A “keep it simple” girl in a truly complex world

When I entered into the residential treatment center, I remember a counselor telling me that I had “analysis paralysis”.
It would seem, after I’d pondered it a bit, that she was saying that I thought too much.

“Think think think”

…a sign at the meetings read. An oldtimer liked to tell the Newbies, “That doesn’t apply to you!” I didn’t know what he meant by that, but I was pretty sure I didn’t like it.

I had always been told, before, that I should think as much as I could!
“You’re such a smart girl! You could get straight A’s if you just applied your…(mind).”
But now that they mentioned it, I reckon it hadn’t done me a whole lot of good.

image

Think thunk thank

“My best thinking got me here”

They told me to keep it simple; don’t overthink things. Considering the sh*tstorm that my life had been, they had a really strong arguement.

So, how am I supposed to stop thinking?

Thankfully, they began helping me to slow down the “Freight-train Brain”, as Dad used to call it. I found that giving my mind something simple to hold onto, like the Serenity Prayer, for example, was often enough of a distraction to keep me from mentally running myself into a ditch. I never got to be an Expert Meditator, but by listening to the Oldtimers – even the one who said that saying didn’t apply to me – I eventually got into some good habits that allowed me to “comprehend the word serenity” and even to “know peace”, however briefly. Listening to music that wasn’t connected to the old life was helpful, as well. It gave me something safe (positive lyrics) to think about, that kept my brain occupied. And my mind needed a complete overhaul, really. I was “bankrupt” in sooo many ways by the time I was ready to climb down from the throne of my life.

Simple isn’t the same as imbecilic.

After having worked on it for a couple of decades, there are many times when I mention to someone (outside of the fellowship) that I like to keep things simple, and the look on their face says I must be a complete moron. I have to smile to myself, as I recall the saying “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” Over-analysing everything in my life (cos if I can understand all of it, maybe I can control it!) certainly didn’t find me a lot of happiness. I’d really rather be happy. And that’s as simple as it gets for me.

Posted from my cabin in the thunderclouds.

Advertisements

Only gotta change one thing…

Ch ch ch ch changes

image

Just sayin NO

When I quit smoking cigarettes, the last time, something occurred to me that was so profound, I’ve not forgotten it, even 16 years later. I’m sure others have thought of this LONG before I did, but it’s simple truth was just tremendous at the time.

The after-dinner ciggie

I’d just finished eating, and as any smoker can tell you, the next natural step after a meal is to smoke. There are a few universally agreed upon instances where this is the case, and eating is one.
I was probably a couple of days  past my last smoke, and of course my (addict) mind was screwing with me: “You really oughta go smoke one now. It’s not like you’re using- just a cig…” and on and on. That’s when the (divinely sent, I’m sure) thought hit me. In the midst of my minds’ sales pitch on the virtues of smoking, I heard my response: “I don’t smoke anymore!”

Another moment of clarity?

It was as if a switch had been thrown. I don’t smoke, therefore, it would be absurd for me to go have a cigarette!!   I mean, as a person who DIDN’T SMOKE, why on earth would  I go outside to the smoking area, and fire up?

Recovery:1, Addict-thinking:0

That’s the day when I realised, that just like they told me in The Rooms – “You never have to drink again”, that I really never had to smoke another cigarette. Simplicity won again. Having spent a lot of time working on keeping things simple, and not over-thinking things, it was pretty easy to just stop there. I don’t smoke anymore. I’m not a smoker.

Of course, there have been instances where a cigarette seemed like an option. I’m not gonna lie. But that discussion had already been concluded. I don’t smoke.

Since putting down the drink and the chemicals (drug of choice: whatever you’ve got) over 23 years ago, I’ve certainly not made a lot of progress toward where I thought people clean for this long would be (sainthood). Some days are better than others, to be sure. But by the grace of my loving Higher Power, the battle of whether to have a ciggie is not one I have much concern about.

Thoughts?

How about you? Do you have other addictive behaviors that you may eventually want to address?
If you’re less than a year sober, it’s suggested that you don’t worry about smoking.
That leaves a hell of a lot of character defects open for discussion, though, doesn’t it?
Just take it one day at a time, friend. Easy does it, just for today. 😉

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.

