Tag Archives: addiction

Ready to Feel

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I’m not feeling good and
I just want to distract myself.
For the first time in months
I watch some Netflix.
It occurs to me how similar this is
to drinking or shopping
or any other numbing out behavior:
when the show is over,
the feelings are still there.
This is why they say
You gotta feel it to heal it.
But when will I be ready to feel?

Friends With Them All

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Make friends with your feelings
even the ones that send you
reaching for a beer
or a cigarrette
or shopping
or a TV show
or bon-bons–
make friends with those feelings
especially.
When you can sit with the discomfort
for even a second longer
than you ever have before,
that is one second closer to awakening.
Instead of seeking alternatives
to the present moment,
can you be a little more present
to this moment’s unfolding?
Right here, this is where the juice is.
Right now, the beating heart.
This life is now,
in whatever form it is currently taking,
in whatever feelings are making
their way from your heart to your brain
and back again,
just listen.
Make friends with them all.

Never Broken

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The only reason that we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with.  To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.
–Pema Chodron

Standing in the middle
of my own discomfort,
just watching and waiting
instead of lashing out,
I feel the parts of me
that I once disowned
clamoring for my attention.
What do I do?
What do I say?
Instead of taking a drink
or turning on the TV
or eating something
or shopping
or playing a game
or smoking something
or going to sleep
or running away
I just sit,
and I let myself feel this discomfort.
As I come to know
this energy of unrest
I see a small child
who doesn’t understand
why the world asks
her to be other than who she is,
smaller than who she is…
I see her sadness
and I mourn for her.
I tell her that she is okay.
She starts to believe me.

Hand in hand
we turn and face the world
together.
We aren’t waiting for the world
to make us feel complete.
We look out with the eyes
of compassion
and our vision softens our experience.
We can be in this world
with all the broken pieces
and sense the inherent wholeness,
that which can never be broken.

The First Crocus

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A dear yoga student and friend
shared with me the news
of a young man, twenty-three
who after many attempts
at sobriety
put so many chemicals
into his veins last night,
his body could no longer fight,
and his breathing
slowed down so far
that now he breathes no more.

Twenty three
with a whole life ahead
and now gone from the chemicals
and the struggle,
the addiction,
set free from these
and hopefully to find
sweet repose
and eternal peace
yes
but he is also now gone
from the first signs
that spring is finally here,
when winter’s chill
gives way to the first crocus
poking up through the still cold earth
to tell us,
“There is always hope.”

The Last Day of February

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The blossoming always comes at the perfect time.

Patience, and trust that the blossoming will occur in the perfect time, space and sequence.

I decided in January that I would be exploring the Twelve Steps in some form during the twelve months that I have committed to daily posts.  Today is the last day of February, the second month, so it only seems fitting that I wrap up with some work on the second step. I wrote a good bit of this post a week ago, but never got around to polishing it to my liking.  Hopefully today I can post writing that is enough in congruence with what I’m feeling that it rings with authenticity, if not for everyone else, then at least for myself.

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Step Two is the rallying point for all of us. Whether agnostic, atheist, or former believer, we can stand together on this Step. True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every  meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.
-from http://www.aa.org

February 20, 2014

Nearing the end of February, and I find myself wanting to reflect more and more on the second step of the Twelve Steps. Tonight I spent some time researching Rageaholics Anonymous. I even found a phone meet-up and wondered if I would have the courage to join in on one of the conference calls.  There don’t seem to be any meetings in Baltimore; I would prefer to meet face to face with people, but I suppose a conference call is better than doing nothing at all.

My therapist suggested that I find an AA meeting in town.  Without too much effort I could present myself as an alcoholic, he suggested, and then I would gain admission to the group.  He cautioned me that if I tried to join saying that I’m actually a rageaholic but that I want to be part of a group, they  might not let me in.

