSUNG HEROES OF COVID 19 | ADDICTS IN RECOVERY

With corona virus shutting down AA meetings all over the world came a very real, very tangible fear. A fear I felt in my soul and which brought me to tears. It’s been said that the opposite of addiction is connection, and so without that in-person connection, how would millions of addicts survive in the absence of face-to-face meetings?

aa meetings covid 19

I spoke to Del, an addict in recovery who lives and volunteers in a 17 bed ‘halfway’ house with a high demand and a high turnover. The organisation provides supported housing for those in recovery needing a stepping stone to the next part of their journey.

Del would probably disagree with me, but I see him as a shining beacon of light and hope amidst this current climate. His collaborative efforts with housemates have ensured continuous sobriety for all of them – an undeniably miraculous and joyous achievement in these challenging times. I believe him to be the glue, and personally applaud his ability to generate such a strong sense of community and connection within his house.

Derek Evans – an unsung hero during Covid 19 in my eyes

Could you explain what your normal role is and what it involves?

I volunteer my time here 2 days a week. Generally this involves helping or giving new arrivals  a basic induction. No phone, or going out alone in the first week. I also try to work in, or rather suggest, the importance of NA/AA meetings. I also really like to cook communal meals, sit at the table and eat & laugh, get to know the people I live with.

What did a normal day look like in supported housing, before the pandemic?

Generally, aside from group sessions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 09:30-10:30 and accompanying one another to meetings, in pairs or groups, we all tended to do our own thing. We would have occasional communal movie nights, but really everyone tended to utilise the house wi-fi & watch Netflix, YouTube etc in their rooms.

How has this been affected by lockdown? What changes have there been in terms of staffing, your role and daily structure?   

Lockdown has been challenging in many areas. Firstly in staffing, as in there hasn’t been any, outside of dropping off FairShare food from Asda and Tesco, which is collected at the front door. We have a number of people here with COPD and heart conditions who have to be vigilant around potential exposure to Covid 19.

As I mentioned previously, I live here, so don’t really have a role (other than the semi affectionate Grandad of the house…for fucks sake) other than trying to be a part of, help, and be of service.

Daily structure is radically different now, we spend a lot more time together. We are very fortunate, as there are 10 of us, we have a meeting every day – 2 x AA & 5 x NA a week. Monday is NA step meeting, Tuesday a reading from AA big book, Wednesday is NA Traditions, Thursday is AA big book. Friday we have a main share from one of the housemates, Saturday is NA Living Clean and Sunday we have an ‘ask it basket’ meeting.

The main result of this situation is hardly any of us are doing Zoom meetings. I only do the 3 meetings I have service positions at. I must add though, it is a lovely, beautiful thing to see the faces and hear the voices of fellowship friends on the zoom meetings. It’s almost like I hadn’t realised how much I was missing them, until I saw their faces and heard their voices.

aa meeting covid 19

What have you found to be the biggest challenges of lockdown so far?

For me personally one of the biggest challenges is other people’s behaviour in lockdown, whinging, self-pity, selfishness and self-obsession, not to mention thoughtlessness and crass stupidity bordering on ignorance. Just not being able to go out (admittedly we all abuse the daily hour outside guideline, I have to, at least, for my own sanity) and get to meetings or see friends and family is also very difficult for all of us.

Has there been a silver lining of lockdown? What joys/ blessings/ lessons have you and the residents experienced?

There has. We have all gradually become accustomed to this new way of being, a slower and more relaxed daily routine. We are all more active and interested in each other, we sit around communally and chat, or play Scrabble in the evening, and watch Netflix together.

A definite joy is the interest and passion and skill in cooking which has been rekindled for me personally – I’d forgotten how much pleasure I get from thinking about, preparing and providing communal meals for family and friends. It’s something I haven’t done for at least 15 years. 

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Del cooks for his housemates

Again for me personally the daily hour(s) often on my own, (sometimes with my Sister Gaynor) in Newsham Park. A joy/blessing from this, which has evolved over the weeks has been a reflective and very therapeutic thing for me. A realisation really, that though I thought and described myself as being a devout atheist for the majority of my adult life in and out of active addiction.  When I am in my local park, Bible verses come to mind which reflect my mind-set at the time. Verses I didn’t realise I knew, or had even read. Very bizarre I guess, but beautiful, miraculous and amazing to me.

How are you being supported? How are you looking after yourself and your recovery? 

Essentially we are all supporting each other in the house. Interestingly, I’ve heard of other supported housing where the story has been very different. Their routine prior to lockdown has not been maintained, as we have here, so there has been no group meetings, no Fellowship meetings in-house organised. The result of this has been multiple relapses and discharges.

