Those Damaging Thoughts…

Thinker thinks about how to take sun burst shot

(Photo credit: davidyuweb)

I have always been a thinker… more like an over-thinker.  I get something in my head that is pebble sized and before I know it there is a black boulder sitting in my skull that I want to smash out.  This doesn’t happen as much as it used to (which is scary, because it happens more than I like) and sometimes when it does, I get sucked into that damaging moment and my program goes out the window.  I don’t think about drinking or drugging because I have worked a solid 12 Step Program… but I guess, as much as I hate to admit it, I am human after all.

Shucks.

God has never given me anything I cannot handle.  Sometimes I try to handle the hurdles alone, and that is when I find myself sobbing in a little ball on the couch or my bed.  A light starts to glow in my head and I realize I need to pray, call a friend and journal.

IN THAT ORDER.  

In the last couple weeks I learned that free write journaling does more damage to me because (and someone said it in a comment on my blog) I kinda get locked into that whiny, poor me thinking and get no reflection work done.  If I pray and talk to someone before I journal, I can focus on a solution instead of staying in the problem.  Which, honestly, my thinking is the biggest problem. I get really worked up over dumb stuff because sometimes, that little eleven year old voice in my head chimes, “How you feel does not matter, Darlene.  Shut your mouth and stuff it down.  Stuff it down!

I cannot stuff it down.  Also, I cannot go running to whomever I am upset with and start bitching about all the shit they did that offended me, hurt my feelings, made me angry or whatever.  This is not a good idea.  When I try to communicate to someone before I pray and talk to another sober individual, my thoughts come out of my mouth like verbal vomit.

The gift of interpretation is amazing in my life today.  Instead of fearfully viewing an event as potentially hazardous, if I am in a good place, I can step back and sort the facts from the thoughts and go from there.

How do you stop your negative thinking?

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T – Truth… Speaking My Own

truth by size

truth by size (Photo credit: Will Lion)

I was always a people pleaser.  Always… I couldn’t stand to be disliked so I would keep my feelings buried and wear that plastic smile, laugh that fake laugh and do what it took to gain acceptance.  This is probably the worst thing I have ever done to myself.  This is worse than sleeping with strangers, driving like a maniac or even breaking a window (on purpose).  Because by not speaking my truth, I fortified a wall of lies around my soul that I still chip at today.

I suck at speaking my truth.  I get that knot in my stomach and I get all frazzled and start thinking too much.  That’s when my truth turns into a monster.

Now, while I am an average writer,  I suck at talking.  Seriously.  I hold it in so long that by the time I do get it out (sometimes hours or even days later) it comes out all crazy and illogical.  And honestly, at that point I have lost my focus.  This has plagued me since I was little.

Here goes…

Saturday night my boyfriend and I went to a bar & grill.  Ugh, I know.  But his friend (who he hadn’t seen in over twenty years) was playing in a band (with his other long-lost friend) and he just wanted to clear the air with things in the past.  Okay… no biggie.

We talked before we got out of the car and made a pact.  Neither would leave the other under any and all circumstances. Period. If things got hairy or either of us started to feel uncomfortable we would say so and then we would jet. Okay, there is the pact.

That pact lasted about fifteen minutes.  Yeah, he left me sitting at the bar (with my soda and Loaded Nachos) and went to go mingle with all his old friends.  I sat there alone for thirty minutes being ogled by creepy old guys and the ‘shot girl’ asking me three times if I wanted a shot.  My blood pressure shot through the roof the first time she came by with her tray full of booze loaded test tubes. I snapped ‘no’ as I waved my hand.  Still, she came by two more times.  Ugh, again.

So I am trying to see through the wall to locate my boyfriend in the other part of the bar.  “Where the fuck are you?” I am thinking as I get upset.  I can’t see him but hope he is on the other side of that wall.

I finally spot my boyfriend and some hot blonde hanging all over him.  Okay, now I am feeling resentful, angry and jealous.  This is just not fucking going well… at all. My whole ‘fight or flight’ thing is kicking the shit out of me because I am extremely uncomfortable.

I do not belong here.

So finally after all that, he comes back over with one of his friends. I know my face says, ‘you suck’ because, after all, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  His friend apologizes to me for keeping him away. Do I get an apology from my boyfriend? Nope.  All I get is justification and ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’

For the rest of the night, true to form, I stuffed in all inside because I didn’t want to ruin the night or act like an ass in the establishment.  That’s what I used to do back when I was ‘out there.’ I’d act like a total psycho no matter where I was if whoever I was with at the time hit me with a perceived injustice.  But this time I wasn’t drunk or high.  I was just me… raw and real with my emotions.

So I guess I have grown up a little.  Most of my old behaviors didn’t ooze from my pores and I kept my composure for the rest of the night.  I did try to bring how I felt up later on when we got home, but that didn’t go well.

