Staying (Standing Strong)

December 19, 2014 Leave a comment

rootThe longer I keep doing something I believe in and witness the positive effects of, the harder it is to leave it alone. And sometimes the voice in the back of my head whispers to just go for it, drop it, crash it, break the connections and walk away free and let yourself do the things I always wanted to do, “you know you want it!”-kind of talk.

Even though breaking away from what I know works best for me and giving into what for the most part seems to be an illusion is very seductive at times, it is still not option. Not for me. I’ve been on the path of sobriety for almost a decade and it was a good ride. Breaking away would mean losing grace, embracing full time insanity, and seeing many things I’ve accomplished (creatively, socially, intellectually) go down the toilet.

Still harder however it is to simply break away because of the amount of time passed and the examples of others. I’ve been marching down the sobriety line for so long that to turn around and say, “Hey, let’s have a glass of wine (which will certainly lead to several others)!” just doesn’t make sense. Keep marching forward already!

And then there are many other people who I know and admire who grabbed their addictions and weaknesses by the throat, fully or partially, and took better control of their lives since then because of it.

So many folks that passed through or by me at work have quit using drugs or drinking themselves to insanity that my irregular fantasizing of picking up a bottle rings as the worst idea ever. Remembering what these people went through keeps me in line, although sometime I may resent that!

Since I’ve quite smoking about five years ago several people who I knew well and puffed two packs a day have minimized and either completely quit or went for vapor cigarettes. I remember every time I went to my girlfriends’ parents place for a dinner and the whole family will be puffing away and I was just new to non-smoking for over a year. I had to run and hide from the clouds of tobacco smoke. This year three out of four family members went on “vapor.” So each time I feel like having a cigarette, I think of them. What they left behind. And then of people who quit nicotine for good. How much more they left behind as well. With that the desire to poison myself with what looks like the best idea in the world for the moment, it goes away. Until the next time.

And until then I stay where I am, rooting in the right ideas, true to myself, recalling what I am, where I’ve been and standing strong, because of it, thanks to you all. Have a great day!

[the picture was copied from ‘ere. thanks!]

Exrealistic Unpectations

December 9, 2014 Leave a comment

ghtWhen I walked around the streets during my times of insobriety I expected people to understand me, my pain, and my goodness without me trying to reach out. I felt that I was good enough to look good and sincere (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean, but that’s how I felt). I had little experience with opposite sex, I was shut down on trying to talk to people I didn’t know, and I had a lot of myths and illusion in my mind regarding how to be successful. I did nothing and received nothing, but expected a lot. It doesn’t work that way, though, and so it didn’t. I had to make an input, and didn’t know how. I was sick in the head, and didn’t even know it.

Trusting media on how cool drinking is and how easy it can be to meet people screwed me up real well, and I am sure thousands of others. I preferred to believe and hope rather than make research. I guess when you are a teenager, that’s OK. But I kept thinking like a teenager, growing into an adult, so worldly forgiveness for stupidity was shrinking.

When folks enter recovery from substance abuse facility they deal with a lot of pain and illusion. Both are extremely important to deal with. Physical and mental suffering can be taken care of through therapy, grief counselling, etc., but reality check could take an awful lot of time and therefore should be addressed at the same time.

I had no idea why I couldn’t drink like others, so I kept trying. I felt like I needed to just find my perfect bottle, the beverage I could drink safe without blackouts and hangovers. I had no idea what alcoholism was and it was too stigmatized of a term for me to even try researching. I walked in a cloud, scared to look out. I lived that way for over a decade. Guess how trashy my mind was by the time I made an awkward attempt to look out!

And when I did, I felt I knew the way. I did. For 23 hours or so. Then came a relapse and a sheer amazement. Repeat ten times and wonder some more. These days when I look at our guys in recover we work with I keep shaking my head, thinking “how could you fuck it up again?” Then I recall how I did it and shake my head again, but this time I am smiling. I know that if I did it, they could do it too. At least I can hope.

Yet it is not about just hoping. I can sit on my ass and hope for days, but when nothing happens, nothing happens, right? And if we don’t make a step forward today, we can perish the thought of building a family in half a year, no matter what we write in the letters to ourselves. If you come to recovery and learn you are a chronic drinker and the only way to live healthily is completely abstinent, how do you still think it is OK to have a tequila at your best friend’s birthday? How do you expect results different from what you’ve experienced thousand times before with the same input?

Unrealistic expectations are in many things we do; insobriety and recovery is just a good example. If I don’t look back and learn from my mistakes on how I did something, I’ll be doomed to repeat the same mistake and fall on my face. If I don’t do research on how to do something, I will most likely fail to succeed, while most likely blaming it on somebody else and wondering “why nobody told me?” and claiming that “I didn’t get the memo!” That goes for my writing, talking to strangers, playing guitar, and buying tickets online. That also goes for my dealing with friends and acquaintances that seem to fail understanding how life works, because one of the things I have to keep learning about is letting go. How can I expect to be helpful to someone who seems to know everything already? When nothing happens, nothing happens. Let them have it. I’ll try something I think I am good at. And as long as I don’t expect everything going right and smooth from the very start, but grind away in the right direction anyway, I’ll be OK.

[the picture was copied from ‘ere. thanks!]

Categories: Uncategorized

The Unteachable

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment

untitledHaving 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!]

Categories: writing

Essentials

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

thumbI’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.

Self-esteem

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…

Self-reflection

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!]

How We Talk

October 26, 2014 Leave a comment

ineffective-communicationA 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!]

Experiment in Music Dreaming

October 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Dream-Theater-Awake-CoverThis summer I had a little experiment.

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!]

