January. The month of resolutions. What better time to write about alcoholism and addiction?
In relation to my various addictions, resolutions never worked. For example:
I told the most important person in my life that I would only smoke pot when we were together. I meant it when I said it… but as it turned out, I lied.
Every ounce of resistance drained from my body when my friend pulled a real beauty out of his pocket and presented it like an offering. “Who am I really hurting,” I wondered/justified.
And the toxic relationships. Oh, the toxic relationships.
“I’m going to tell her it’s over. I can’t do this anymore”. I meant it when I said it…but as it turned out, I lied.
Every ounce of resistance drained from my body as I propped myself against her door frame and looked into her face. Did I really drive all the way to her house to “stop”? Or did I go there to get a fix – to make the giant abyss inside me cease its insatiable demand for more – if only for a moment? Wasn’t I really hoping that leaving would hurt her? (It would.)
“I can’t stop, I can’t stop, I can’t stop. God, help me, I can’t stop”.
Is this internal dialogue familiar to anyone else?
I had every reason to stop both the substance abuse and the behavioral addiction. I was narrowly avoiding legal trouble. I wasn’t going to class. I wasn’t doing my school work. I couldn’t hold down a job. The “relationships”? Most were abusive. Most were also nonsensical. I am a gay woman who settled not only for men but also for disgusting, morally reprehensible, horrible individuals. When I finally stopped accepting abuse and surrendered to the truth of my identity, I started chasing women who would ultimately abandon me. I knew the outcome but I was determined to change it.
I sacrificed everything for my addictions. I sacrificed an ivy league education. I sacrificed an education at my state university. I sacrificed friendships. I sacrificed my financial security. I sacrificed my body. I sacrificed my heart. I sacrificed my moral values. I gave all of it away.
I know what it’s like to fall to my knees and beg for relief from the compulsion and obsession. I know what it’s like to sleep between two friends to keep myself safe from self destruction. I know what it’s like to look for an inpatient program for behavioral addiction and come up empty handed.
I needed a professional to help me identify my behavioral addiction. I was already clean and sober by the time my behavioral addiction reached a peak and I finally bottomed out. Until then, behavioral – or process addiction – was a vague concept that existed only in the periphery of my awareness. It was only once I recognized that I was a process addict that I could apply the principles of my recovery program to that addiction too.
All of the aforementioned was meant to say that I steer clear of New Year’s resolutions now. I suppose I resolve to wake up each day and choose life but that’s something I can only do one day at a time. Recovery is helping me to learn about discipline. A resolution is a decision. Discipline is a practice. I’m finding that recovery is more than a decision; it requires practice.
In my last post, I talked about how I created rules for myself around posting on Facebook. (1. Is it related to my blog? 2. Is it related to my business? 3. Is it something my grandmother would enjoy reading?) I have continued to practice those guidelines. Although I haven’t practiced them with total perfection, it has made a world of difference. Other people have carried on being nasty and political. However, because I stopped participating in that behavior, I feel better. That seems to be how discipline works. When I show up to my recovery commitments and practice the guidelines of my program, I feel better. I may not always like it…but I feel better. Everyone around me is certainly not engaging in the same practices…but I feel better.
Someone once suggested that instead of making a New Year’s resolution, I choose a word to focus on for the year. It seems to be a rising trend. I have chosen the word “faith” for 2016. I want to work on “trusting the process”, i.e. believing that things will work out exactly as they are meant to be and for my greatest benefit. I could potentially be facing a lot of fear this year. What will I do when my current employment contract is up? Am I going to decisively leave behind the mental health field or make a part time return? Will my photography business be a success? Past experience has taught me that my worry is wasted. The trick is believing in this track record.
I also choose to focus on what’s going right rather than on what’s derailing. I could beat myself up for letting my sugar and carbohydrate addiction get so out of control that my new pants are already tight. I could go on a long guilt trip for letting my photography school work slide to the point that I may not finish the course on time. Or….I can be grateful that I not only have enough to eat but I have also enjoyed many delectable treats. I can honor my photography course for setting the ball in motion and teaching me the basics. I can accept that I don’t learn well outside of a structured setting because discipline is very challenging for me. I can look for the positive in every situation and use every mistake or failure as a lesson.
We all have huge goals we’d like to achieve or milestones we’d like to reach. I can only speak for myself but I have found that the salt of life is in the tiny moments we experience on our way to these things: the sound of distant church bells, dark chocolate and burlesque music in an hour of solitude, a little hand on one’s face, slow dancing in the kitchen, a smile from a stranger. My primary goal is to be awake for these moments and my secondary aim is to always list them.