Sure, I could present myself as an alcoholic.  I have turned to drink many times when I felt sad, or angry, or uptight.  I relied on drinking when I felt nervous in a social setting and wanted to “take the edge off.”  I have been so drunk that my body began to violently reject what I had poured into it, in an effort to save itself from being poisoned, evidence of its impulse to survive at all costs.  I have driven when I certainly shouldn’t have, and was lucky enough to not hurt anyone or myself.  I have allowed drinking to cloud my mind so that I wouldn’t experience true connection with my family or myself.  Sure, I could pass for an alcoholic.  Because I might actually be an alcoholic.  It doesn’t really matter that I haven’t had a drink since last August and that I haven’t missed it much at all.  The truth is, I have engaged in many addictive behaviors in my lifetime, the consequences of which I am not the least bit proud.  I want to explore these behaviors in the context of an established system that has proven results, if one is willing to do what needs to be done.  I think I am.

It would be nice to join a group.  I think in the end what I’m really looking for is connection, for support, a sense of being a part of something, being included.  Could I find this connection with myself, support myself, include myself?  I think I wouldn’t be asking these questions if I were already capable of such self-honoring.

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February 28, 2014

It’s the last day of February and I’m exhausted from four sleepless nights in a row.  The Wellbutrin is having its way with me. I’m not supposed to be looking for an improvement in my mood before two weeks have passed, and this is the minimum window of time in which one can expect for the drug to take effect.  And there is the painful irony:  I’m taking this medicine with hopes of someday feeling better, but while waiting for that to happen, I’m being deprived of rest, of respite from my neurotic mind. I feel myself slipping into a downward spiral of impatience, resentment, anxiety, overwhelm, loneliness, sheer exhaustion, and I’m just feeling a whole lot worse.  It isn’t supposed to be like this, is it?

And yet, I am a mother.  I must be there to take care of my kids, to provide for their needs.  I’m getting caught up in my thoughts, and my son or daughter is whimpering, calling out.  They’re getting fussy with one another.  My son resists having his diaper changed and gets poop all over his hands, his legs.  My daughter doesn’t go willingly to the bathroom on her own; she needs to be coaxed, offered incentives.  Making lunch seems like a huge, nearly insurmountable task, all I want to do is lie down, rest, and let someone else be the mother.

But I push through, and inside, I am screaming.  My son scampers out of the room and starts pulling things off of bookshelves, out of drawers.  He does this while I’m trying to help my daughter with a puzzle that is probably too complex for her.  I dash after the boy to clean up the messes he has made, to avoid the worsening of the messes–and my daughter cries out in frustration because she has reached an impasse and needs my help.  I am running back and forth, from room to room, the house is in disarray.  I want rest. Inside I am screaming.

It is 1:41pm, and the kids are in their rooms for nap time. I take a deep breath.  I’m looking forward to teaching restorative yoga tonight; it might be the only moment today in which I experience peace, centeredness, stillness.  I take another deep breath, peace is now. Only now.

The second step reads:

I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore my life to sanity.

As I look back on what I’ve experienced the past two months, and as I look forward into the third month and the third step, I feel pretty complete in this moment, as far as my step work goes.  I don’t have a group or a sponsor, but I do believe that a power greater than myself can restore my life to sanity.  Maybe the higher power is God, maybe it’s Wellbutrin, who knows?  All that is really important here is my belief.

And I do believe.

Therapeutic Sharing

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I saw my therapist today. It’s something I do every week, unless it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving, or his three week summer vacation. I mentioned before that my decision to see a therapist regularly is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. I’m grateful for the safe space therapy provides, so that I may explore my life in a non-judgmental way, to be curious, to laugh about my neuroses, to hear feedback from someone who has been doing this for decades. I really look forward to therapy; it’s time to be myself, to not have to take care of anyone else. It’s a breathing space. It’s a time to rest. Even if I’m feeling emotionally charged and I begin to cry, there is still something so restful about just sitting there, sharing what’s on my mind, and being heard.

Today I brought up my blog and the direction I decided to take with the Twelve Steps. I heard myself saying, “I won’t have a sponsor, and I won’t attend group meetings, but I’ll work through these steps.” And then I thought, Well, why shouldn’t I attend meetings? Why shouldn’t I have a sponsor? 

