Having almost a decade of experience working with people in recovery from substance abuse, I often wonder how little I can do for people. They don’t listen. They don’t want to come close. Each time I welcome them to contact me if they are in doubt, confusion, or have questions, and they never come. Then they fall, even fall hard and they spread their hands, not knowing what to say in their excuse. And so am I speechless, too.
This is especially hard for people you know close. We try to take care of our own, so when that fails we just don’t know what to do, perhaps even feel betrayed. The more they isolate, the more I feel like they better stay away then and stop wasting my time and patience.
My friend I am trying to help with recovery keeps phoning me. That’s not a bad thing, only that he phones me when he is drunk. So today I am going to try and establish a rule: you are not phoning me when you are not sober. Reasons?
First, you get loopy and keep telling the same story that I heard plenty of times already, but it is an undealt-with resentment, so it keeps bothering you.
Secondly, you get awfully remorseful and start feeling responsible for things that have nothing to do with you and you don’t understand when I call you on that.
Lastly, you don’t remember most of this conversation next day and so all of this 30 min – 1 hour chat is your killing time and me wasting it. I am tired of this “drink and dial” that he keeps doing, because I talk to him drunk more than when he is sober. It also bugs me that this intelligent person with so much knowledge of how things work for recovery is doing so little to take care of himself, knowing of so many opportunities to make it through with others help. I didn’t have all that. I didn’t know there were these resources when I was starting my path of recovery.
And yet the more I get frustrated, the more I remind myself (and this is the benefit of sobriety and long time personal recovery – ability to reflect!) that he is a sick person who cannot help himself, and if I am going to get all frustrated at him, who is going to stand by his side? Secondly and most importantly though, I have to remind myself that although he seems unteachable, a bad student if you will, so was I. I had my parents telling me that I need to quit drinking. I had employers, friends, girlfriends telling my I need to watch it or I’ll get seriously hurt. I had appointments with a psychiatrist in Russia and counsellors in States and Canada who’d point that I am moving toward the edge. I tried to kill myself twice. I’ve been breaking relationships, losing job, and my own self-respect. And I still wouldn’t give up the bottle.
My friend is now facing multiple physical and mental health problems and sees physician and psychiatrist often. I was there, so I need to remember that me and some more of us don’t get it easy. We don’t listen well. Many of us are just scared to death to make a change. Which that means that I need to keep trying to reach out and phone him and remind him he is not alone and there is hope to make it through. Some days I hate doing it, because it feels like being a squirrel running through the same wheel. But then so is the friend of mine, running through his wheel, only he had less hope and less forces, ready to come to a complete stop and just let it all go. I can’t let this happen. Not out of pride, but out of remembering how nasty and scary and dark it is to be there where he is, knowing , but not knowing, hoping, but losing hope, day to day existence of meaninglessness. I used to be the unteachable. I probably still am in some respects. So I know where he is. I can make the difference, so I need to charge myself with a little bit more patience. I am going to try again. One step at a time.
[the picture was copied from ‘ere. thank you!]
I’ll take liberty to assume that we are all, without exception, very busy people. We have to manage our time, get work done, feed our kids and/or pets, watch for not being robbed or hit by cars, and still keep our minds from being lost. Each of us, I’d assume, has their own life skills modus operandi. I don’t know how many items each of you have on your list. As for me, it is rather simple. Mine has three essentials. You probably already know these, otherwise, as Henry Rollins said, you probably wouldn’t have survived in the urban environment. Yet I’ll remind you anyway.
There will always be people who’d tell you are full of crap and what you do is full of crap. They can be full of crap themselves, or have a bad day (or bad life), had a bad sex yesterday, or got into an accident, or lost a loved one. It is not always about you, it is very often about them and how they relate to reality. As for you, you have to remember that and believe that what you do is worthy and keep at it. However from time to time it is important to use the art of…
The art of self-reflection is going to keep you on your toes and from falling into making mistakes and getting too full of yourself. If you don’t listen to others for advices, you may be practicing the art of self-esteem, sure, but you also can fall on your face too often, only you won’t notice it soon enough. If you do pay attention to feedback and then think, “Well maybe that could be true”, then perhaps you’ll learn something very important. Again, their feedback could be full of crap, but if you don’t give a minute of thinking, you will never know. So I guess we also need to learn how to differentiate.
Sense of humor
This wonderful thing always keeps me in check if I start taking myself too serious, or take life too serious, and thus either get too full of myself or get depressed. Having a laugh reminds me that I am not perfect, perhaps never will be, and it is OK to fail sometimes, as long as I learn from it and try to keep it from happening again. As well, terrible things happen and laughing at those in the presence of others grieving maybe a thing too cruel to do, and so we can use sense of humor along with self-reflection, and thus have a healthy laughter.
You’ve recalled these, haven’t you? They are simple. And because of that, they are all that we need to ake it through. Today, tomorrow, and any other day. Everything else will come. These we have to do work on.
Please enjoy your life!
[the front picture was copied from ‘ere. thank you!]
A close friend of mine made a mess of himself last night, having gone to a party and having too much to drink. He puked all over the bed and his place stank terribly in the morning when I came to see him. He was very embarrassed talking about this with me, especially since he was trying to get himself in shape for a while, leaving booze behind for good.
He was looking at me like I was going to whip him with a belt. That was strange. He is an intelligent person who just can’t control his drinking. What am I going to tell him? That he should be sorry and ashamed? He already is. What do I tell him that won’t make him feel worse? What do I say if I want to help?
