Just before my big fall in 2010, against my better wishes I started taking Effexor for depression. Big mistake. Big mistake because it led to me picking up a drink again for the first time in seven years. Big mistake because picking up a drink led to a series of really bad decisions that sent my life tumbling in more ways than there's room to describe here.
One thing I really liked about that drug, though. I felt relaxed in a way that I could never remember having felt before. I thought, Is this how normal people feel? I could get used to this. Caveat: when I realized what the drug was doing to me, I went off it and that was like putting myself through electroshock therapy and that convinced me to never, ever go on another psychotropic drug again.
But back to that experience of relaxation... I bring it up because that's the way I've felt all weekend. It worries me. Not because of the aforementioned experience. Because feeling relaxed actually concerns me.
I think that it works like this. I am responsible for everything. If I don't do it, it won't get done. If I don't hustle, I won't make moola. If I don't make moola, I'll land on the streets. If I relax for a moment, the whole world will fall apart. More, but you get the idea.
Yes, I know this is ridiculous but this is how I feel most of the time. Also, I'll drink coffee to rev myself up because, hey, if I'm not revved up, how am I going to do everything that needs to be done? I am actually addicted/allergic to coffee and it wreaks havoc with my skin, eyes and energy. The complexities of addiction are almost endless.
But this leads me to a key ingredient of sobriety. Also a key to the anxiety that is one cause of wanting to go unconscious with drink.
Thomas Merton once said that
"Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity."
So, for me, thinking that I have to get everything done on my own, by myself and all of the anxiety that creates within me means that I don't trust in god (or the universe or the great creator or what have you) to take care of all things beyond my control. And almost all of everything is beyond my control. Except for example the cat hair collecting in a dust bunny on the floor. I could sweep that up.
If I quit trying so damned hard to solve every problem or to go unconscious in some way because I'm out of my mind with trying to figure out solutions and let god or the universe in on the game, wow, solutions, people, miracles, opportunities beyond my wildest ken might arise in response to my saying, hey, god... I have no idea what to do here, why don't you work it out? Yes that's one sentence. William Faulkner.
Therefore, my lack of trust in god creates my anxiety. I've become accustomed to feeling anxious (big-time, long-term). My anxiety has, in the past, caused me to drink. I am not used to feeling relaxed. Feeling relaxed makes me nervous. That's an oxymoron if I've every read one.
And, the basic key to quitting drinking via the A.A. program is to turn my will and my life over to the care of the god of my understanding. I don't buy everything in the program but I do think there's a lot to be said for that particular practice.
It's interesting that the same issue (not trusting) that made me anxious, set me up for drinking, and is the solution (trusting) for both anxiety and drinking. I think there's a scientific term for that sort of dynamic.
My job right now is to practice trusting the universe, the great creator, the all almighty that cannot be named to take the wheel. This is not a foreign concept to me. I just need to put it front and center as a practice.
All of that is just to say that I've felt remarkably relaxed this weekend. This feeling of relaxation concerns me a bit but that may just be habit. Probably is.
Great. Another habit!
Addiction is ridiculous.
Honestly, what is up with these substitutes I cave to? Full disclosure, I've been using cigarettes as a crutch to get me through early sobriety. I am so sensitive to cigarettes that I can only smoke two a day (three at the very most), not even the entire cigarette and I feel so toxed out, my brain is foggy and I my body feels heavy laden (with toxins). Yes, even the organic brand with no added chemicals (or so they say).
Thank god, I'm a lightweight. How people ever smoked a pack a day is beyond me. It's a cumulative effect and the more days I smoke, the worse my skin looks.
If I weren't so brain fogged, I would wax on about the hand to mouth routine and the stuff anything but alcohol into my pie hole to keep alcohol from going in. All of that habitual action is part of the addiction. I know that I'll drop the cigarettes very, very soon because I actually can't stand them.
That's what's so ridiculous about addiction. Why put something into your system that you know is bad for you and that you want to quit?
Of course there's loads of science now that answers just that very question. It's a battle between the lower brain, the body trained by the lower brain and the physical set of habits so strengthened by practice that they override the pre-frontal cortex. It's more complicated than that and involves dopamine, oxytocin, neurotransmitters and things like not bonding with mother right off the bat because of things we never had control over. Fascinating, complex, ridiculous, challenging.
Aside from nutritional support, comrades going through similar journeys, meditation, physical activity, development of self-awareness and other things, strengthening the pre-frontal cortex is where it's at.
The pre-frontal cortex is the seat of impulse control. Impulse control is the key and the trick is to put that pre-frontal cortex in charge of the body as in the hand reaching for the drink or the cigarette or the cookie.
That's the key but, of course, there's much more to it than that. The question is how badly do you want it? How strongly do you want to feel healthy and radiant? What are you willing to do to help your pre-frontal cortex win out over muscle memory? How long are you going to play the game of self-sabotage?
Those are questions you can sit with. I'm sitting with them, too.
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