Keeping It Real

serenity

serenity (Photo credit: dragonflaiii)

So I was watching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) this morning and there were all these fascinating episodes that dealt with “self.” Like, how we treat the self, how outside events impact the self and so much stuff I went out and bought a book by one of the people Oprah was interviewing.  “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer.  The book is to liberate us from a contained self-image.

Based solely on the interview, the information I gathered from the show and snippets of the book I scanned, I have hope that this book will break me through my final barrier… me.

I have always tried to keep it real.  I’ve tried to remain grounded in all I do, say or feel along with trying to be there for anyone who crosses my life path. But there are these things, these feelings, that get in the way on a consistent basis.  And when I let my head get the best of me, I am no longer keeping it real per say, but getting sucked into a myopic array of disillusionment which takes me back to that dark room of self-loathing.

Yeah, pretty messed up stuff.  The more messed up part of all this crap is that I project this putrid bile onto other human beings.  Instead of just being in a moment or looking at things for what they are, I tend to read deeper into whatever is going on and then I project my thoughts, insecurities and the like others.

This leads to:

  • self-doubt
  • self-loathing
  • insecurity
  • feeling less than
  • depression
  • self-sabotage
  • resentment

That is a pretty hefty list of awful feelings, ideals and all around yuckiness.

Lately, I have been way up in my head.  This is a tough place for me when I am trying to live a life of peace.  My head is not peaceful.  It is constantly chattering, whispering and telling me rotten things.  I believe these things.  I give my thoughts weight and that is when the horrible list above comes into play.  I used to drink and drug to get rid of these thoughts and feelings.  Drinking and drugging is not an option for me.

This is why I bought the book.  My thoughts (and yours) are so automatic, I never question them.  You’ve heard the saying, “I think, therefore I am.” UGH!!! How awful is that? I certainly do not want to be what I think!  My twelve-step program helps ( a lot!) but lately I just feel like I need an added tool.

As I go through this book (highlighting sentences and paragraphs like I always do) I will be updating my blog with what I have learned and if any of it is making sense.  It made sense on Oprah’s show, therefore, I am sure it will make sense.

Also, I signed up for 21 Day Meditation Challenge.  It is free and looks like a lot of fun.  Check it out!

How do you battle your demons?

We Are Not Perfect

Perfection (Sandra Bernhard song)

Perfection (Sandra Bernhard song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More so in the last ten years than any other year there seems to be this strive for perfection.  People want the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect nose, boobs, butt… I could go on forever.  And don’t sit there like you don’t know what I’m talking about, because you see it, too.

Wake up people!  There is no such thing as perfection… none.  So strive away and kill yourself if you must trying to make it, do it, write it, sing it, draw it or look perfect. 

IT. WILL. NEVER. HAPPEN.

But what we can do is strive for perfection.  We can always do better, be better, act better, write better, think better, talk better, love better, work better….. we can always be better.

As an alcoholic (which translates to a sick mo-fo) one defect that plagues me to this day is the defect of “having to be perfect.”   So in a sense, this blog post is written to me along with the rest of my awesome readers because I have been feeling insecure for the past week or so.

Insecurity is my warped devil.  It tells me I will fail at everything.  It tells me I am never good enough or anything else enough.  I have to smash that devil with the hammer of hope.  I have to tell myself that, “yes, I do have flaws, but my flaws are what make me the beautiful human being I am.”

Some days I believe it, others not so much.  This is where my program of recovery comes in to play.

When I compare myself to others, I fall short every damn time.  “She’s this, she’s that. He has this, he has that. Theirs is better.  When am I going to get my just desserts?!”

When I compare myself to myself, I excel every time.  This time last year I was living somewhere else, in a different (loveless) relationship and depressed.  I was overweight (one of my ‘I never’s’) and feeling like total crap.

I made a conscious effort after a mild epiphany to “Strive For Perfection.” And must keep in my mind I will never attain it, but striving for it will and has helped me continue my progress.  Some days I have a mild setback, other days I kick butt!  In the words of Dori in “Finding Nemo” – JUST KEEP SWIMMING.

We are as perfect as our imperfections…

Do you strive for perfection?  Are you a perfectionist?  How do you deal with the demand for perfection in today’s society?

Those Damn Emotions!

