9:00am. My cat -who was peacefully eating breakfast- just poked her head through the kitchen door to see why the hell I just shouted “Duuuuuuuuuuuuh!!!!” in what must have sounded like Homer Simpson having sex with a T-Rex. Not that either of them would want that.
Why am I shouting to myself in the morning? Not to scare my cat. But because yet another “addiction-mind insight” hit me with its force and simplicity, and I wanted to share it here with you guys.
It all came from sleepily reading a post called “Want vs. Need” by Bogdan https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90611393/posts/2587793679 this morning. This distinction, I am very familiar with. Partly because of my career as a philosophy teacher, partly because of being an “addict” 🙂 And yet, life has this way of tricking you when you think you know something and have it all figured out, until BAM! it hits you where you least expect it and reminds you to let go, yet again, of the desire to stand on firm ground 🙂
What prompted the whole thing was this sentence in particular: “If we get really real with ourselves, we’ll realize that we don’t need much in life. More than 80% of the things we want is to prove something to someone (or to everyone) or to prove something to ourselves”. THANKS BOGDAN 🙂 Now here we go. I apologize for the length of this post. If you’re not into overthinking or analytic meandering in general, best be on your way 🙂
After 5 months alcohol free and 8 months MORE OR LESS cigarette free, have I finally turned into Miss addiction-free-perfect-goody-two-shoes ? HELL NO! I am still a neurotic hyperperfectionist and often feel like I am hosting a baby junkie who -like the Gremlins after midnight- will spin out of control the second I let my guard down.
I realize that since after about month 3 of going AF, my posts here on WordPress all more or less boil down to l “YAY SOBRIETY, YAY YOGA, YAY MEDITATION, BOOO ADDICTIONS, THANK YOU LIFE!”. Whereas this is not UNTRUE, and is the way I genuinely feel when I write them, please know, dear friends, that this is not the way I spend most of my days — walking around in a hazy state of blissful gratitude and satisfaction. No, no no. What makes me want to pick up the computer (the days of picking up pens alas being long gone) is precisely the EXCEPTIONAL quality of these “HOORAY” moments, and what drives me to want to share and write about them on here. I also don’t want to bore everyone with the rest of the stuff, i.e. doubts and fears and doubts and fears and doubts and… you get it. But I can see how the tone of my posts might convey a false sense of confidence or worse, self-satisfaction.
On the contrary.
Even 5 months in, despite the huge increase in calm and peace of mind, there is still fear and anxiety, overworking mania, effort needed to keep cravings in check. There is still the (rare, I’ll grant you that) desire to just give up, to go get a beer (one little beer can’t hurt!), even better: to drink six beers and tell no one (like Gollum in his cave: I loooove me some secrecy!), to smoke a pack of cigs (I smoked one, I can smoke 20!), to find some cocaine (it’s been so long!), hell, to snort my Wellbutrin cause I’m bored (never mind the fact that people end up in the ER when they do that!), to stuff my face with food/sugar (bake a cake and rather than share it, eat the whole thing!!), to go and sleep with other men (there are so many out there, and cute ones too!), too not go to yoga (it’s been TWO MONTHS, at this point I can just quit exercise forever!!), to skip meditating today (I’m terrible at it anyway and unlike my boyfriend, my main fantasy in life is not to become a Tibetan monk), etc. etc. etc. You get it. This is what my mind sounds like A OT of the time.
What has changed since sobriety? Well, instead of cracking the whip (which ultimately makes the cycle of self-hatred and giving into cravings much worse), I am learning the opposite technique. Drgettingsober with your horses you might know more about this than me! Basically I do my best to gently and persistently guide the whole shebang towards the desired outcome like a (very nice and gentle and smiley) captain on a ship, accepting the thoughts that happen with as little judgment as possible, accepting that this is how I feel and it’s ok, and geeeeeently but firmly resolving to remain an observer -aka. nonreactive. Don’t act, just notice, just breathe, ACCEPT, it’ll be ok. It’s ok.
Sure, you’ll tell me – but sometimes accepting is HARD!
Believe me, I feel you.
Take my trip to Mexico for instance. I went with my LOVELY boyfriend whom I love to bits. Over there, one of his musician friends, a drummer, and his lovely girlfriend, took wonderful care of us. They showed us around the city, took us out to eat, took us sightseeing, etc. Boyfriend is actually still in Mexico as I write this, staying over at Dummer Guy’s house. Well congratulations Anne! the best thing I could think of doing, rather than just enjoying everything, was to develop a huge crush on Drummer Guy as the week unfolded.
The worst bit was when Drummer guy and Boyfriend taught a three day improvisational music workshop together, and I got to hide in the back and just watch. Oh man. The junkie in me woke up big time and started fantasizing about all kinds of horrible plans. In the past, I would have thought that only two options existed: 1) act on it, 2) resist. 8 times out of 10, resisting would be too hard and I would give in, confirming the preexisting belief that I was a horrible, weak person. [I am giving this example which concerns erotic desire, but can be transposed to any strong craving you might have, dearest reader. Y’all know what I’m saying].
