Choosing recovery: it's constancy and consistency that's hard
My program of recovery asks me to:
- move at a measured, deliberate pace, doing one thing at a time
- abstain as best I can from impulsivity, crazed multitasking, and adrenaline highs;
- spend a good deal of time each morning getting connected to HP;
- take a few minutes to center myself when I've finished something and need to transition to another activity, instead of switching direction abruptly;
- return to my plan and the tools of the program again and again and again, as often as is necessary for me to stay on course;
- consistently practice self-care, like bathing and brushing teeth, exercising, consistent mealtimes and sleep routines;
... all this feels foreign, frustrating, wrong. It feels right to be in a full-tilt sprint all day. In some ways, it's even more comfortable to be in a breakneck work avoidance mode — in which I'm sprinting away from reality in search of the cover of oblivion — than just seeking the dharma current from one action to the next, just trying to do the next right thing.
This is because I'm not used to living this way. It's foreign, tiring. Despite all the suffering I've experienced and caused as an active addict, living in the disease of procrastination/perfectionism/work avoidance/workaholism is (a) comfortingly familiar, and (b) it still provides me with a trap-door through which I can jump and, thus sheltered, have a temporary reprieve from the sense of impending doom I experience when I face reality.
In an adrenaline high, it's easy to tell myself that I'm kicking so much ass that I'll surely outrun disaster and find myself able to experience the ease and freedom of a competent grown-up. On rare occasions I've emerged into this sort of fresh air, and I absolutely loved feeling that I was a talented, highly valued professional. But I've NEVER been able to sustain this. It's not a sustainable way of living.
The flip side is the fogged-out, fuzzbrain state I reach in a work-avoidance episode. What I actually feel is forsaken, hopeless, despairing, alone in a hostile world that's just going to kick my ass again and again. By dissociating — narcoleptic napping, vagueness, unstructured time, chasing distraction and pleasure (the more intensely and compulsively the better) I can make that all go away for a little while.
All this is what I came up with as a kid — an adaptation that got me through my childhood in a really fucked-up family that just wasn't very successful interacting with the wider world.
So, yeah, choosing recovery, showing up, practicing mindfulness is really uncomfortable. I won't do it unless I deliberately go about reminding myself exactly what life in my disease has been like.
And I really have to remind myself. Because a crucial part of the maladaptation is that, in order to experience the little taste of freedom, safety, absence of pain that I do within the bubble of an adrenaline high or a fogged-out episode, I have to forget that there's still worse pain on the other side of the high. Repression and denial are built into the mechanism of addiction — they are essentially the lower mandible of the jaws of the disease. Addiction needs both the pay-off of "The Bubble" and the magic of forgetfulness to get that death-grip hold over people that it does.
I most need to walk myself through remembering what life in addiction has been like at the beginning of each day, because I wake up each morning in a state of powerful aversion. "I don't wanna go out there." Doesn't really seem to matter whether life is going well or going poorly — this is usually where I am when I awake.
And then there are the triggers and stressors each day brings, which can also fire the bite reflex of those jaws, pushing me to dissociate. My moment of choice lies in the instant I feel the bite coming down — I'll have at least a small window in which I can choose to remind myself who I am and what I've been through, accept the discomfort, and turn toward and move to the light.
Enough for now.
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Thank you for this, Ian
Wow. Thank you for sharing. This post illuminated an area of denial to which I had been rather stubbornly clinging. Namely, mistaking the workaholic/adrenaline high as my "real self," and trying to get back there so I can get things done! What a convenient way for me to avoid taking responsibility for my behavior! "Look at that, look at what I did last quarter! I'm not procrastinating, I just need the spirit to move me again." No more!
Very powerful post.
What struck me was " I can choose to remind myself who I am " I believe I am a spiritual being on a human experience, I think the spirit/soul knows, it is my humanness that doesn't want me to know and keeps the truth hidden from me by constantly criticizing me, and finds anyone else who will join in on the bandwagon. It's only when I stop listening that I can see the truth again.
It's sort of like a dog picking up a scent that it is tracking, and when the critic stars talking, the dog loses the scent and loses the trail.
Great post, Ian. I've been
Great post, Ian. I've been thinking about joining a once a week meditation and sharing support group here in L.A. that brings together Buddhist
meditation practice and the Twelve Steps. The goal is to integrate meditation with commitment to abstinence -- whatever that might be for the person. There's no particular addiction or 12 step group identified but a cross over. The more I learn about myself, about addictive thinking, the more I realize how mindfulness fits in. Thanks for all your shares and posts. Warm regards, Tracy