English: emotionsSo I’m sitting there on my couch, I make a comment, someone comments on the comment I make and… BOOM! Commence being up in my head fo the next 36 hours.
“Why did they say that?” “Am I not good enough?” “How can I be better?” “Dammit, my ex’s were right.” “If only I had better(insert trait or quality here).”

Why do I have to take everything so personally?  The truth is, I don’t have to take everything so personally.  I kind of choose to when it comes down to it; we all do. Maybe it is the way I am wired, maybe it is the way I was raised… who freaking knows.  All I know is it ticks me off and while through my twelve step program I have learned tools to combat my inner demons, sometimes they blind side me as I sit there with my soul bleeding through my fingers.

Now, back in the day (like three years ago) I had to let my offender know exactly what wrong they had done me and you can believe, that poor soul wished they never saw me after I was through with them: definitely a form of hostage taking at the highest level.

As I’ve walked this journey of sobriety and self-discovery I noticed something.  I am either really up or really down and when I am in between (very rare) I feel like something is wrong. I do try to be somewhere in the middle and get nervous if I am there for too long.  My boyfriend pointed this out to me.  He said something like, “Babe, blah blah blah.”  The truth is I don’t remember.  But it had something to do with me being up and down.  Had his statement hit me on an emotional level, I would have remembered what he said verbatim.  But it didn’t, so I just shrugged it off.

These days, I have a tendency to still hold resentments (bad ju ju in recovery!) but I handle them in a different manner… sometimes.  I am an emotional creature.  I find that most artists, writers, etc. are more emotional than others.  Maybe that is why we draw and write… I don’t know the answer to that either.

What I do know is that I have a sickening knot in my stomach now and my program flew out the window.  No, I did not drink or drug, but this anger/resentment/rage thing is nauseating.  If I get the laundry done in time, I’ll head to the 7 pm meeting tonight that is right up the street.  And yeah, I say “get the laundry done” because no one else is going to frigging get it done.

So, what should I do when I feel like this?

Call my sponsor.

Call someone else in the program.

Get to a meeting.

What should I not do?

ISOLATE AND THINK…. I am very good at this. I need to unlearn this behavior… stat.

Frustration… Procrastination… Those Damn ‘tions…

English: A Diagram of procrastination cycle. T...

English: A Diagram of procrastination cycle. Task features, internal factors, irrational beliefs, behavior and consequences are shown. used for a university assessment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am at a point now in my life where things are pretty much exactly how I want them (minus the ‘I’m rich’ status).  I have an amazing man in my life.  He pretty much encompasses everything I ever wanted in a guy (he doesn’t like sports – but I look past that!) right down to the way he touches me and tells me he loves me.  There are so many other things that have happened in my life in the last 6+ years… I sat here tonight and thought… “I am truly humbled.”

See, everything was so overwhelming when I first got sober… I had truly hit rock bottom.  I was living in my enabler’s basement, my kids were taken from me by Youth Services and I was unemployable.  I remember dropping to my knees one night as I sobbed and begged God to help me.  God heard me and stepped in.  Of course, I had to do the footwork.  I did that footwork with such thirst and hunger… I still do the footwork to stay sober.  Staying clean and sober is an ongoing process that requires little thought on some days and a lot of prayer on others. I can’t remember the last time I actually craved a drink or drug.  I am fortunate in that sense… there are times at meetings I hear people share about how they “want to drink.” I am not saying I am immune to ever picking up a drink, but I can’t go there.  Me picking up a drink or a drug is like an average human being walking in front of an oncoming train.  Suicide.

FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD

The statement above is one of the truest I have ever read.  Think about it.  You can pray for a new job, a new home, more patience or a smaller butt, but those things are NOT going to fall into your lap without striving toward them.  I prayed for a new job in 2007 and busted my ass looking for one.  I found a great one.  I prayed for guidance with my previous relationship.  All the clues pointed to ending it and I did so.  I could go on and on….

Here is where things get iffy.  All the ‘tions’ I mentioned in the post title.. those are character defects.  Or as my Al-anon sponsor says (I’m ad-libbing here) “character defects are strengths unchecked.”

My biggest character defect is PROCRASTINATION.  I am so good at it, I could probably teach it as an art form at the local community college.  I come up with excuse after excuse and reason after reason for not doing what I need to do to go where I need to go.  Facebook of course is a huge catalyst in my procrastination, but really it is me.  I am the culprit; my own worst enemy to throw a cliché out there.

So I started thinking:  How can I stop procrastinating?  Because procrastinating and not doing what I need to leads to an overwhelming amount of frustration.  I’ll tell you how I can stop.

