Spencer, 26, Brighton abob, chef
How did you know about abob?
I found abob through a family friend of my mother’s. I’d been stuck in a pattern of drinking for 7 or so years due to trying to manage very high functioning anxiety and the general state of myself and my current life. I had no aspiring male role models and I had always been looking for a mentor. Abob popped up at just the right time.
You were mentored in lockdown?
Yes, I had a ten week cycle and my first mentor was called Spencer. We would go for walks together around Lewes and the Downs where I was at the time. We shared bloke talk and it was nice to just have someone to talk to who wasn’t trying to fix or rescue me or see me as a problem to be solved and that was very valuable. I was learning to talk about my feelings. I’m an anxious but fairly open person.
Lockdown was a strange time, sometimes I was struggling with drinking, and sometimes having the best of best times. It was a time to pause and sort myself out without distractions.
I actually gave up drinking on my own. I wasn’t very good in groups; But abob has since changed that.
And how was the Quest weekend when you eventually got to do it?
It was an experience and a half. First I heard the drums in the distance eerily calling to me and it was the first time I’d been excited by something for a long time. Something one of the Elders said really affected me right at the beginning. He said – ‘Whatever you do I hope you take something magical away from this weekend.’ There was something reassuring in his voice, it hit me right in the heart.
I learnt to express anger in a outward healthy way. I hadn’t realised I’d disconnected myself from it, I had only expressed it in intellectual ways internalising it. I worked it out on myself, I’d done that a lot in life.
I don’t think it was life-changing, that takes longer but it was a beginning of connecting myself to my feelings. I was anxious for the whole weekend about talking to these men in front of others, baring myself and emotions raw. But I was gradually reassured each time that they weren’t suggesting that one size fits everyone and they treated us as individuals.
What did you take away from the weekend?
The weekend showed me parts of myself I hadn’t dealt with and may never have unlocked if I hadn’t gone on the weekend, I definitely connected to more of myself and felt much more emotionally grounded. And I continued with the 12 week mentoring programme.
Did the mentoring and weekend change your relationship with men?
Yes, absolutely. At the beginning I was quite intimidated by some of the older men and didn’t understand where men got their inner strength from which I felt was missing. By the end, I had a lot more trust. And more faith. I felt so much more connected to these men. I hadn’t felt anything like that. Ever.
And what happened with your second mentor, Sid?
I first met with him in a café in Selsey. He was the perfect mentor for me. He allows me enough room to out my own problems while showing guidance when I need it. It’s a great balance. He offers logic, spirituality and wisdom which is great for me. I’m on a spiritual path already so that was a bonus.
He comes to Selsey near Chichester now and we walk on the beach together. We look at some of the topics that are covered in the mentoring but others too. I currently live and work on a caravan on a holiday park as a choice to be on my own and spend some time sitting with my anxiety and fears. We talk about all walks of life.
Do you go to the weekly Brighton circle?
We walk and talk first and then Sid takes me to the circle. We travel to and from together. The circles have been great for me learning to talk about what I’m feeling. They also remind me that other men have problems too which is very useful. I am then less fixated on myself.
Going to these circles has increased my confidence around expressing my feelings and vulnerability. I don’t feel so embarrassed and self-centred in general.
What about the future?
In 6 months’ time, I’d like to be volunteering and travelling the world. I’ve applied to be a volunteer at the isha yoga centre in India.