Am I afraid of going through with it all the way? I have been telling myself that my Twelve Step work isn’t the same as the person who is recovering from alcohol addiction, or the one who is trying to stop sticking themselves with needles. My work isn’t the same as someone who is addicted to sex or binge eating or…is that true?

My therapist said, We all have our addictions.

I found out recently that people do in fact attend Twelve Step meetings for dealing with anger, which kind of blew me away, because I always thought the Twelve Steps mainly revolved around people recovering from substance abuse, and then perhaps sexual addictions, and addictions to food.  But anger?   My therapist related to me an anecdote of a guy who described his fits of rage as mood altering, like any drug–and I was struck by the truth of it. When I get to the point where I’m feeling put upon over and over and over again, and that feeling accumulates and then resentment consumes me and I explode… just after that explosion, I’m not feeling put upon any more. I’m feeling really charged up, really on fire, full of energy, but I’m not feeling put upon. After I explode, my mood has been altered, like it would be altered on alcohol or pot or a whole bar of chocolate. Okay, maybe not in the exact same way as alcohol or pot or chocolate, but it has been changed in some way.

So today I’m thinking I might try to find a Twelve Step group near me. I don’t know if I will find one that deals specifically with anger, but maybe I’ll find a welcoming space where people are working through their own addictions and I’ll be able join with my energy and intentions. I’m starting to see that being a part of a group is a big deal in this whole Twelve Step process. I thought that I would sort of just tra-la-la through a year of the Twelve Steps in my own mind, on this blog, with anyone in cyber space who wanted to comment–but having real person to person contact, hearing other people’s stories, and experiencing the collective energy of people who are doing this tried and true work together–I suspect that I might experience greater transformation this way.

I haven’t addressed my readers before, because I thought this was going to be a project just for myself (and I kind of assumed that no one would be reading anyway)…but as time goes on, I get surprised by people liking, commenting, and even following this blog. Which means I have a few readers out there, which means a whole lot to me. So I guess I’m going to address you now. Have any of you been to Twelve Step groups before? Have any of you worked through all of the Twelve Steps? What is the greatest benefit of attending regular group meetings?

My therapist said that my idea to work through the Twelve Steps made a lot of sense. It came out of left field one day, which makes me think that something greater than my every day behaviors was calling to me to give this a try. And I’m listening now. Now, who wants to share?

 

Dragging My Feet to the Next Step

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Yesterday I mentioned I’d be moving into the second of the twelve steps on my path to uncovering and rediscovering my creative self. I was hoping that the decision to weave in my work with the twelve steps and create some healthy structure for this blog would result in renewed excitement and enthusiasm, almost in the way that someone who has been muddling through darkness might feel when a light is switched on, and they can finally see where they’re going.  But that is not the case tonight. Instead of excitement and enthusiasm, I’m feeling lethargic right now, not much like moving at all. I don’t want to write, I don’t want to think, and I certainly don’t want to delve into my addictive emotional tendencies and attempt to summon the energy necessary to shed some light on how those tendencies continue to block me from realizing my greatest potential as a creative being. I can see what this lethargy is. It’s resistance, and I’m very familiar with it. As soon as I choose a path, I have many inner voices telling me I shouldn’t do it, that it won’t work, that it doesn’t matter, that it wasn’t a good idea to begin with. Luckily I’m familiar enough with this resistance to just take a deep breath and keep typing.

I feel like throwing out here–I guess kind of offhandedly–that my husband and I decided to stop drinking this past August, just like that. We didn’t call ourselves alcoholics, and our lives were certainly manageable at that point; there was no big aha moment that led us to cut ties with the drink. We just decided together that drinking wasn’t so great. It’s expensive, it’s not good for our health, and we just feel better without it.

Since I stopped drinking I’ve given a great deal of thought to our culture’s relationship with alcohol and how normal is its use and abuse; I’ve watched myself becoming secretly judgmental of others’ drinking habits, and have felt a need to protect my choice to be completely sober. My not drinking has made me a bit of an odd dog in my family; Thanksgiving, Christmas, just about any dinner would be strange without the accompaniment of several bottles of wine. There were a few looks of surprise and some silence slightly tinged with awkwardness the moment I explained that my husband and I just one day decided to stop.

