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Addiction Recovery and Creating New Neural Pathways

Beauty of a Butterfly

 

Like a lot of other human endeavors, we delight in the beauty of cleanliness and sobriety but rarely get down to brass tacks and discuss the nuts and bolts of it. One of the largest facets of the addiction paradigm takes place in our minds, and which relies upon destructive mental and emotional constructs built to achieve feeding the addiction at any cost. In many ways, we’re very often completely unaware of these constructs until we take the addictive substance away, in which case they kick into high gear and all we know are the miseries of withdrawal.

Given that both the constructs themselves and the work of breaking them down and building new, healthier ones in their place is largely internal through thought and behavioral processes, a good deal of it literally involves changing your own brain, one neural pathway at a time. And, uh, how does one go about doing that, you ask?

I just ran across an article (see below) I want to share which explains in the simplest of terms the process I and other addicts have used to get from Point A to all points beyond. It all seems and sounds very easy; I can assure you, it’s not. It’s hard, dirty, messy work that takes an enormous amount of energy, dedication, practice and perseverance, and is only one part of the transformation from addict to recovering person. But it’s an absolutely essential part that can make all the difference between success and failure and is worth every bit of effort involved.

I don’t know about you, but I learn by doing, and have come to discover that a great part of life is action – even from the inside out! This is a subject dear to my heart, so please see the article here - and as always, any and all comments are most welcome!

 

 

 

Bodies In Motion – All 3 Parts, Back to Back

Become Who You Are

Per a reader’s request (OK, my husband’s), here are all 3 parts of “Bodies In Motion” together in one post for easy reading. Thanks again for reading! :)

1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way life has its ups and downs and periods of animation and stagnation – you know, bodies in motion tending to stay in motion and bodies at rest tending to stay at rest and all that. It’s long been a fascination of mine the way things can stay the same for the longest time, and then bam! Something happens, and everything is changed forever, life being what happens while you’re busy making other plans and what have you.

The truth is, I’ve never been much of one for plans, because all of that business comes packaged with so many expectations, and I fear expectations. We have so little control over anything, except ourselves and the choices we make, and even then we’re on shaky ground. Why push it?

Then there’s the matter of how we plan to spend our lives – whether we choose to become bodies in motion or at rest, for example, and what either thing entails. Many of us stay in the same places doing the same exact same things because we like them. They make us happy. OK, well, if not…”happy” exactly, then they at the very least offer the seeming comforts of the known, and the mundane known is still better than some terrifying unknown…right?

We also stay in the same places doing the exact same things because we’re in a rut and don’t know what else to do, or because we know darn well what to do…but just don’t believe that we can actually do it. Then, of course, there’s the case of buying into the utterly delusional proposition that doing the same thing over and over again will produce a different result each time, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Conversely, there’s also often much confusion about whether our doing something different every once in a while either adds some welcome variety to our lives or essentially adds up to nothing, because that’s what making a decision to do something without doing anything to back it up amounts to.

And that’s what sobriety was to me for the longest time: This giant amorphous, intangible thing one half of me desperately wanted but had no idea – other than simply waiting for it to happen to me – how to go about getting , while the other half desperately needed me to keep drinking at all costs. I tried just about everything out there people who don’t go to rehab can try on their own. I tried moderation, which worked well until I got halfway through the first of the two beers I’d decided to allow myself at night and realized that would never do, but which I did succeed in attempting at least every other night of the week for about a half a decade.

I tried cutting down. When that didn’t work – and it never did – I tried to just stop worrying about it so much and have a little fun! After all, isn’t that the point of drinking? Then I’d spend every night crying in my beer (before I passed out, that is). In between these little exercises in futility, I read just about every recovery tome I could get my hands on, some of which I read over and over again (the extremely yellow highlighted passages throughout my dog-eared copy of “Drinking: A Love Story”, which turned out to be most of the book, have faded only slightly over time). Thanks to “6 Weeks to Sobriety”, I tried taking an elaborate and expensive array of vitamins and other supplements which, when ingested multiple times daily over a period of 6 weeks, would rid me of those pesky cravings for alcohol and put me squarely on the straight and narrow. And I’m sure it would have worked wonders if I hadn’t caved in somewhere around day 3…

I attended meetings of every recovery-related organization in my immediate area that I’d ever heard of – including AA (which, much to my dismay, didn’t work for me even though I really, thoroughly worked it) – and some that I hadn’t (at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church-related recovery group, “Celebrate Recovery”, you spend the first half hour of every meeting watching a series of Christian rock videos where all the songs sound disturbingly the same as everyone takes turns to “Praise Jesus!”, then all participants break up into smaller groups led by recovering members. My group’s “leader”, a recovering meth addict, dominated conversation with ample description of her recovery through Christ and would then, when it was someone else’s turn to talk, lean over to the leader of the group next to ours to resume what sounded like a long, ongoing argument over important group-slash-church business. Suffice it to say, I never managed to make it back to that one, not even for Jesus).

I wrote to other organizations not in my immediate area and thus did not offer face-to-face meetings, such as “Women For Sobriety” and “S.O.S”, to inquire about the possibility of future meetings there and got about as far with that as those things tend to go (which is to say, not very).