JUST STOP PROCRASTINATING AND START DOING! JUST DO IT ALREADY!  There is no magic pill that will help me with this crap.  There is no book, no seminar, no class, no pill, no drink, no anything that will help me do what I need to do… I just have to do it.

I want to publish my novel that I wrote in November of 2011… hasn’t happened because I haven ‘t done anything about it.

I want to score a cushy writing deal regarding alcoholism/addiction so I can help others and myself… hasn’t happened because I am inconsistent.

So there is the cycle.  I want to change my life… I procrastinate.. I get frustrated.. I give up.  And it goes on and on and I am exactly where I always am which is exactly where I do not want to be (in terms of a career).

So if I have faith that things will go the way they should go and I do the footwork to make my goals, dreams and aspirations come true, things will fall magically into place.

Do you procrastinate much?  How do you get over the lazy hump?

Expressing Emotion

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emotions are a part of our internal make-up.  All emotions derive from two core feelings: love and hate.  Slice it how you want, all the positive feelings we have stem from a form of love, all the negative feelings stem from hate.  

I just finished reading a great book (I reviewed it – the link to that will be up within a couple of weeks) called, “Why You Drink and How to Stop” by Veronica Valli.  I was skeptical at first, but I kept an open mind and although I am over six years into my sobriety, I learned some valuable information from this book regarding emotions.

One of the worst behaviors I ever learned was “acting out based on emotion.”  Being a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, if something made me feel sad or angry, I would act accordingly.  Likewise, if something made me feel happy or fuzzy, the addict in me would react in a positive manner and want more, more, more.

Now, human beings are emotional beings.  Duh, like I am telling you something you do not already know.   However, when we let our emotions rule us, we get into trouble.  There is no law or rule that dictates “everyone must know how everyone feels all the time.”

I will share a psychotic story from my past:

            When I was 22 years old, I was already married for six years.  Yep, I got married when I was 16.  It was part of that whole “alcoholic thinking.” As an alcoholic, I thought outside circumstances could fix the way I felt inside always.

            I had found out my husband at the time was cheating on me and I went ballistic.  Like full on rage mode:  seeing red, black, shaking, and everything else, that comes with unabated rage. Being ruled by my emotions (all stemming from hate) I decided to do what I thought was in my best interests and show him.

            So, being out of my mind (and to make a long story short) I wound up smashing my beautiful 1986 Monte Carlo into his pick-up truck.  Yeah, not smart.  This is not the best way to express emotion!  Now I had new feelings and emotions to deal with: remorse, guilt and sorrow.

           In the midst of the insanity, I thought I was expressing emotion in a healthy way!  I mean, I was pissed and needed to let someone know, right? Well, maybe… but there are healthier ways to express emotion. 

            One of the best tools I learned in sobriety is to take a moment and calm the hell down.  Just because I am feeling “some kind of way” does not mean I need to freak out, hop in my car to drive like a maniac or start throwing dishes. 

            Some of the ways I have successfully controlled my emotions:

  • Calling a sponsor or a friend and talking it out.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Chanting a mantra.  “Feelings aren’t facts, facts aren’t feelings.”
  • Journaling! 
  • Going for a walk or some other physical exercise.
  • And yes, even taking a nap.

                        I know I have brought up journaling a bit in previous posts, but writing does help.  Moreover, finding what helps (not hinders or hurts) to control and deal with emotions is the key. 

                        I still have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve, which may just be one of those character defects I have to learn to control if it has not been removed.

            How do you express emotion?

The Terrifying Fourth Step

AA Big Book

AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Ah, yes. The step I became fearful of simply from others’ talk of it in the rooms. “Oh boy, wait ’til you get to the fourth step!” “You’re gonna do your fourth step? Good luck!”

It took me a while to get the fear of this step. The fourth step was a look at my internal makeup. What made me angry? What made me fearful? Jealous? Insecure? Angry? Hell yeah I wanted to talk about all this crap! Are you kidding? It was about time someone would listen to me!

So I got with my sponsor and we sat down and read the fourth step (out of the Big Book) and then I went home and wrote down in a nice little chart all the people who pissed me off, why they pissed me off and what part of me their behavior effected. Yes! This is why I am the way I am! These are the awful things that people did to me! Of course I was a drunk. How could I not be? You would be a drunk too if you had to put up with all this crap right here on these pieces of paper that I painstakingly wrote on for hours and hours as I wiped the tears away (alcoholics tend to have a flair for the dramatic).

