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!
Honestly, it's really great to have some project or to create some project for yourself in early sobriety. Work off your early days creatively.
I've had the fortune of a painting commission. I've been working at it for about four or five days interrupted by two teaching days. I think that it's complete now but I'm going to sleep on it.
I'm happy with it and grateful for the project. If you're in early sobriety and biting your nails or something, make a list of everything you could do. Draw, sing, make up a song, make up a dance, knit, leaf through a Martha Stewart Living magazine if your imagination is not in gear. Cook some great meal just for fun. Practice an instrument.
Get involved with a creative project for the sake of doing the thing not to be great at it. This is definitely not the time to be saying that you're no good at anything. Who cares? It takes a gazillion hours of practice to get good at something. Just start for the fun of it.
Pick up a pencil or pen and start making marks on a piece of paper. The marks don't have to look like anything at all. Start a doodle diary. There's an idea.
Watch your crazy thinking evaporate and your energy flow into making something. It's a good thing.
After the first few days of adjustment, you may notice that time becomes more available.
Sure, it is now possible to do more because you are no longer knocking yourself unconscious but even better,
you become more available.
When you start regaining consciousness, life opens up. You will be reminded of anxious thoughts that may have once made you want to knock yourself out. You will also notice more details in your environment. You may experience fatigue but you will also find a drive to do, to take little actions. Do take little actions. Don't try to conquer anything major.
About those anxious thoughts that arise... I encourage you to allow them to be. No, it's not always going to be easy.
Sit with those thoughts. Notice their images, texture, words, placement (if they're in the past or future). Notice how familiar they feel. Feel what is happening in your body. Where are they making you tense? How are they making you want to react?
You are going to be uncomfortable. Be uncomfortable. The discomfort will pass. It'll come back again. Then it will pass again.
In fact, you've gotten into a habit of being uncomfortably sick from alcohol. The discomfort you notice now is the weirdness of not knocking yourself unconscious when habits of thought arise.
Is that too convoluted? Basically, you're trading one way of dealing with discomfort with a different (better) way of being uncomfortable.
So what are you supposed to do about it?
Breathe. Just breathe. Then notice where you are. What's in your room? If you're outside or in the car, notice the trees or buildings. Feel your hands on the steering wheel. Connect to your immediate environment. Get into your body (and out of your mind).
See what that does for you.
Here's what you're doing. You are starting a practice of putting your higher mind (as in your pre-frontal cortex) in charge. Much, much more on that later. But for now, every time you have a thought that makes you want to react by reaching for a drink:
Notice where you are
Get into your physical body
Sit with the thought until it passes
It's a practice. Practice doing this.
Time will open up.
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