Lie (to Live) to Die

September 28, 2014 Leave a comment

157jfv6People lie. I lied. I thought I could lie real well, even though I didn’t really want to. I felt I was forced to lie when it came to the danger of having my fears, weaknesses, and secrets unsurfaced, because booze was controlling my life and I was doing weird things to myself and things around me. It turned out that I was not a very good liar, for people could see through my bullshit. And often I couldn’t understand how they did that, for often, again, I believed my own bullshit. How is that possible? And how do you deal with that?

The Twelve Steps recovery book of AA states that “any alcoholic… can recover… provided he does not close his mind on all spiritual concept… He can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd edition, p.568)

I was in denial when I believed my own bullshit and since I believed it I told of to others and so I lied. And there were times I knew I was bullshitting others, because I was trying to defend myself, which means I defended my denial.

Denial is very present not just in recovery, but in life in general. Without overcoming it nothing can be accomplished. Here is an interesting look at how denial can be positive and negative:

“Human being has a primitive defence mechanism that denies all kinds of reality that makes him go through too much stress. It’s called denial. Denial is the most important element of the adaptation mechanism. Without it we’d wake up each day in terror that our death is on the way in many possible awful ways. Nevertheless our mind blocks these existential fears, making us focus on concrete problems that we can solve – arrive to work on time or pay taxes. As soon as we start having those vague existential fears, we get rid of them very fast, again focusing on simple tasks and daily chores… Among the Net visitors, even the consumers with high intelligence show instinctual inclination to denial. According to the results of an investigation, a large number of students that found an article in the Internet about melting Arctic ice or the extinction of certain animal kind, quickly leave that page, switching to something petty, thus clearing their minds from fear. The usual “tranquilizers” in this case were sport reports, funny cat videos, and celebrity news. ” (Dan Brown, Inferno, chapter 50)

Now, when it comes to recovery however, when your life is facing immediate danger, not Ebola in Africa, or tornado in Australia, but when your current state of affairs, mental and physical, is under siege, denial should be wrestled with. The fears are no longer irrational. The danger is real. Your body suffers of pain: bad stomach, heart burn, cramps. Your mind is in constant agony, torn between reality and illusion, desires, needs, expectations, convictions. The thrill of the good times quickly changes into paranoia. Even if you don’t know too well what is it that’s happening to you exactly, you know your drug of doom is catching up with you. Your family told you so, your employer and school instructor did too. You know it, even if deep inside only. But you can’t let it go. It’s been there for too long in your life. And you know that it takes away the pain, confusion, and fear away for a while, so you don’t want to get rid of such drug. As soon as you starting thinking along those lines, you step away from making decision about dealing with a problem, and instead go for more abuse. The most abuse happens in your mind when you eagerly tell yourself there is no problem. That’s when successful bullshitting yourself starts and denial sets in well. For some time you refuse to listen to whatever anybody says to you about your substance abuse issues. You believe you feel good so you have some more of this stuff.

Bringing that illusion down will take some time. Most likely you will fall down hard, hitting so called rock bottom, doing something really scary or stupid, or losing something precious. But to get to that you need to poison yourself a little bit longer. Can we no avoid that? Can we not stop before we fall hard, causing more pain to ourselves and others? I guess not. I know I had to go through plenty of wreckage, mostly mental and spiritual, to come to a complete halt. I knew what the problem was but I also saw it was a solution, or at least a means to an end of finding some peace.

What a lie. And I believed it so willingly. At a certain point when, I guess I could say, i didn’t know any better, I thought, Hey, this is the way I express myself. Drinking is my attitude to the world.” And some time later I could hear myself say, Hey, drinking my life style. It is what I do, it what I am. At a certain point it kick my butt towards seeing that such life is pathetic. A college student that I was, I still had my apartment and a job, and I could see what I was doing to myself a bit faster. But if I didn’t, then I could become a person living on the street and eating out of trash can and collecting change during the sober time, saying eventually Hey, it is me. It is my life. What else am I going to do in life? It sucks every day. I don’t see any other way out. Let me have my drink.

When we do drugs, including drinking alcohol, we destroy brain cells responsible for our cognitive functions. So when we see drunks and drug addicts on the street and wonder how did they get so wreckless, ragged, silly, insane, disgusting, we may think also of what their drug of doom did to them, to their psych and through that to their self-esteem and instincts. They no longer care for “you know better” and common sense. They are on a different plain of reasoning. Denial is their domain. When they come to their senses (those not yet burnt into ashes), they see their state and they are terrified, and one part of them want to make a change, and yet another revolts against pain and disgust with a recipe of “have another one and the pain will go away.” Again, once we hit that road of thinking, we rarely come back to normalcy. First we go on the journey of screwing ourselves hard. What we have become, what we do to ourselves and others, how far into depravity drugs and alcohol can still take us, as if this is not enough already, – denial throws a thick veil over all of these thoughts and all we have is a desire for a fix. “Just one. Just now. No more than that. Just give it to me. It doesn’t matter how many times I faced it hurting me terribly in the end. I need, need, need…. GIVE IT TO ME!”

And in the end of practicing denial we deny ourselves a right to live happily, serenely, respectfully. Denial is not a curse. Dan Brown in the passage above shows well that all of us deal with it, and certainly not all of us are substance abuse addicts. Denial is natural part of our psychology, I guess. It is just how far we let it set in, how far we let it rule our life, turn us into creatures we don’t want to be and that we can’t control.

And what to do about it? How do you tell a drug addict/alcoholic to open his eyes and ears and pay attention? If he or she is sick (and AA, for example, strongly believes that alcoholism is an illness that affects both body and mind), how do you convince a person not to injure themselves with something they believe eases their pain? How do you make them see their life and their believes are a lie, a lie that stabs them in the back while they worship it?

[the picture was copied from ‘ere and twisted by me for education purposes]

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