But that was in the PAAAAAST 🙂 What is new now ?
Well… with 5 years of therapy, almost 2 years of daily meditation practice, and 5 glorious months of sobriety in my toolkit, I can safely say that now, my post precious “possession” is having MORE CLARITY. About myself, and about the situations I “find myself in”.
Instead of blindly giving in or fighting cravings, I now have a third option: to see through them. It’s like magic! When you are able to understand what’s really going on, the craving magically disappears:
“I really need a beer/glass of wine/smoke/line/shag/whatever” is more often than not “I have an unidentified emotional/existential need which is calling out and needs to be addressed”. It’s up to you to know yourself enough to identify the underlying need in the moment. Man it’s hard sometimes. But this morning, the shout that freaked my cat out came from one of these “AHA” moments. And like Cinderella’s carriage, my baby crush on Drummer Guy suddenly and magically turned into the pumpkin of its underlying cause (please forgive the horrible analogy).
Why had I feelt such strong attraction? Not just because of physical desire (which I actually mentioned to my boyfriend, and he took it well). Because this guy (and it’s the same with boyfriend, except that boyfriend is more familiar and less extreme) is the absolute incarnation of a way of being that I was denied in childhood. I won’t go into detail, but one might call him a joyful-creative-anarchist-Dionysiac type. His values, which he openly defends and embodies, are those to which I now aspire most strongly, but don’t quite know how to live by, because growing up with a narcissistic alcoholic mother simply banished them from our family circle. When I see these free, open, expansive personalities, I sense how in comparison I can be so inhibited, and I instantly fall in love: I become magnetized (This also explains why so many of my past relationships were with narcissist assholes or strong -but destructive- personalities. I was drawn to the strength and became blind to everything else.) This week I nursed a giant crush not for Drummer Guy (he was the pretext, the medium), but for what I was never allowed to hope for as a kid: for a way of life that is free, happy, uninhibited, transparent, unapologetic, open. As I trudge along on my path of self discovery and self redefinition, I feel SO LUCKY to be able to understand this (as opposed to sticking to a very rudimentary analysis which would confirm beliefs such as “I am a horrible person who wants to cheat on her boyfriend”, or worse, acting on an urge and fucking up my wonderful relationship). I also feel very clumsy compared to these people who seem to live their lives with such ease of being, and to whom such freedom seems natural – while I struggle to untangle the sticky webs of what I want, vs. need on a daly basis. But today I did it:
I thought I wanted something (= to satisfy a punctual erotic desire), but what I actually need is to live closer to my values and self-compromise less to fit in. HAHAHAHA how do you get from point A to B? I don’t really know. A mix of honesty towards self, analysis and intuition. I know one thing for sure: without sobriety you can’t do it. You need a clear head.
I also wrote all of this because last night, the guy who is temporarily leading our recovery meditation group initially wanted to refrain from sharing – but then guiltily “confessed” that he drank tequila the night before because he was upset. (It’s a complicated story involving the girl who usually leads the group but has been in jail for the last 3 months and only recently came out. I haven’t seen her yet). My point is: the way we responded to him as a group was with a lot of acceptance and nonjudgmental, loving kindness. I could see on his face that he was grateful and taken aback. Perhaps that without our reaction, he would have drowned in guilt and self hatred, and probably drank again, and again, as a result of non-acceptance. In any case, he was soooo grateful and seemed really moved as he thanked us. More to the point: this guy could have been me. What would I do if I slipped up? Go to a recovery group the next day and get back on the wagon? Or go down the destructive path of guilt and self-sabotage? I don’t want to even think about this right now. But I admire this guy for his honesty and “flexibility”. I empathize with his inability to address the real (emotional and relational, in his case) cause of the craving to drink in the moment. I hope that in the future he is able to find clarity in those moments and open up to what is really going on. As I hope that we all are.
So if you feel overwhelmed at any point this week, PLEASE, ask yourself “what’s really up? What do I really need right now?” And just sit with the inquiry for a bit. And if you do get a feeling or a response, give yourself what you really need. It could be as simple as “I need a break/some peace and quiet”.
It took me a week fo figure the drummer thing out. My “real” crush is not for some (hot!) dude, but for the person I aspire to be MYSELF, deep down, and whom this (hot!) dude resonated strongly. That’s why we are attracted to people/things: they awaken things in us that we deeply long for yet are rarely aware of. We are not bad people. We are simply people who very easily get confused (as the buddhists say), and once the confusion lifts, we discover that it’s easy and natural to do the “right” thing. YAY OPTIMISM!
Am I wrong? Let me know your thoughts and/or the last time you were able to identify “what was really going on” and it helped.
Ok that’s all folks!
Hang in there!