Another aspect of being on lockdown has been a funny one for me, as I am not really a phone person. Usually I respond to texts, or return phone calls, but very seldom initiated them pre-lockdown. This has changed over the past weeks, and am now much more pro-active in this regard. Am still doing step work(always reluctantly, that stack of dishes, or pile of dirty washing must be done before I can pick up my pen) Speak to my sponsor regular(ish) In terms of utilising my time, have also started to learn Bengal/ Punjabi  with a lady friend from Amritsar (2-2.5 hours most days, she says I am Tumi pagala chagala…You are crazy old goat!! )                                                                  

What have you learned about yourself throughout this experience? 

In truth, the main thing is that I am more capable than I thought, or rather believed myself to be. I understand much more now, that following my relapse last year after 3.5 years clean, that time wasn’t lost. Additionally, on reflection, I believe my relapse and the long struggle to get back, has stood me in good stead during this lockdown period. I can suffer from unrealistic, and high expectations on myself and others. But today my attitudes have mellowed or softened, especially around myself. Reminding me to be gentle, not set the bar too high. I am doing better than I can sometimes believe I am.  

Obviously from the delay in completing this little task and returning it to you, I’m a procrastinator, I have had ample time on my hands, but, hey ho.

What are you looking forward to most after this all ends?

Not meetings, but bizarrely, it’s visiting a new food place in town. It should have opened on 20 March but got cancelled for obvious reasons. It’s called Shebang, and the blurb is: “Indian street food – from Mumbai to Merseyside”. Really can’t wait to take some of my housemates for a taster.

That aside, just looking forward to things getting back to how they were, although something tells me, we have all had a taste of something different in this lockdown, whether the appreciation of the little things, such as being able to hear birdsong without the traffic noise. Or having the time to sit and engage with friends. Do we really want to go back to noise, pollution and the general hectic-ness and strife of the modern world. Probably yes.

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TODAY | Livi LIVE on Zoom

4pm UK | 11am EST

Watch my interview LIVE via Zoom

CREATIVE IN QUARANTINE : Finding Inspiration in Isolation

creative in quarantine

Perhaps one ‘good’ thing to come out of this situation is the inevitable side effect of having to face ourselves and some of our fears. I had been busy constructing my new reality of in-person workshops, in-person connection, in-person meet ups. Redirecting my life and my business OFF line was my primary intention and so to be ‘forced’ so suddenly into a mass exodus ON line was a fairly undesirable outcome for me.

What this has meant however, is that I’ve had to face my fear of video! I have never been a fan of video calls and never been brave enough to talk to the camera on social media. I’m not a fan of my face close up and like many people, the sound of my own voice is just WEIRD to me and makes me feel deeply uncomfortable.

Migrating all my meetings onto zoom has meant confronting all these insecurities and encouraged me to embrace a new reality. Miraculously, I am slowly starting to feel braver and bolder and less afraid of my own face! So much so that I unhesitatingly said a big YES when I was asked to be ‘guest artist’ in a New York based zoom meet up for creatives. 

It’s called Creative in Quarantine: Finding Inspiration in Isolation – an open meet up of creatives who are trying to stay creative or explore their creativity during this time. I will be interviewed by host Tricia Patrick and will be sharing some of the challenges I’ve faced during lockdown as an artist, what I’ve accomplished and how I’m taking care of myself and finding inspiration.

It’s free to join and open to all. Click here to register for free.

Wish me luck!

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HEALING THROUGH ART | MY JOURNEY OVER A DECADE

My recovery journey with art started when I was about a year sober. I was living in Berlin, looking after kids and cleaning houses (both of which I loved by the way!) but needed another income stream to support myself financially. I’d been wracking my brain for weeks/months but was coming up blank. One night, seemingly out of nowhere, the idea of face painting popped into my head. It was a sit-bolt-up-right-in-the-middle-of-the-night moment and to this day I have no idea where it came from. My google search the following morning yielded endless possibilities and I very quickly became a fairy (buying the biggest wings I could find!) and began my own face painting business.

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Me in Berlin, circa 2010.

Whilst face painting is often just associated with children’s birthday entertainment, it became so much more for me. It was an intricate art form, a way to develop my creativity and improve my painting skills, and a way to make my world even more colourful. I practised regularly on my friends’ faces and on my own arms, determined to improve and excel in the field. I’ll always remember a dear friend saying to me how beautiful it was that I ‘used to cut my arms, and now I paint flowers on my arms’. She was able to see what I couldn’t – the immeasurable catharsis of replacing my painfully destructive habit with the gentle repetition of tender brush strokes on my skin – now creating beauty, instead of destroying it. 

self harm recovery

Self-painted poppies on my arm & image mirrored.