3 great meeting types with the best recovery rates

Ok, gang, how are you all on this fine Saturday morning? It’s gray and humid here, but it’s been a good day, regardless. Even if it wasn’t, I can start my day all over again whenever I want.
Today I thought I’d share with you all my experiences with the 3 main addiction recovery meetings, at least to my knowledge.

image

Letting go. It's a good thing.

I got clean and sober in AA, having followed my Dad in, a little more than a year after he figured out what his problem was…(as opposed to the countless people, places, and things that he thought were the cause of his troubles)
I was pretty sure, as much as I was like him, if it was Dad’s actual problem, there was a good chance that the chemicals (including alcohol, of course) were also at the root of my misery. I remember spending many hours at a meeting place where NA & AA both had regularly scheduled meetings. Folks from all walks of life could be found there from dawn to dusk, all with (mostly) the same (ish) goal: to stop the pain. Some were of the understanding that alcohol &/or drugs were the problem. Many thought that the police and the Judge were their only real pain. I know many folks grabbed ahold of sobriety and were “willing to go to any lengths”, while perhaps as many others just showed up to get their card signed. The oldtimers used to tell us they would “gladly refund your misery” if sobriety, uh, wasn’t for you. Sometimes folks went out to do some more research (to be surethey really were drunks), and came crawling back in, and sometimes they didn’t make it back.
By going to meetings several times a week, I was frequently reminded of the alternatives to getting sober and staying that way. Sobriety, even being such a foreign idea, sounded better to me than continuing to live in the darkness and misery I was so accustomed to.

I found kindred spirits in the 12-stpe rooms. Regardless of what or where or who I was with, before, I was never fully at ease. I didn’t find comfort for my heart, my spirit, in any of the places where I looked. Only after some time clean/sober, with the help of a Sponsor, did I begin to feel…comfortable. They told me that the solution was in the steps, and I was willing to do anything, so I worked the steps. Somewhere along the way I realized that in contrast to before, when pain was just the inevitable result of so many poor choices, now pain was a real part of growing away from that mess. Hence the phrase “growing pains”.

At some point, I became curious about Celebrate Recovery. I wasn’t ready to go to church yet (not for about 5 years, and then it was a while before I felt at all comfortable there), but I did attend a few cR meetings. They were similar to AA, but a bit too sweet for me. I had previously been in a very abusive situation with a man who claimed to be a Christian, and that left a vile taste in my mouth where anything that resembled “churchianity” was concerned.
And also, I was more comfortable (still am, truthfully)in a more hardcore meeting. “If I wanted someone to pat me on the ass & tell me everything was gonna be alright, I’d go to a bar.”
I needed the truth in love, yes, but not given with a smile and some sugar. That was my impression of CR, at least at the ones I went to. I was used to getting one over on anyone who was the least bit trusting and/or ignorant to the hustles that are such an integral part of the addict lifestyle. Also, my experience had taught me to never trust people who were “happy” all the time. I still feel that way at times. But if you’re comfortable in a church setting, I wholeheartedly encourage you to go to Celebrate Recovery. I’m a big fan of several meetings every week, and that usually means more than one of these fellowships. Good news: you’ll find other folks from the other meetings at the other two, too.

After about 10 years, I began attending NA meetings instead of AA.
When I got sober, the NA meetings I’d been to were more like meat markets (AA can be the same, to be sure), but I heard so much “glorifying the drug” and the like, that I’d settled into AA. Plus, AA was where Dad went, so… 🙂
So, after 10 years or so in recovery, I went back to NA, as I had a friend wirh longterm recovery who attended AA and NA. By that time, there was a whole lot more recovery…maybe it was just the meetings I went to, but it seemed more abstinance-focused than before. I knew more than one person with more time clean than me, and that was comforting. I enjoy NA because there’s no one looking at you funny when you talk about drugs, and I suppose I have more in common with the members there.
That being said, I qualify for both fellowships (and a few more, really, but that’s for another post.), and nowadays it doesn’t much matter to me which I attend. The fellowship is of great importance to me now, having gone through the steps more than a couple of times. I’m positive that I’d never have made it this far if I hadn’t had a Sponsor to help me through the steps.
I encourage anyone who’s contemplating this whole “sobriety” thing to check out any or all these groups. Give them a couple of tries, each.
What have you got to lose? You might just find your tribe. And, if I’m lucky, I might get to see you there.

Posted from my soggy cabin in the mountains.