Observing the members of my family drinking together at every gathering, I’ve caught myself going to this curious place in my mind and asking, Why do they have to drink every time we are together? What need does this drinking fill for them? What would it be like to connect with them without the effects of alcohol influencing their speech and behavior?

Questions like these spoken aloud might cause conflict. We have, after all, joined together as a society that enables its members to continue on with destructive habits by calling them normal. Take drinking, for example. When people drink, they are having fun, letting loose, celebrating, taking the edge off…By confronting the thing that is normal and questioning its place in our lives, I might become a threat, something to be taken down, something to be trivialized.

I also have discovered in my life that people don’t take too well to my requests for them to change their behavior. It just never works. It might be my delivery, or it might be the fact that people just want to be loved for who they are right now, but my asking someone to entertain the idea of reducing or even eliminating the use of something that they are attached to just doesn’t go over very well. Go figure.

Little by little I’ve learned to stop looking at everyone around me, asking them to change, and instead turning the focus on myself, and asking how I can change. I think it’s called becoming an adult, or something like that.

All of this thinking about other people’s substance use and the distance I’ve taken from substances has led me to believe that we’re all addicted to something. If I’ve completely eliminated the use of intoxicants from my life, where else will my own addictive tendencies play out?  If anything, sobriety has given me the clarity to see the depth of the problem, and how much work I need to do to find out who I am underneath all of the behaviors I’ve inherited and learned and absorbed growing up in a society where alcohol and drug use is a rite of passage into adulthood, something to be praised and celebrated and encouraged.

What else am I addicted to? In the absence of mind-altering substances, I see that my fear and anger run deep, and that there is no end to the currents of self-denigration that course through my mind every waking moment. It’s enough to drive one to drink. But it’s also thoroughly entertaining, this human drama–this poignant, real as day, continuous unfolding of the many layers of my self.  There’s something so seductive about letting myself explode with anger, stomping and screaming and lashing out. It is so familiar to listen to the voice that says I don’t do anything well, that I will always be a failure. With no substances to mask these feelings, I see that I’m addicted to my anger and my self-hate. And this is a big problem, too big for me to handle on my own.

So here I am, seeking change, seeking understanding, knowing that there is something better beyond my ingrained patterns of thought and behavior. Here I am, asking for something else, something bigger and more powerful than I to step in and show me a different way.

Here is the second of the twelve steps:

Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Sanity. It has a nice ring to it, but I need to figure out what the greater power is for me. The enormity, perhaps even the impossibility, of defining “greater power” makes the second step seem out of reach. It’s a relief to come across passages like this one:

When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many things which then seemed entirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished to grow we had to begin somewhere. So we used our own conception, however limited it was. We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. – “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?” As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built. 
-A.A. Big Book p.47 

I liked this one too:

The process of coming to believe is something that we seem to experience in similar ways. One thing most of us lacked was a working relationship with a Higher Power. We begin to develop this relationship by simply admitting to the possibility of a Power greater than ourselves. Most of us have no trouble admitting that addiction had become a destructive force in our lives. Our best efforts resulted in ever greater destruction and despair. At some point we realized we needed the help of some Power greater than our addiction. Our understanding of a Higher Power is up to us. No one is going to decide for us. We can call it the group, the program, or we can call it God. The only suggested guidelines are that this Power be loving, caring and greater than ourselves. We don’t have to be religious to accept this idea. The point is that we open our minds to believe. We may have difficulty with this, but by keeping an open mind, sooner or later, we find the help we need. 
– Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 2

The path is wide open, and the only thing that can hold me back is myself. Parts of me might be afraid, suspicious, and doubtful of this work, and rapid progress seems unlikely. So okay, baby steps. I might have dragged my feet on this one, but I still took a baby step. And it doesn’t matter how big the steps are, after all. Each one brings me a little closer back home to myself. Maybe someday I’ll get to this place where I can love and celebrate each small step along the path. Maybe that could happen tonight, right now.

Tonight I celebrate this little step I’m taking. I’m glad I’m here.