Today I did bring it up.  I had to speak my truth.  I had to say where I was inside and I had to let him know that I was not mad at him, but that he broke his word to me and that hurt.  And it wasn’t a question of me being right.  That’s not what I wanted.  I wanted an apology for him leaving my side; for him breaking the pact we made in the car.  He did apologize (sort of) after (from an outsider’s point of view) a hilarious argument/discussion/fight outside on Sunday.

Do you find it difficult to speak your truth?

L – Looking Back – Should I Bother?

en: Photo of a Band-Aid manufactured by Johnso...

en: Photo of a Band-Aid manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve heard the sayings… “don’t look back” — “learn from the past” — “the pain heals, but the scars remain” — there are hundreds of sayings that talk about the past.  Looking back on the past kept me in a whirlwind of sorrow and misery.  I would stay there, dwelling and obsessing like a goat over a woolen shirt.  I still do it sometimes and then I think, “what the hell am I doing?!”

Feeling sorry for myself became an art as I sat at the bar, drowning my sorrows yapping about my pathetic life (which was everyone else’s fault, by the way).

I used to be hung up on the “why” of the past.  Why did this happen to me? Where did I go wrong? Why me? WHY ME? WHY ME?!

The trick for me is to look back, learn and move the hell on.

It’s true, I have learned from the past.  I learned that drinking and drugging were transparent band-aids that masked my misery while pouring salt in my wounds. That is a part of my past I cannot forget. Ever.  But, I had to get over it… the pain, the sorrow and especially the feeling sorry for myself.  How would I do that?  After all, I was great at feeling sorry for myself.  I was great at sitting in my own crap while I donned the face of misery and self-pity.

I should bother to look back,  but only to learn and share.

K – Killing the Uglies

Ugly (Sevendust song)

Ugly (Sevendust song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure how many of my beautiful readers dealt with bullying and teasing as children, but I have to say, that stuff has a profound affect on people. It sure as hell had a profound affect on me.  So much that, even today I, at times, have a case of the uglies. You know that sick, yucky, disturbing feeling inside… that “I’m not good enough, not pretty enough..” Hell, not anything enough.

As I write this post, I am reflecting on my day.  I had a good day all in all (any day sober is a good day!) I did have a case of the uglies today, however, and when it was going down in my (always) amped up mind, I was beating myself up… royally.  The “uglies” as I call them, are sneaky, vile little things that grip me up in a second if I cannot “kill” them.

I was talking with my boyfriend today about this stuff in a sense.  Not specifically “killing the uglies” but more so why the hell shit bothers me that bothers me.  Like, stuff that shouldn’t really bother me.  One thing I do when I talk to people is listen to what I am saying because, believe it or not, there is always some message in my words that I should hear.  Does that sound vain and egotistical?  Perhaps…

I brought up a profound event in my life that shaped my sense of self from the age of nine until this very moment.  I talk about these things because I have to KILL THE UGLIES.  I have to remind myself that there is a deeper root to my insecurities and low self-esteem if I am going to get better.  There is always something more than the “surface insecurity” and that is what I have to get to… fast.

This is where a big part of my program comes in.  I couldn’t get over any of the pain, torment and geekiness I felt from a child through my early thirties. Being a good alcoholic, I drowned my pain in booze and promiscuity, as I searched for someone or something to fill that void or abandonment. Long after I got sober, I still searched.  There had to be someone or something out there that could kill this damn ugly feeling.  But alas, I learned that I had to kill the uglies from the inside.

Some days I still struggle. I might stop praying, slack on my meeting attendance or stop networking with my sober circle.  That’s when the uglies start to seep in.  Thankfully, I know just what to do to squash those bastards.

Do you have something that helps you when you start to get overwhelmed?

J – Jealousy – Does It Ever Go Away?

When I was about thirteen, I was “dating a boy” and I remember standing on the street corner with him and some friends and this pretty girl walked by.  My “boyfriend” looked at her and I remember getting a twinge in my belly and then dismissing it.  After all, he was only watching a girl walk by.

Allegory of Jealousy

Allegory of Jealousy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast forward a year to my new boyfriend (and the guy I would marry, have children with and divorce) who took jealousy to a whole new level for me.  I had never been jealous before.  If you had asked me what it meant at that age, I probably couldn’t have told you. I was young, silly and failing at fitting in to any group or click.

Now, after I married this guy and he berated, belittled and abused me, jealousy was something I came to know first hand.  He took to pulling out Playboy magazines and telling me he wished I looked like the women that donned those shiny, seedy pages. Furthermore, he would (for a year) compare me to his ex-girlfriend in every aspect. Each time he did these things (all in the name of love, of course) I felt smaller, less than and wanted to be what he wanted me to be.  I would get that angry little knot in my belly and start mentally beating myself up.