I went back to my sponsor and we went over my fourth step. I felt great! I got to list all the reasons why I was the way I was! This whole getting sober thing was getting better and better. And then came the question I had to answer that made me understand why there was so much anguish around this step. It was the “second part” of Step Four.

What was my part in it? Say what??? My part? There was no way I had a part in the way someone else treated me. Little doe-eyed, innocent Darlene. What could I have possibly done? So we went back through the list. And I have to say, thank the heavens I was blessed with an open mind and an ability to WANT to look at my (emotional) insides (although I’m sure my physical insides are very lovely!).

Because what I found out about my part in the way others had treated me was not fun. Still, it was huge in my recovery. Yes, I had a part in the way my ex-husband treated me. Yes, I had a part in all the broken relationships I was in at some point. Yes, I had a part the degradation I received at my first real office job. All of this “I had a part in it” stuff was difficult to deal with.had been done But I had to deal with it nonetheless.

After I recognized my part in the situations I had been in, the wrong that had been done to me and the pain I had felt throughout my life, I had another road to travel down. I had to travel down the “Know Road.” And we all know, once we know, we can never not know. Surprisingly, recognizing my part in my past helped me. I was able to understand (for starters) what made me tick and why I did the things I did. This would lead me to continue rigorous honesty as I approached Step Five.

Coping In Sobriety

Clean and Sober

Clean and Sober (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first got sober, it was pretty easy for me.  I’m not bragging, but I had hit such a low point that I figured getting clean and sober might well be worth a shot.  The one thing I hadn’t discovered in my new sobriety was ways to cope with life on life’s terms. This was definitely something I needed to figure out quickly.

See, life just kept on happening to me. It didn’t matter that I was clean and sober, or that I was trying to do the next right thing.  It didn’t matter that I was making a valiant effort to see my kids, to stay away from people, places and things or that I was working a rigorous twelve-step program.

My car still broke down, I still got yelled at by my boss and I still had (very) bad hair days.

Of course I would go into the “poor me” cloud.  “Hey, I’m doing the right thing… what’s this crap all about?” I had this grandiose sense of self (huge ego!) that since I finally started to do the right thing (after years of doing very wrong things) that I should get a reprieve of sorts and nothing bad should ever happen to me ever again.  Ever.

Reality check: shit happens. I had to deal with life on life’s terms and I had to find out pronto how to do that.

The only way I could do that was to go to meetings, be around other sober people who had serious clean time and work a good program.

I learned that drinking or drugging was not a coping tool.  It just added fuel to the already out of control fire that raged inside me.

I learned that I should start writing again and that I am a pretty good photographer.  I learned my triggers and how to avoid them most of the time.  Sometimes triggers still invaded my head space (usually when my mind was idle) and I learned that the best thing to do in that situation was to call another alcoholic in recovery. Maybe they could help me.  Turns out, I was helping them just as much as they were helping me.

I couldn’t wrap my head around that one.  How the hell could I possibly help someone with years of sobriety when I was so new? Now that I have over six years clean and sober, I know how.  Because when I talk to someone new in sobriety it puts things in perspective and reminds me of the way I used to think. I no longer think that way.

Some of the ways I learned to cope:

  • Go to a meeting. Talk to another alcoholic in recovery.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Write.
  • Go for a drive.
  • Listen to music.
  • Go to a park.

I can always come back to the problem later.  Obsessing and keeping the problem at the forefront of my mind will not help me.  And trust me, I am huge on obsession.  After all, I am an alcoholic and everything is about me.

If I had a dollar for every time I asked someone “What’s wrong?” with the presumption that it had to be something I did, I would be retired and living in my dream cabin in the mountains.

See, another HUGE thing I had to learn to cope with was myself.  I had to learn that people pleasing was not a coping tool, rather a way to mask whatever guilt or remorse I was feeling. I had to cope with that.  I had to learn how to recognize the difference between actually coping and sweeping the problem under the rug or enabling someone or using other poor methods:

  • drinking
  • drugging
  • silent scorn
  • blame
  • defensiveness
  • ignoring the feeling
  • manipulation

None of these ways worked!  These were not coping tools, these were character defects that I used to hurt people to get my way, pretending I was right (when I knew I was wrong).  Because as long as I was sure other people knew I was right, I felt better, if only for a short time.