Then, finally, a little over 6 ½ years ago I got a computer, started surfing the internet and, thanks to a delightful fellow who calls himself “Agent Orange” at a site entitled  “The Orange Papers”  (Fair Warning: There is some, um, AA-averse content scattered about here and there), I quickly found the home in LifeRing’s web forum and e-mails lists I’d been told I’d find in AA but never did. The people I met online started to become known quantities to me in the most surprising of ways: I could feel their personalities shine through the words they’d typed on the screen so that they became, via our shared connection, a community; I could see who had their shit together by the way they offered the benefit of their wisdom and experience without the sense of a judgement or an assumption that those of us still struggling were just dumb assholes who would never be able to figure it out without them; they respected that part of my recovery was learning how to say things out loud, and instead of telling me to shut my hole, they included me without hesitation, reservation or prerequisite in our conversations; the intensity of their honesty staggered me.

None of this kept me from being scared to death. I was – I’d experienced far too much failure not to be, and I had a lot to lose. But thanks to these most supportive, wonderful people, I managed to slowly but surely extract myself out of what had by then become the deepest, most monotonous rut of my life: Trying, on a daily basis, to find a way to both control and enjoy my drinking, and failing miserably. I’d ultimately, after years of conducting this experiment like some mad scientist in a Monty Python skit played on a continuous loop, come to the conclusion that those two things – control, and enjoyment – were simply incongruous for me, and more importantly, always would be, no matter what.  

 

2 I’ve always been a slow learner – slow to pick things up, slow to put them where they belong. When I was a kid and convinced of my intrinsic worthlessness, I didn’t know that about myself – I thought that, unlike all the other kids I grew up around, for whom so many things seemed to come so easily, I was basically just not capable of very much. Ever stubborn, however, I beat my head up against the brick wall of my inadequacies in almost any way I could find for the longest time. This was never more true than in the area of sports, for which I lacked an abundance of natural gifts, and my inability to participate in them with even a hint of the brilliance displayed by all the other girls on my grade school T-ball, softball, and basketball teams was the bane of my existence. After a while, I learned to cut my losses not only with sports but with everything else worth doing, too, and quit early – and often.

Alcohol wasn’t like that for me. Drinking was something I was going to learn to do, dammit, even if it killed me. I decided this when I was 12 years old, drunk on a Saturday night and barfing my guts out on some cheap wine a few friends and I had lifted from a Safeway, but even back then, it simply seemed a matter of prudent dedication, and time. I thought, “Everyone drinks and they don’t barf their guts out, they have fun. How hard can it be?” Over and over and over again I pounded my head on that one, and ugh, it was a doozy.

Prior to getting sober, I’d tried to simply stop drinking, but the main reason why that never worked is nothing else had changed, and I didn’t do change. When I finally figured out I that getting sober was going to take at least as much effort, energy and devotion as drinking did, I poured myself into it with single-minded gusto. I discovered another part of me that I’d also failed to acknowledge as a kid: When I finally do get something, I get it as well as if not better than anybody.

You learn pretty quickly that a couple of things that worked well on Days 1, 2 and 3 will continue working just as well on Day 29: Don’t take the first drink. Take it one second, minute, hour and day at a time. The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and you keep your focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Reach out and engage with your support group, listen to what the successful folks have to tell you about what worked for them instead of what the little monster in your brain is telling you, etc. etc. etc., so on and so forth. Lather, rinse, repeat.

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Bodies In Motion – A Work In Progress

This is the third and final installment in a 3-part series I began in June 2014.

Although some of my fellow sober travelers have opted to eschew the why of things, lest it drive them crazy, a great deal of it’s still of utmost importance to me. So…now seems as good a time as any to talk about why I got sober in the first place, and why I’ve stayed that way – i.e., the point of it all:

Those in traditional recovery often speak of something called a “Moment of Clarity”, where the truth suddenly bursts forth through the hazy web of bullshit and denial you normally operate under to inform you that you’re doing nothing more than killing yourself, and that if you keep at it, you’re going to get the job done. Mine was something akin to that, and it also bestowed upon me the certain knowledge that furthermore, my life was not meant to be spent and ended that way. Because…no one’s is.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. “Uuummm, duh!” But at the time it was a serious revelation to me, because it meant that my life had some real…purpose. That **holy shitballs!** I might actually not only be worth something, but put here for a reason.

Even if you believe that human life has no real intrinsic meaning per se, that just like every other living creature on the planet we’re here and then we’re not and that’s the long and short of it, don’t you think we still have some choices to make about who we are, who we want to be, and what we do about all that while we’re here? I do, and this new-fangled belief was the foundation of my success.

As you know, things were going great in my recovery and I was making enormous progress in my newfound endeavors. Then, as it’s wont to do, life got in the way and I got a little…side-tracked for a while. Well, more than a while, actually…more like a few years. And then, I got tired. So very, very tired.

So I took an extended break from work of almost any kind because I needed it, badly. I enjoyed R&R interspersed the exciting adventure of world travel for quite a while. I have my dear husband to thank for it, and highly recommend it!