Is perfection even a thing?

I’ve been thinking lately about doing new things, doing old familiar things; success and failure.
One of my favorite things to say to myself (I don’t know why, but I suspect I can figure it out)is that “I’m not good enough”. Not a good enough wife, not a good enough mom, and certainly not a good enough writer to ever do more than copy & paste crap on Facebook.
Where in Hell does all that come from? Yeah, I did kinda just answer my own question.
I know that my parent’s parents had high expectations for them, according to the idea of “success” back in the 1940’s, 50’s, and so on. We’ve all seen the American Success Story prototypes, right?

image

The media (what there was, then) never showed people who were dirty, hungry, overweight, poor or mentally ill – at least not for more than a moment, (not to mention drunks or addicts) and certainly “those people” weren’t seen as having any positive qualities. Even Otis, from The Andy Griffith show, was only good for laughs and making everyone feel better about themselves. “Poor Otis…” I have no doubt that the Middle Class dream, around that time, looked a whole lot like Ward & June Cleaver’s place. Heck, even the single parents of that era had their sh*t together. Hmmm. Were there any single Moms, back then? None come to mind. Musta been too depressing to show that part of society.

So, is it any wonder that just one short generation later, we are wracked with insecurities and self-doubt?

So, here’s the flip-side of this deal: it’s false pride. (Ouch)
Yep. It’s all a bunch of “Me me me me me!” Cos, guess what?
When I stop looking at how weak and wretched I am, and remember what really matters, all that kinda fades away. Or rather, Who matters.
I’m not gonna go on a scripture-quoting rant, but I will share with you what I heard as I thought about this dark place I seem to be drawn to…
I can do all things through Him, when I let Him lead. When I am weak, He is strong, when I keep my eyes on Him, things work out.
The One Who works all things together for my good, according to His purposes, has given me so many reasons to know that He’s got my back…He’s the One who brings beauty from ashes. He loves us, the unlovely ones. Jesus said that He didn’t come for those who (thought they) were well, but He came for we who recognise our sickness, our need for Salvation, from our own mess, among other things. My favorite scripture is John 3:17. God didn’t send His son to condemn us, but so that through Him we might be saved.
I’ve gotta get a grip on who it is that tells me lies about myself: I’m not smart enough, young enough, they won’t like me, my clothes aren’t nice enough, my hair is wrong, I’m destined to live in the slums forever…
I’m not trying to say that any of those things would make me a bad person. I just want to see some kind of forward momentum from my efforts. One step forward & 2 steps back really gets tiresome. But, like I think Mother Teresa said, we’re not called to be successful. We’re called to obey.
God is well known for using weak to shame the strong, and the least of these to beat the greatest.
Ok, Lord. I’m giving it to You.
AGAIN.

Posted from my non-villa, nowhere near any hamlet.

