Haruki Murakami

Does that happen to you, Mr. Wind-Up Bird?

IT  whispers back

All of us need to feel a sense of love and belonging. We’re hard-wired to want to be connected to others – that’s what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. (Brené Brown)

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A few days ago in my human development class we were talking about what drives our need for human connection, which led me to thinking about why those of us in recovery attend meetings. According to Gerald May, meaning comes to us through our relationships in life. He says, the three facets of human spiritual longing are the desire for belonging and union, the desire for loving and the desire for just being.

Even though we seek these three we are constantly frustrated because at the same time, usually out of habit, we protect ourselves against being rejected, or being found wanting, or not measuring up. We hesitate to open up completely and allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable. We have a false perception that to express any vulnerability is a sign of weakness. We hold back because of this ‘perfection culture’, fearing rejection or a sense of shame.

But we don’t have to hold back. We connect by mutual understanding and truth in life’s experiences.

Whether it makes you smile or cringe, a truth spoken is a healing thing.”(Jennifer DeLucy)

Our most fundamental sense of well-being is derived from the conscious experience of belonging. Relatedness is essential to survival. This is the underlying reason why we attend meetings or visit each other’s blogs on the sober blogging network.

We do it to connect with others who can identify with our experiences and who we can learn from.

“We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us–that we’re all broken, all beautifully imperfect.” (Emilio Estevez)

Our feelings are our great connectors. Experiences and expressions of our feelings about those experiences allow us to connect and remember that we are not alone in this.

“Can I be honest with you, Mr. Wind-Up Bird? I mean, really, really, really honest? Sometimes I get sooo scared! I’ll wake up in the middle of the night all alone, hundreds of miles away from anybody, and it’s pitch dark, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen to me in the future, and I get so scared I want to scream. Does that happen to you, Mr. Wind-Up Bird? When it happens, I try to remind myself that I am connected to others—other things and other people. I work as hard as I can to list their names in my head. On that list, of course, is you, Mr. Wind-Up Bird. And the alley, and the well, and the persimmon tree, and that kind of thing. And the wigs that I’ve made here with my own hands. And the little bits and pieces I remember about the boy. All these little things (though you’re not just another one of those little things, Mr. Wind-Up Bird, but anyhow…) help me to come back “here” little by little.” 

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

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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