But then something came creeping up on me, like Carl Sandberg’s fog, on little cat feet. Something in all the fate and folderol I’d forgotten about.

It started with that little nerve that jangles in your gut, telling you something’s amiss. As I’m too often willing to do, I didn’t pay it much mind. Not willing to go ignored, it grew into an internal nudging. Which in turn became a full-on psychic yanking. Which resulted in a Edvard Munchian scream: “WHAAAAAAT AAARE YOU DDDDDOOOOOOING, AND WHEEERRRE ARE YOU GOOOINNNG TO GOOOOOO!?!?!?!?!!!”

I had no answers to give, because I honestly didn’t know. And suddenly I felt directionless, purposeless, as though I was wandering out in the desert, bewildered and lost, all while asking myself repeatedly, “What in the name of all of that’s holy is this all about? And where, when you’ve got it made in 10 shades, is it coming from? I mean…whaddaya mean you don’t know?!”

The more I thought about it, and thought and thought and thought, and brooded and stewed and thought some more, the more I really didn’t know, and just when I was ready to throw in the towel, a few things occurred to me. A). I’m still very much a work in progress. 2). My work here is nowhere near done. And C). sitting around stewing and brooding and thinking about will get me absolutely nowhere.

So…where does all this leave me? I was never one of those kids who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up and I still don’t, but when I figure it out, I’ll let you know. For now, it’s good enough that I do know it goes far beyond a standard career or a deeply held “passion” for something. I think it has something to do with learning how to like myself – reeeeeeeeeaaaaallllly like myself – a little bit more. I think it has something to do with what I have to give.

See, it may seem as though one who sobers up and gets their proverbial shit together has it all figured out, but I’ma let you in on a little secret: Sobriety is only the beginning. The things that haunted you before and during your drinking career will haunt you long after you stop. Unless you decide to do something about it, unless you learn how to get out of your own way.

In my case, most of my ghosts built upon and centered around a single thought I had as a kid – “There’s something wrong with you,” – that I absolutely believed to the core of my being. The rest of my life, up to the point of my sobriety, was one long exercise in first gathering and then creating the evidence to support that theory. 

It’s not going to be easy, undoing some 30+ years worth of all the stuff that kind of havoc will wreak on your brain, and let’s face it – I’m not going to be winning any awards for my emotional intelligence quotient anytime soon, either. It will be a long ongoing process, some of which I hope to share here, because I don’t think I’m the only one on the same road. I think we all are. Some of it I may never unload. But as difficult as the road may be, the title of a Maya Angelou work puts it just perfectly:

Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

New LifeRing Meeting In Wadsworth, OH!

LifeRing is pleased to announce, in addition to a meeting already running Akron, Ohio (see info. here), that a new meeting also in the Akron area in Wadsworth, Ohio is set to begin next Wednesday, September 17th. Feel free to also check out LifeRing Akron’s fantastic web and Facebook pages listed below, as well.

Meeting Information

The information for the new meeting can be found below; the information for all of LifeRing’s meetings can be found here:

Meeting Name: Wadsworth Akron LifeRing

When: Wednesdays at 1:00 PM, beginning September 17th

Where: Wadsworth Public Library, 132 Broad Street, Wadsworth, OH 44281

Convenor: Cheryl G.

Contact Information: E-Mail: liferingakron@gmail.com Phone: (234) 200-5770

Web Information:

Website     liferingakron.yolasite.com

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/lifering.akron.secular.recovery?ref=hl

Congratulations to Cheryl and all future meeting members – we wish you all the best!

September Is National Recovery Month!

National Recovery Month

 

Thanks to the nice little recovery blog of a young sobrietist I follow, Sober Senorita, I’ve learned that September is National Recovery Month in the U.S., sponsored by SAMHSA – the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. If you’re interested in learning more, check it out on their website hereand perhaps in the spirit of speaking up and out you might even feel possessed to share your own recovery story there. But if not there…

What about here? I know I’d certainly love to hear your stories no matter where you’re at in the process as I’m sure all of our blog readers would, so please feel free to share them in the Comments below!

Additionally, I will be posting as many recovery-related topics throughout the month as I possibly can, so stay tuned. And…

In the meantime, a little word about my own recovery story: For those who’ve read the first two parts of it (Part One is here and Part Two here) and have been patiently waiting on the third and final installment, please bear with me just a little bit longer. I started out one way and realized I was veering way off course into a completely separate area of discussion (which I will also post at some point down the road), so I had to start over, and am still doing a little fine-tuning.

I don’t know about any of you, but I’m a little OCD about my writing in a way I’m not sure is healthy – it’s my understanding that you’re supposed to just let it all come out, whatever it is, and then go back and mold and edit into a more desirable shape for presentation, but I seem to have the troublesome habit of wanting to edit myself from the word go. It’s one more thing I’m hoping to conquer as time goes by, and yet maintain a standard of posting quality work, so…

What else can I say? The blog and I: We’re a Work in Progress.™ :D

P.S. The Books page is also coming along nicely, and should be up in the next coupla weeks – will let you know when it is!