Addict

From the Tao of Pooh

Motisfont Christopher Robin and Pooh playing poohsticks creditThe E.H. Shepard Trust reproduced by permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~ Christopher Robin to Pooh

I’ve been writing and rewriting cover letters and resumes for the past month. I’m leaving a job where I’ve been involved in sales for the last 15 years and I have to say it’s been challenging figuring out how to sell myself.

So many of us who have had issues with alcohol (or have issues with addictive behaviour for that matter) are uncomfortable coming to terms with and expressing our worth. We feel ashamed and broken and tend to focus on all the ways we don’t measure up. So imagine my quandry: How do I convince a new company that an alcohol abuser with residual psychological issues from past trauma and poor choices is the best fit for their open position?

By coming to terms with, and believing, that those things are only a part of me and do not make up the whole of me. They are not ALL of who I am. So I sat down with a blank piece of paper and started taking notes. I thought about the strengths a journey like this allows us to develop:

Courage and Resilience
Compassion and Benevolence
Discipline and Analytical Skills (you know, the overthinking!)
Honesty and Accountability

And you know what? I started to feel better about myself. I could do this. I forced myself not to give in to doubt and I called up a few trusted friends. I asked them what they considered to be my assets. I was humbled, grateful and touched by what they had to say. Sometimes our friends see us in ways that we can’t, especially when Ms Doubt and Mr Self Sabotage walk next to us so often, whispering tales from our negative core beliefs.

In each person who has found the courage to admit the truth and tackle their addictive behaviour there are reserves of strength we should not take for granted. We are resilient because we won’t give up. If we falter we will try again, simply because we already know how to begin. We begin again, because we have to, carrying what we’ve learned every step of the way.

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

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Dr. Maté Talks About Addiction

I came across this video on Films for Action and found it particularly helpful in understanding the root causes of addiction and how to deal with them. Dr. Maté is a renowned author known for his knowledge about attention deficit disorder, stress, addiction, chronic illness and parental relations.

Of course after this short video I had to view more. This second video is brilliant. It is a clip from Dr. Maté’s talks at TEDxRio. His theme was addiction: from drugs to power.

“From the lack of love to the desire to escape oneself, from susceptibility of the being to interior power — nothing escapes.”

His name is Robert Paulson

A word or two about meetings. And a question.

I’ve attended a few meetings to date and while I do understand where they can be effective I’m yet to see what I can gain.

This is the format for a typical meeting: We show up at the designated hour; exchange pleasantries while waiting a respectable number of minutes for latecomers; then hold hands while we recite the first few lines of the serenity prayer. (Yes, I googled and the prayer is actually quite longer than most folks are aware.)

Continuing: The meeting chair introduces herself and asks if anyone would like to share anything specific; if not, we move onto a suggested chapter in The Big Book and we take turns reading and commenting if we are moved to do so. Then, a daily affirmation is read out loud from The Little Book; and we close with the Lord’s Prayer, (which somehow always sounds to me a little like “His name is Robert Paulson.” But that just might be because at my first meeting, there was another group in the next room which wrapped up before we did. I could’ve sworn their muffled words through the wall sounded exactly like the Project Mayhem tribute.

Robert Paulson

His name is Robert Paulson.
His name is Robert Paulson.

Perhaps I’ve watched so many movies with these sort of scenes that the whole group thing seems cliche to me now. Why do we have to sound like a bunch of broken desperate souls wanting to be reassured all the time? Yes, I know it is very difficult for some and meetings are their only outlet, but shouldn’t we also be accountable when we mess up? The whole “Would you like to share your story?” with the automatic assurances that “You’re ok, we’ve all been there, everything will work out.” seem a little too much like a Catholic confession ritual: if you sound sorry enough you’ll receive absolution.

(Please know that I’m not trying to offend anyone and I respect every person’s right to practice what they believe in.)

Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I haven’t found my group yet. Aside from the fact that I don’t drink anymore, I have little else in common with the folks I’ve met. But I’ll keep looking. There are dozens of meeting groups in my area so I’m hopeful. In the meantime, I’m sticking with my online group. You guys have helped me in so many ways, without opening and closing rituals. 🙂

Oh! I almost forgot my question: Have you found meetings to be helpful?

Phoenix

Love Letters

Quill-and-Ink

I’m still learning to understand the difference between an alcoholic and an abuser of alcohol. Apparently there is a difference.

An alcoholic is someone who no longer has control of his/her life as every activity and thought revolves around the next drink. They get sick when they go a day or two without alcohol and their lives deteriorate rapidly on a professional, emotional, social and spiritual level.

An abuser of alcohol is one who binge drinks – more than 8 drinks at a sitting, (8 for men, 6 for women), or has difficulty stopping once he/she has started. An abuser also suffers blackouts just like an alcoholic would. This is me, as far as I see it. But nevertheless, drinking is no longer an option for me.

To those of you I drank with, please know that because I will no longer partake it does not mean that I won’t hang out with you. We’re friends and I would like us to remain as such. Nor will I judge you if you drink. We all know ourselves best and you can probably handle your alcohol. I can’t. It affects my body differently and we all know that I have been a right proper arse at times. (see here for The Truth about my drinking) I’m sorry for that. I did not understand the effect alcohol had on me.

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To my loved ones: I apologize  to all of you for not understanding and realizing the seriousness of my situation. This is not who I am meant to be.

