This Much I Know: Author and lecturer Brian Pennie

My biggest fear is of my own heartbeat.
This Much I Know: Author and lecturer Brian Pennie
Picture: Richie Stokes

My biggest fear is of my own heartbeat.

I had a major operation on my intestines when I was a baby — without an anaesthetic — which I’m convinced had a major effect on me. I still have weird feelings around bodily sensations.

I was a restless kid with a worried mind. A tormented kind of child, conditioned to being fearful.

I grew up in a fairly disadvantaged area. Drugs were everywhere.

I first tried acid when I was 14 and heroin when I was 17, but I never thought I’d become an addict.

Three years later I had my first panic attack and started to use regularly.

My biggest challenge has been finding some kind of awareness.

For years, I was the most unaware person of anything outside of my own story.

I told myself a lie: that I had anxiety, which made me special and gave me permission to use heroin so that I could cope with this world.

I held down a job in graphic reproduction in a printing company until I was 35.

I was good at it. But I was finally suspended and that’s when I sought professional help.

Trying to come off benzodiazepine — so that I could go into detox — I had a seizure and split my tongue open.

That’s when something shifted inside me. That was the moment when the world completely changed.

A couple of months later, when the heroin was out of my body, I did go to a treatment facility.

I wrote a diary in detox and followed my passion for writing by finishing my memoir of addiction and recovery.

I wrote some of it in the beautiful writing retreat Anam Cara, in West Cork.

It was a cathartic experience because as I wrote it, all the emotions which I’d been numbing for 15 years spilled out.

Gradually, I switched addictions — to learning.

I did a degree in psychology in NUI Maynooth and am studying for a PhD at the Institute of Neuroscience in TCD.

I want to help others by speaking and lecturing.

I’m interested in the space where eastern philosophies of mind intersect with western psychology and I lecture in the neuroscience of mindfulness at UCD and the neuroscience of addiction in TCD.

To cope with everyday life, I have a morning routine.

It makes up the acronym mavig and I swear by it: meditation, affirmations, visualisation, inner child work and gratitude.

If there is one thing I’d include on the schools curriculum, which certainly wasn’t taught to me, it is the importance of emotional intelligence, and I’d love to show the youth of today that real change is possible.

The thing that irritates me most about others are those who are forever criticising, condemning and blaming. I call them energy vampires.

The trait I most admire in others is humility.

My idea of misery is having a mundane life.

I have reached out to many top CEO’s for a new project which I’m researching and the one piece of advice that keeps on coming up is this: keep it simple.

I have an inclination towards over complicating things.

I don’t believe in God or an afterlife in the sense that the ‘self’ lives on in some kind of ‘life’ as we know it.

My idea of happiness is having high energy and being in pleasant surroundings with nothing to worry about.

I’m currently single but think that stage of my life is coming to an end.

I was too busy working on myself, and on the book, to be ready for a relationship but I feel that is changing. That phase is over.

If I could be reborn as someone else for a day I’d be Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual teacher. I’d like to have what he has: a type of blissful joy and inner peace.

The lesson in life, so far, is that if you act — rather than just talk — you will shine, and if you act consistently you will be unstoppable.

Brian Pennie’s memoir Bonus Time is published by Gill Books.

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