2 Wildly Contradictory Views of 1 Disease (Part 2 of 2)

~~~NOTE: This is my experience, strength and hope, as a recovering alcoholic/addict. It’s not what I learned in a book. It’s things I’ve learned from folks who lived it.~~~

…so, where did we leave off? Oh, yeah. “I don’t have a problem” vs. “Oh, Hell, yes you do.”

It seems like a reasonable question, from a parent, spouse, friend, or even concerned employer, to ask “What can I do to make this insanity stop?” There’s where it gets really crazy. Why?

insanity_laughter_statue

“Shoot me now!”

Because YOU can’t do a thing to make them stop. Or even slow down. Nope. Sorry.  Look at it this way, if you could change the way their lives were going, wouldn’t you have, by now? It’s not like you haven’t done your best to “help” them!!

If loving you, the kids, their pets, their home, or even themselves (or whomever) were enough motivation to cause the alcoholic/addict to stop the insanity, they would have stopped a long time ago. Love or not has NOTHING to do with addiction (including alcoholism). One of the results of addiction, actually, is self-loathing, because they more often than not, know that they’re hurting you. But they are powerless to stop. For now.

If a good job being jeopardized was enough to get them to stop, they would have, after losing the first one. Right?  Ditto, losing their drivers’ license. Ditto, spending time in the county lock-up. Seems simple, doesn’t it? “Just quit!” or even, “Learn to drink like a gentleman!

So, addiction has nothing to do with how the addict feels about the world around them, necessarily. Sure, depression and/or countless other mental illnesses may accompany the addiction, or have become more noticeable to you since the person began to increase their consumption. Many drugs (including alcohol) mimic mental illness, eventually, after enough has been consumed. But that’s not the reason why they drink or use drugs…

I’m not going to go into an in-depth dialogue of why some folks get addicted and others don’t, or what causes addiction. Maybe in another post, but not this one.  The insanity of the disease of addiction is apparent in the behavior of not only the alkie/druggie, but also in the behavior of everyone in a relationship with them.

Today I’m hoping to reach out to the ones caught in the whirlwind of addiction brought on by their loved ones, and offer real, tangible hope.

The point is, the only one who is capable of deciding to stop drinking or using drugs, on a daily basis, is the one doing them in the first place.

What you can do, to HELP this person, will sound crazy, but consider it, please, in contrast to the ways you’ve been trying to “help” them.

*I am fully aware the this is going to sound harsh, and a lot of people involved with (us) will reject this advice across the board.*

Treat them like an adult. Let them take responsibility for their own screw-ups. Give them the dignity of finding their own solutions. You giving them is not likely to work, after all, haven’t you given them your best answers? (They have to find their own. You CAN’T do it for them.)

You didn’t pay the electric bill? Wow, that’s gotta suck. Do you need some candles? You don’t have any food in the  house? Maybe there are food pantries around that you can find. (Here’s a pb & j in the meantime. I’ll take the kids to McDonald’s, but you can pay your own way.)

You need gas to get to work? Ok, I’ll meet you at the gas station and put some into your tank. (This does not involve any money -plastic or otherwise- transferring from your hand to theirs. You go inside and pay the attendant. Or don’t: you’ll find out for yourself how that works out.)

                          ***LOVE THEM ENOUGH TO RISK THEM HATING YOU***

The problem with having children in the midst (which the alcoholic KNOWS is an effective manipulation tool-look how well it’s been working), is that they are going to suffer because of the choices their parents make. I’m not saying that you abandon the kids. Take the children out for a bite, take the children home for a sleep-over, even take temporary custody if you can or feel you must. (The fact is, if you know of neglect of abuse going on, think of what may be happening that you’re not  aware of. In the throes of our addiction, we are very talented in guarding evidence that might slow down or stop our using or drinking.) The thing is, the addict is going to look for any possible way to play on your sympathy, guilt, or love for them/their kids, to get to their prime goal: that next high. If you’re not  going to directly supply them, then they are going to find some way to relieve you of some cash.

Here’s the bottom line, dear friends: when an addict/alcoholic is active in their addiction, you are no longer interacting with the person you know and love. You are dealing with their disease. It helps me to understand the “disease” model by framing it within the realm of a mental illness. People with diagnosable mental illness act differently, don’t they? They often do things that they later regret, hurting those they care the most about, and some form of treatment is usually the only thing that will bring back any semblance of lucidity.  Sometimes therapy is enough, sometimes medication is needed for some amount of time, but ignoring it NEVER works. Seriously.

Trying to reason with a person in a bipolar/depressive/schizo-effective episode is like trying to teach a pig to sing:  It wastes your time and annoys the pig. People tried to talk to me about my consumption of mind-altering chemicals, and at BEST, they received a bored or irritated look in return.

Unless and until the person comes to the conclusion that their way isn’t working, they’re not going to seek out help. SO, since you DO love them, and you HAVE to do SOMETHING, please, take my advice:

Take care of you. Get to an ALANON or NARANON meeting, or a counselor familiar with addiction, to help you find the best way to detach from the insane behaviors and strengthen yourself. If you don’t take care of you, how are you ever going to be able to “be there” for them, if and when they come to their senses and seek help.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you. Some day, your loved one will thank you, if you actively work towards setting them free to take as much discomfort as they require, to decide to STOP. I leave you with one thought, that I heard from a wonderful lady in ALANON, many years ago:

How can they hit bottom if you keep sliding a mattress under their butt?

😉

 

 

Just a few more words on…the S word

image

Ashamed of being

I felt ashamed.”

“But of what? Psyche, they hadn’t stripped you naked or anything?”

“No, no, Maia. Ashamed of looking like a mortal — of being a mortal.”

“But how could you help that?”

“Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are things they can’t help?

C.S. LewisTill We Have Faces

Posted from a spot…on a hill.