The first thing I said was that I wasn’t disappointed in him, even if he was. That I wasn’t frustrated, even if he was. I said that this perhaps was a great lesson to learn, a proof he just cannot handle alcohol, period. Secondly, I wanted to hear what he had to say about what’s happened. How did he feel? How did he see it? From there we went farther into lack of control and power, and from there to the possible ways of trying something different to get him off booze.
As we were talking, I was thinking of how parents talk to their kids who in their adolescence turn to drugs and alcohol. Perhaps parents know how to fix things, they have a “good idea” of what’s the right thing to do, perhaps heard about it on TV, or read in a paper, or perhaps they even learned it from personal experience. Having these seemingly strong arguments parents force their wisdom on kids and they don’t realize that it can be perceived as an attack by a kid who is awfully confused and embarrassed. As the result communication is severed and relationship is on the brink of being flushed down the toilet. All because parents want to fix the kids.
Tell you what, you can’t fix anyone but yourself. Everybody is different. Everybody got their own mental way of getting from point A to point Z, have different understanding of reality, spirituality, sexuality, social skills or lack thereof. Thus what is good for one person is lethal for another. Sending a kid to a counsellor, to the army, art school, to grandma for the whole summer may help, but if you start with that, pointing a finger at them, instead of talking about how they feel, all will most likely fail terribly.
The communication is a vital part of substance abuse recovery, but we have to know well what we say, and especially how we say it. We may have the most positive and caring motives, but we can do more bad than good if we don’t watch how we dress our message and how we vocalize it.
We should also pay attention to remembering of being self-reflective. Did I never make mistakes? Have I never made a mess out of myself? How would I feel if I was talked to the way I am talking to another person? I may have all reasons to be angry at them, but the person I am talking to is hurt by his own actions, and my bringing righteous confrontation has a potential of ruining everything. Ancient golden rule “treat others the way you want to be treated” is still at play. Talk to others in a respectful, patient way. Let them know you want to understand them to help them better. That way they are less likely to feel like their backs are against the wall while everyone is trying to have a piece of them.
Alcoholism and other substance abuse problems are not easy to understand. These are stigmatized. Nobody wants to be an alcoholic or be called one. So we deny that we deserve wearing these tags and with that we eliminate the opportunity of being helped, of looking into the problem to solve it. If I didn’t develop a trusting relationship with my friend, then I wouldn’t see what is going through his mind as he wants to drink and then gets blasted. If I didn’t make him feel important and respected, I’d lose a friend forever and have myself to blame.
[the picture was copied from ‘ere. thank you!]
It’s been since 1997 that I’ve been listening to a band called Dream Theater. I liked several of their early albums but after I checked out Falling into Infinity which was the last album they released by that time I moved to another country, started listening to a lot more aggressive angrier music and forgot about this band. I’ve re-discovered them in 2007 and listened to a couple albums and then forgot about them again somehow. This year I’ve purchased several of their early albums and started listening again. I listen to a lot of music at home, but also in the gym and while I walk. It takes me about 25 minutes to walk to work so I manage to listen to quite some music.
Getting back into Dream Theater was cool and I started to listen to these CDs on the way to work. I noticed that I was getting more patient and focus and relaxed getting to work while I was listening to DT, as opposed to most of the time when I listened to, say, Nile or Enslaved on the walk some other days. With songs about loss, achievement, frustration, addiction, hope, rebellion, and love, I was getting a bit more prepared to face people I work with and for. Having noticed that, I decided to make it a point and start listening to DT each day I go to work. I had about five in my collection by then and so I went with it. By the time I got to the third one, Awake, I decided to go and see how many records the band did by that time and it turned out they has 13 records to that date! So starting July I had quite a bit of an accomplishment waiting for me.
The thing is Dream Theater performs what I’d call progressive hard rock, however many call them progressive metal band. I guess it is a matter of perspective. I won’t argue. The main point is they bring several styles to their music, and being the fans of Rush, Deep Purple, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and ELP, they managed to create their own sound. So definitely being progressive rock band, Dream Theater make music that is multi-layered and has a lot to pay attention to. So I’d say it would take me at least three times to listen to any of their album before I make an opinion about the songs and the album. So there was A LOT of listening to do.
Today is a special day. I’ve listened to the 12th album, Dramatic Turn of Events and watched Live in Luna Park DVD which had all of the Dramatic songs on it, besides the other accomplishments of the band in the previous 25 or so years. There is still one album to listen to, but I am very close. Watching Luna Park, along with Live in Budokan DVD, and listening to the songs from CDs back and forth was a great fun and I think it made me a bit more patient and relaxed in the last couple months.
Besides just writing fun and quite complicated at times music, the band writes really good lyrics. As I wrote earlier the songs are about life and situations people find themselves in. Among those ones the original drummer and one of the main composers of the band, Mike Portnoy, wrote about addiction. Having issues with alcoholism himself, he decided to write a saga about recovery from drinking through the wisdom of the Twelve Steps which he divided into several parts and put one track of the saga on each of the albums from 2002 to 2009, thus having five albums containing the message of recovery. I have found some thoughts and facts on that undertaking of Mr. Portnoy, as well as “the Twelve Step suite” tracks put together in one album, which was never done by Dream Theater or Portnoy (however he always wanted to do it), and instead was done by a dedicated fan.
Here is the saga. I hope you enjoy it too and it will make you feel more patient and get a slightly different perspective on things around you, as I tend to, thanks to this band and people around me.
[the picture was copied from ‘ere and twisted by me. thank you!]