I still struggle with jealousy.  Some people ask me why… and all I can say is, “your perception of me and my perception of me are on different avenues.” People tell me I am beautiful, pretty, smart, etc. And sometimes I really do feel that way.

But all it takes is my perception of beauty, intelligence or confidence to grace my presence in the form of another woman and boom. I’m jealous, insecure and comparing myself.  And I almost always turn it inward.

So I pray, write snippets on ripped pieces of paper and throw them in my God Box.  I talk to my friends in the program about how I feel sometimes.  It helps.  I hope someday to vanquish my jealousy.

I’m definitely better these days… Progress, not perfection.

Do you get jealous?

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

image: idlehearts.com

image: idlehearts.com

What a cliché, right?  The first time I actually heard this saying was in the movie “Kiss of Death” with David Caruso.  David’s character was the one who said it and the phrase kind of echoed in my brain every moment since then when things got a little (or a lot) rough.

Also, “Stronger” is a great uplifting song by Kelly Clarkson.  Check it out of you haven’t heard it.  You’ll like it, I’m sure.

But I’m not here to talk about Kelly or David.  I am here to talk about the hurdles we face, the doubts that creep and the life stuff that keeps on happening even when we just want to slam the door shut and get five minutes of peace.

You see, I feel like God keeps testing me and my faith.  Is it a test of how sincere I am in my willingness to change and hand stuff over?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I do try to hand stuff over on a daily basis.  I pray every morning and every night and I always ask God for the knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out.  That is another blog post entirely, because I still struggle with that. What is God’s Will?

I always try to do the next right thing, keep my word and help others.  There is a lot of truth in the fact that if I always do these three things, I will always have a great day and will feel truly blessed.  And it really happens that way for me, until something upsets me.

Usually I try to figure the crap out by myself through journaling or talking with friends.  Tonight I tried something different.  I called my al-anon sponsor.

That was the best idea I had in the last three weeks.

The things that won’t kill me and have the capacity to make me stronger are those life events that I think I can’t handle, but wind up handling.  I then look back and say, “Wow.  How did I get through that?” You’ve said it, too.  Those painful, disturbing chaotic life events that happen to us – sometimes gradually, sometimes immediately – and take us to a realm of being we’ve never experienced before.  We get through them; all of them.  And when we come out on the other end, that’s exactly what we ask ourselves:  how did I get through that?

I think analyzing such things is pointless.  To reflect would be okay, but analyzing kind of kills the element that you did get through that thing you thought you never could.  Basking in the moment of triumph would probably feel a whole lot better.  Analyze later.

Was there ever a moment you thought you could not go on but managed to get through?  How did you feel afterwards?

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?

That Damn Heart On My Sleeve

Heart on Sleeve!

Heart on Sleeve! (Photo credit: Caro’s Lines)

It’s true.  I am an emotional, loving, caring, forgiving human being who seems to never remember that it is NOT all about me and I should NOT take everything to the life-giving, all loving heart that is in my chest and on my sleeve.

I have a hard time handling any kind of rejection.

You wanna hurt me?  Ignore me.  Pretend I do not matter.  Treat me like one of the rest.  That shit hurts.  It hurts deep.

Maybe I am the “sensitive artist type” or I am just sensitive period.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I love with all my heart and I just reveal myself (the real me) time and again and I get shit on and it hurts.

How do I be someone else?  How do I turn into this magical, mythical creature that never gets angry, hurt, upset, jealous, resentful or bruised?

This is the question I want answered.

Why do I do this?  Why do I pour my heart into everything?  The risk is always there and I know this.  But I give my heart anyway.  Over and over and over again.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel the hurt, the pain, the agony of rejection or dejection.  But then, I remember:

It is good for me to feel these things and sort them out. Because the moment I decide I can no longer handle feeling these feelings is the scary moment I might look to pick up a drink.  After all, not being able to handle my feelings was a huge part in my alcoholism.

So…

  • I journal.
  • I go to a meeting.
  • I talk to my friend, Heather.
  • I pray.
  • I think (this is not good).

The final thing I do is give it to God.  I have so many little papers in my God Box: things I want, things that bother me, people I cannot help.  All kinds of stuff.  I put those little pieces of paper in my God Box and then forget about them.  After I say a prayer and put my written thought in the God Box, I forget about it…

For a little while…

But, me being me with this heart on my sleeve, my head starts to mess with me again.  Sometimes I think wearing my heart on my sleeve is a huge character defect.  However, a lot of people (including my former sponsor) has told me it is an admirable trait.

Hmmmm…

How are you at handling your emotions? 

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?

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?

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