How do you cope with day-to-day life or problems that come down your road?

The Little Things

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

This is a “thought bubble”. It is an illustration depicting thought. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There comes a point in sobriety when the pink cloud of perfection and “I got this” dissipates.  Life continues to happen as we settle into our newfound freedom.  We settle back into our old way of thinking if we are not working a good program.

There will always be little things.  Life will happen on life’s terms consistently ( we can bank on that!) and it is up to us to learn a new way of coping to deal with the enigmas of life.

Slogans like, “Live and Let Live” and “Life on Life’s Terms” are important throughout our sobriety.  When we were out there, we let everything bother us. We harbored resentments over a lot of crap.  We were angry at our family, friends, the system and God.  We felt wronged and justified in our anger.

This thought process destroyed us!  It destroyed me for sure.  Some of the things that made me angry were other people, traffic, television, my mate at the time and the weather just to name a few.  It took me years to get it in my head that I was letting people, places and things control me by thinking I could control them.

This makes for one ticked off individual.  And how ridiculous is it being upset over little things we have zero control over. It is the moments of perceived loss of control that the Serenity Prayer comes in handy:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Once we realize the only thing we have control over is the way we think and that the way we think affects the way we feel, we now have a sense of freedom.

One Day at a Time

Image: givecourage.net

Image: givecourage.net

One day at a time.  Isn’t that really the only way we can live?  When we were in our addiction, we were caught up in our past aches, resentments and fears.  But that wasn’t enough.  We had to worry about the future!  What will tomorrow bring? Will I still have my job?  What about a place to live?

Since I am inherently skeptical, this whole one day at a time thing puzzled me.  After all, I was a being who only thought about what would become of me along with all the crap of yesterday.  Well, I couldn’t change yesterday and had no control over tomorrow.  Still don’t.  Never will.

Before I got sober, I remember thinking about never being able to drink (or drug) again.  That thought overwhelmed me to the point of anxiety.  How would I function?  Where would I hang out? What about my friends?  All of these are serious questions to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.

The first couple weeks of my sobriety were a rough lot.  I lived one minute at a time rather than one day at a time.  I could not think about the future.  Again, it was entirely too overwhelming.  And holding onto the past was what got me in such a shit storm.  So I focused on keeping my brain occupied.  I should have kept a journal, but I didn’t.  Instead I consumed mass quantities of Pop Tarts and watched the Military Channel.  I only left my apartment to get cigarettes.

But it worked for me.

Of course these days, I do think about the future and there are times when the past creeps in or I see something that brings back a fond (or not so fond) memory. But when it comes to not picking up, one day at a time, one minute at a time, even one second at a time is the best way to live.

How do we live one day at a time in recovery?

We go to meetings.  We get a sponsor.  We read approved literature. We talk to people in recovery (this is so important). We share at meetings (this is something I need to do more). We keep our minds occupied with things besides drinking (or drugging).

I have met so many creative people in the rooms of AA.  I have met many artists, writers and generally people who are doing what they want to do with their lives.  How cool is that?  Maybe they were always creative or maybe they found their creativity while living one day at a time.

Asking For Help

Image: lostandtired.com

Image: lostandtired.com

Asking for help is difficult.  It means swallowing our pride and admitting we cannot do it alone.  There are many places to get help for the still sick and suffering.  The most effective is the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I must be careful talking about that, because it is Anonymous.  Although these days with social media and Facebook Group Pages, there is no longer much anonymity.

God was who I first asked for help.  When I got sober in May 2006, I started in the basement by myself.  I had detoxed off of pain meds and quit drinking along with other substances.  I can honestly say God was with me the whole time, even though I felt like hell, I knew he was there.  There is no way in hell I suffered through that agony alone.  Alone in body, maybe, but not alone in spirit.

The second person I asked was my kids’ social worker at Bucks County Children and Youth.  After the detox, I called the County and they got me in an outpatient group.  I had one counseling session a week with a guy who never had a drug problem and was slightly condescending.  Along with that, I had three outpatient groups a week.

And so it went.  I would ask people for help at the group.  The caseworker always picked up the phone when I called.  For me to reach out my hand was difficult being a woman always hell bent on self-will.

Swallowing my selfish pride and asking for help was the best thing I could do for myself.  There are many places to ask for help.  Visit www.aa.org to get started and find a meeting.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,395 other followers

%d bloggers like this: