Tuesday, May 09, 2017

RECOVERY LABELS


Ever feel a little exposed?  Under the gun?

I spend a lot of time reading and working on understanding myself.
It's a self-centered activity.
I am grateful to be able to spend time focusing on what makes me tick.
I've spent so long pretending to be me...
without actually inhabiting my own self...
that I'm uncovering a mystery as I dig into myself.


Along this introspective path, I've come to understand that my perspective feels a lot
 like the stories of people in recovery.  
When I read or hear something about people using 
a substance or a person or an attitude as a way to escape....
 a bell sounds inside of me.
I hear the songs of my people within each story of loss,
self-betrayal and violated personal boundaries.
Every time I hear a person describe a 
 time when she stopped hiding from herself, 
stopped playing along with the expectations of others,
 or was redeemed in spite of her own prejudice...
I think
THAT IS ME.
THAT IS MY STORY TOO.

ME TOO.


Why do these stories resonate with me?

By every conventional measure...It makes no sense for me to identify with this narrative.
I have never been physically dependent on an illegal
or even controlled substance.
I've never tried an illegal drug.
Not even weed.
I've never blacked out from drinking.
I once smoked a whole pack of Marlboro Reds
and spent the night vomiting-
but I have never been a habitual smoker.
Drugs are generally not for me-OTC included.
I don't take cold medicine and rarely even take Tylenol because I am a poor metabolizer .
I'm generally within 10 lbs of my recommended weight 
(pregnancy and post-pregnancy excepted).
I have been working out steadily for a good long while now
and can even do actual push-ups.
The closest thing to a substance that I've been addicted to is caffeine.
Even that has been used well within amounts that society deems acceptable.
Seriously....2-3 cups of coffee in a day is me going on a caffeine bender.
What I'm trying to say is...
no one would look at me and say...
oh, she's a got some problems with addiction.

No one except me.




Cocoa Cinnamon...yum.  I did not drink both of these. Only hot chocolate.  But...YUM



So what's my deal?

Is it some sort of transference?
Both of my parents are alcohol and tobacco abusers.
My family is jam-packed with characters who suffer (or suffered) 
from classic forms of addiction-
eating disorders, binge-drinking/alcoholism, heavy smokers, liars, sex-fiends 
(I once overheard elderly relative describing a relative as such).
You name the addiction, I bet we've got someone with it in a closet out back.
Is the resonance that I feel from recovery stories an echo 
of that familial attachment or is it personal?
I asked my therapist to help me understand if I'm an alcoholic...
turns out, that question didn't really have a simple answer.
There are lots of criteria you have to meet in order for this to be proper evaluation.
I don't meet them.
And yet....I know on some visceral level that this personality is me.


Shifting perspectives...this time from the roof of The Pitt in Durham.  I entertained clients this week.  Sober.

Here's my current understanding:

I am someone who has a tendency to use an array of substances and habits
to hide out.
I haven't had a deep bottom moment (yet)
because the substances and habits that I depend on are multi-faceted.
I don't have a GO-TO crutch....I have many crutches and my use pattern is to 
interchange them often.
This is another area where being a control freak sort-of served me for a time.
If something started getting out of hand, I switched it up.
Drinking more than is socially acceptable? Stop that and start a heavy exercise routine.
Eating too much?  How about sleep less.  Increase the caffeine.
Too caffeinated?  Let's have a night of binge drinking to level me out.

Busy-ness is a drug too-surely my kids NEED to be in that activity 
or a dinner party needs to be hosted
or a friend needs a favor
or a teacher needs funds raised.
And what about work?  Work is a drug you almost never have to give up.
There's another business trip
another urgent client request
another giant, all-consuming project
that all gets justified by raises and 
the real need for monetary support to feed and clothe your family.
Of course....when all else fails...go shopping.

My ways of hiding were myriad.
My unspoken,unacknowledged drive was to avoid the here and now, 
ignore the sensitivity of my soul,
rename the discomfort that is inherent in life
so that I wouldn't have to sit with it.


Links to Home and Rebecca Campbell


Another thought:

I was someone who desperately wanted connection-
to connect and be loved and honored-
but I was terrified of being vulnerable.
I needed a crutch to get through.  
Something to focus on, to tether me to the world.
For a while...all these ways that I was using to hide out
were actually helping me be present.
I was kind of sitting in the audience, just outside of the stage lights
so that I could tell myself I was still part of the production.
I was too afraid to be under the spotlight
but I was using a crutch as a way to understudy 'real people'.
The ones who sometimes missed their lines
or tripped as they crossed the stage.
My crutches helped me be a part of the mix of life
without risking the pain of life.
For a while, that was enough.



The Joy Warrior is pretty darn special daily dose of magic



And finally....

'You gotta show up if you wanna be seen'-Avett Brothers, Ain't No Man 


I am human.
On some level, this story is a universal human story.
Most of the humans that I know, struggle with an instinct to hide out 
so they can feel more than or less than.
It's so easy for us to have weapons or 
refuse to lay down our shields 
so that we can look into each other's eyes.
It's so easy to delineate between the good and the bad,
the alcoholic and the social drinker,
the beautiful and the ugly
the worthy and the unworthy.
It's easy because it's not true.
We wrote the rules of division and shame...
on some level, we can rewrite them if we want too.
We are all worthy and beautiful and complicated.
Each of us-no matter our history, 
no matter our right now deserves 
and longs for connection and love.

Although there seem to be seasons of more or less struggle
-I've yet to experience a season where there is no struggle.
The easiest thing to do is to hide out.
The least satisfying thing to do is also to hide out.





So what does this mean for how I relate to the topic of recovery?

Look at the definitions of recovery above.
Isn't is a beautiful idea that we can take action to find our lost selves?
That we can return to ourselves in some sort of salvage operation?
(I am aware that this definition also contains the word control.  Stop it.)


The need to categorize or convince myself that I am sick 
or have a label in order to claim that part of my story, feels diminishing.  
I have been feeling as though I can't claim this story 
because I haven't yet fully wrecked my life 
according to someone else's pre-determined methodology.

Here's what is true to me:
I was lost.
I was not in a 'normal' state of health, mind or strength.  
At least not if 'normal' means positively 
accepting and affirming the beauty of my life and creation.

I have a lot of habits and hiding places
that just don't work for me anymore.
Those include drinking, measuring myself against impossible standards, 
eating badly or not at all, sleeping less and climbing more.
Basically, my myriad crutches
 are actually just my favorite ways of abusing myself.
 The host of them have come to feel 'normal' over the past decades.
I am chucking them.

I am in recovery.
It is messy and weird and rad.
I don't know what other labels fall into that
and I don't know if I'll be in recovery for the rest of my days-
or if I'll pass through this place once and be done.
I don't care.
My sisters know that I'm in their tribe.


Last note....I am in no way diminishing someone else's experience.  If you or someone that you love identifies as an addict-please don't take my experience to mean that their label is somehow not valid.  There's more than one kind of truth and I hope you can honor mine just as I honor yours.
If you are someone who is in recovery, or thinks that this message resonates with you too...I'm in your tribe.  Reach out.  Let's be other together.










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