I guess this is the point where promises and grand declarations are made but this letter is not about that. No promises or grand declarations can be made. This is just something I have to do, for me.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Love always,

Phoenix

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

The Big Bad Wolf’ by Graham Franciose

The Big Bad Wolf; The Beast; The Demon Alcohol. The ‘Drink’ is given many names when you’re learning to accept that you have a problem with alcohol. The funny thing is I’m not afraid of being tempted by The Dark Side.

Today, there are others things I fear.

“Your life is going to Change!”

I’m reassured of that again and again. I hear others in recovery talk about how much they hated their lives. They hated how much of a hold drinking had over them. By the time they realized they needed help they were mean and cruel to loved ones, lying, sneaking around, selfish, impatient, unfocused, unmotivated and falling into despair. They talk about how forming and keeping relationships became increasingly difficult.

While I do admit that I hate how I felt when I drank too much and was routinely disgusted and disappointed with myself, I love my life. I treasure my relationships and meet with loved ones as much as I can. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. I surround myself with books, music, art, movies, good food and philosophy. I enjoy exploring life and run around snapping photos of the beautiful things I see around me. I try to see the good in every day and every person and encourage others to do the same. I love to laugh, dance, make love, hug, and sing (even though I can’t carry a tune). I eat healthily 80% of the time, avoiding overly processed foods, soda and sugar, and I’ve been a pescetarian since February 2011. I think of life as an adventure and I’m drawn to others who see life the same way.

What if I stop seeing life this way? What if this addiction and subsequent battle for sobriety breaks my spirit? Will the positive parts of me remain? Will I become disappointed in and judge myself harshly if I falter? Will I give up? Will my life change so much that I lose what I love about it too? This  scares  me. Very much.

“Once an addict, always an addict.”

To become an alcoholic in the first place you have to be genetically predisposed to addiction. I am aware of alcoholism on both branches of my family tree so maybe that’s true. My fear is that I will replace this addiction with another. What if I am unable to understand and deal with my triggers fast enough and seek solace in another drug? Remember, I love the high, the rush, the numbness, the silence. So what if I start smoking weed or I find a super awesome herbal tea, or something? What if I substitute alcohol with coffee, cigarettes, sex, exercise, popcorn or even writing blogposts? What if I need another addiction?

“You’ll do less drinking and more thinking.”

I’ve been told I’ll think alot more. Oh crap, please no! Anything but more thinking! I am a powerful Super Analyst to begin with. I think that’s what started my problems in the first place. Haha, “I think.” I think you get the picture. I get tired of thinking so much. About three months into my eighteen month long therapy term, a friend explained ‘slipping’ to me. It’s when you become aware of all the thoughts in your mind in an instant. ALL OF THEM. Then you see your mind start to fragment. You see and feel yourself slipping. I understood right away what she meant. I’d already felt it. It lasted only a fraction of a minute but felt like an hour. I was terrified but calm at the same time. It was quiet. The bottom line is, that is a scary place to be, because it’s easy to disappear into it. I’m afraid that if I don’t learn to handle or quiet all those thoughts, they’ll overwhelm me and I’ll fragment.

So how will I face my fears?

This is the point where I take a deep breath. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One moment at a time. That’s one of the rules right? I’ll try not to worry about what will change. I’ll continue to do what I love and explore my life. Maybe I will learn new thing and meet new people. Every change is an opportunity. Change is inevitable and it is reassuring in its consistency that way. I chose not to worry about what will and won’t change and accept that right now I am exactly where I need to be in order to become who I was meant to be.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ― Haruki Murakami

Taming the Addict: So what if I need another addiction. I have to accept that I have an addictive tendencies and channel them into positive things. I’ll stock up on more fruits and veggies so I don’t grab candy and potato chips on the way home. I’ll stick to my green tea and switch to another favourite if I get bored. I’ll write and write and write. I watch movies and read books and continue to write reviews about them all. I’ll balance the gym, walking and yoga so I don’t obsess about any one activity. I’ll keep adding to my Happiness Jar and pull out those little notes when life feels too rough. And I’ll rest. I’ll rest to repair.
Taming the Mind: There are only three simple solutions which I know have worked for me in the past: Quiet Time, Meditation and Routine Tasks. For me, Quiet Time is allowing myself 15 minutes on mornings to sit with my cup of tea in the stillness of the early morning, or 15 minutes before bed to lie in the dark without checking my email, facebook, whatsapp, instagram, blogger, wordpress or twitter accounts. It’s falling asleep in my bed instead of on the couch with the TV on to drown out my thoughts. I’ll develop these habits to ensure that I find enough Quiet Time. I’ll find different ways to meditate so I won’t get bored. The more I spend with me the better I’ll get at relaxing my mind and stopping my over-thinking. Routine Tasks like household chores, washing the car or de-cluttering my apartment work wonders. Even though my mind is still pretty active, there is a calming effect of doing these methodical tasks. And by the time I’m finished I have a tidy apartment, a clean car and a healthy sense of accomplishment.
“There’s no room these days for half-heartedness. Either step up, or step off. It’s time to show up as the person we burn to be. Not some half-baked version of ourselves or as what we think we should be.” – Shavawn M. Berry
Ok so there you have it: My plan to face what scares me. If you are anything like me: a grand explorer and lover of life, a euphoria junkie with mild case of OCD, or a  super analyst who excels at over-thinking, maybe my plan can help you too. So face your fears and go after the life you know you deserve and were meant to have. Embrace it all. You’ve got this.
Phoenix

The Woman with Two Brains

Well no wonder!

Note to Self:

Ask Brain One (ruled by Gaba) to research Glutamate.  Ask Brain Two (ruled by Glutamate) to research Gaba.