Not only was the act of painting my arms a deeply healing meditative practice, it also taught me about practise and perseverance (values I had no real experience of). I’d always believed that if I wasn’t good at something immediately, there was no point in even trying. My sole focus was on instant gratification and so the very notion of practise left me recoiling in horror. I was impatient to the core. Learning the art of face and body painting therefore challenged me in many different ways. I learned that practise does indeed lead to improvement, I learned the value of setting personal goals and achieving them, and I started to learn about the power of patience and self-compassion. This seemingly frivolous career choice was teaching me so much more than I had ever anticipated.

Over time however, the years of weekends filled with children’s birthday parties began to take its toll. The snotty noses, the relentless noise, the incessant elbows on my table and sticky fingers in my paints, the absence of thank yous and the increasing disbelief that I was a ‘real’ fairy (!) eventually sucked all the enjoyment out the job for me. Plus four years of Frozen designs. I frequently joked about loving kids a lot less now than I did when I started face painting but I’d learned that persistence yielded results, so I persisted. It didn’t occur to me that hating something I’d once loved so dearly could actually signify my personal growth, and outgrowing jobs was a ‘normal’ and healthy response to consistently working on my personal development. 

Out of the darkness of my addiction I had created a job and a persona of sheer, unadulterated joy – all fantasy, colour and rapture – and in the vulnerability and rawness of early recovery it had become a true expression of the light I was discovering. I received consistent adoration and applause (at a time I probably needed it the most) and believed I’d found my calling. I adored being a fairy and the kids adored the fairy, but over time I grew less and less enamoured with dressing up, less and less fulfilled with what I was doing, and constantly wrestled with the futility of it all (I often struggle with the quagmire of nihilism). How could something that had brought me so much delight and joy now be such a source of misery? Why couldn’t I just love something forever? Accepting that this was all just part of my growth was therefore a bittersweet relief and I admitted to myself that I was ready for change.

In my eternal yet clearly unattainable quest to counteract the natural impermanence of life (and face painting) I progressed into painting canvasses, determined to create art that didn’t wash off. I had retained my teenage ability to produce almost identical copies of any given cartoon character, so I duplicated many a minion, countless Elsas, and various other Disney figures. I quickly grew tired of this uninspiring work (not to mention it is obvious copyright infringement!) but I felt stuck. I knew I wanted to paint but I didn’t know what to paint. Fear and self-doubt crippled me, the whispers of ‘you’re not good enough’  often crescendoing into a deafening white noise which I allowed to defeat me.

It wasn’t until I picked up my dusty copy of The Artist’s Way, gifted to me several years previously by one of my mentors, that something began to shift. I started to challenge my unhelpful, often vicious inner critic and the stories I was telling myself and within a few weeks of ‘going deep’ I produced my very first original painting – The Mushroom Fairy.

I had an image in my head of what I wanted to create but hadn’t given much thought to what it meant. It was other people’s comments and perceptions that encouraged me to contemplate its meaning and on reflection I believe it was my attempt to convey that beauty and pain can coexist. There is magic in recovery but also anguish, happiness but also despair, peace but also conflict. To be human is to encompass the light and the dark – you can’t have one without the other – and my painting mirrored this duality without me even realising it! She still sits on my mantelpiece to this day, as a reminder that self-doubt is really just an illusion and that anything is possible.

Whilst lots of fairies and owls and lovebirds kept me busy for a while I again grew restless and began to seek further inspiration. It was through devouring instagram for creative ideas that I discovered alcohol inks and it was indeed love at first sight. I was utterly captivated by the vibrancy of the colours and the fluidity of the compositions and spent weeks researching the inks, substrates and sealants before purchasing my first batch. These then sat in a drawer for months, as my trusty old friends fear and procrastination showed up the party (again)!

Throughout my life I have allowed fear to keep me constrained in a state of paralysis – afraid I won’t be good enough, afraid I won’t be perfect, afraid of criticism. I have surrendered my power to fear itself and instead of moving through it, I’ve floundered in indecision, inaction and pain. In recovery I have learned to embrace my power and move forward through fear, but it often takes me an excruciating amount of time to do so. Eventually I took the plunge and unboxed my inks, started to play and I loved it. I’d always been drawn to abstract art (as a kid I absolutely adored Kandinsky) but I’d never had the courage to create any. Now I was and it felt like home. I’d found my ‘thing’.

Creating with the inks (before I owned a mask & airbrush machine!)

Life for me though is anything but a fairytale. A part of me still longs for perfection, that happy ending with no problems, no issues, no faults – a plateau of euphoria with no peaks or troughs. But this is not my experience and deep down I understand the necessity of the yin and the yang. My love affair with alcohol inks has been tumultuous and for that I am actually grateful. The inks are a magnificent and surprising teacher and through working with them I have learned, and continue to learn, a lot about myself. Sharing this enchanting medium with others is my next step and whilst this still fills me with fear, I am also overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude at the prospect of doing so.

Me in my studio, 2019