The Built-in Forgetter

[I’ve been more-or-less absent from the blog for several months due to surgery in the family, among other things.  All’s well there, and with any luck I’ll be back to my regular lackadaisical posting.  Thanks for your patience.]

forgetterWhen we begin to “get on with our lives,” or “make up for lost time,” or study to become an addiction guru — whatever — we can easily drift away from our program.  We feel good, our finances are becoming something like organized, and we’re generally busy and entertained by the stuff of our lives.  We begin to think that we can handle it all.

The idea that we can somehow cure a chronic disease can be problematic and sometimes tragic.  People feel better so they stop taking the medications that got them that way.  We addicts stop taking care of ourselves in the ways that got us moving forward.  We get stressed, lose focus on what’s really important, and begin the slide toward relapse.

When that happens (assuming that we survive) many of us are ashamed to go to a meeting and admit that we messed up — the worst possible decision we can make.   We need to hit the brakes and return to the basics that brought our success to begin with, getting back on the path to sobriety with meetings, phone calls, fellowship, sponsor, Steps, meditation, daily inventory and so forth.  Relapse is part of addiction, and everyone at the meeting has been there or come terrifyingly close.  All we’re really doing is admitting to ourselves and other people that we’re no better than any other “bozo on the bus.”    

Why did we forget where we came from?  It’s because we are wired to forget pain.  We automatically push such memories aside, and that’s why we are able to get back on the horse, or deliver a second child, or drag ourselves up and dive back into the scrum on the field of life.  But those of us who made a habit of addictively suppressing pain in whatever way possible are even more likely to do it, and that’s why our “built-in forgetter” makes us so prone to backsliding.

Our programs are there to help us stay sane by keeping us in good spiritual, physical and emotional health.  We put them on the back burner at our peril.

Triggers

downloadWe talk about “triggers” a lot, but do we really understand what they are?  We say things like, “I walked into Joe’s Bar, and the sounds and smell triggered me!”  Is that what happened?

Dr. Pavlov taught us about stimulus and response.  He conditioned dogs to salivate when they heard a bell by ringing the bell and then immediately giving them food.  The bell was the stimulus, and the salivation was the response.  Simple.

We’re a little more complicated, but we too have our conditioned responses.  Some of these may be wanting to act out in our addictions when we’re exposed to certain sounds, smells, places, people — even things.  We may respond to certain situations, but we have to ask ourselves how we got into those situations. Continue reading “Triggers”

Someone Mentioned…

By Bill

Someone mentioned that I had a problem, and I listened

Someone mentioned meetings, so I went

Someone mentioned honesty, so I tried to be

Someone mentioned willingness, and I thought I was willing

Someone mentioned meditation, and I thought about it

Someone mentioned phone numbers, so I got a couple

Someone mentioned calling them, but I didn’t want to bother anyone

Someone mentioned getting a home group, so I looked

Someone mentioned connecting with others at meetings, so I said hello to a few

Someone mentioned that I needed a sponsor, but I couldn’t find the right one

Someone mentioned 90 meetings in 90 days, but I had two jobs and I needed to rest

Someone mentioned the twelve steps, so I read them

Someone mentioned working the steps, so I read them again

Someone mentioned doing service work, so I went to a business meeting

Someone mentioned helping others, so I gave them advice

Someone mentioned making amends, but I was always the victim

Someone mentioned that I looked stressed, but I didn’t worry about it

Someone mentioned that they saw me in a bar, but I was drinking a coke

Someone mentioned that they hadn’t seen me for a while

Someone mentioned the obituary, but no one remembered me

Numb

downloadThe topic at last night’s meeting was “dealing with feelings in recovery.” Several folks mentioned how being happy is often just as big a trigger as being depressed or upset.

Early in my recovery from chemical addictions I knew a guy who used to say, “I drank when the dog ran away; then I drank because the dog came home.” At the time I didn’t get it, but it rang a bell in some back room of my head. I’ve since come to find out that it’s so, so true – but now I know why!

When we use outside things to make us feel good – whether alcohol, some other drug or behavior – their initial effect is to distract us from the real world and make us feel better by altering the chemical balance in our brains. As we continue to use, their ability to make us feel better wanes. Eventually we reach the point where we have to use in order to keep from feeling bad. We’re addicted.

We fall into a pattern of using not to feel good, but simply to numb reality. Continue reading “Numb”

Romancing the Relapse: Relationships in early recovery

One of the first things we hear in recovery, both in treatment and around the rooms of the support groups, is “No new relationships in the first year.”  If it’s not one of the first things we hear, it’s certainly one of the first things that get our attention.

That’s hardly surprising.  Emotions that have been suppressed by alcohol and other drugs are suddenly bubbling to the surface with none of the edges knocked off.   Add to that the fact that we’re feeling at loose ends, with all that time on our hands that we formerly spent using, and the fact that we really don’t want to face life directly yet, and we’re ripe for distraction.  Since rehab romances are one of the most common issues in early recovery, it crosses our minds, “Why not, as long as the other person is in recovery too?  We’ll have so much in common!”  Read more..

Seeking Freedom From Addiction On A Tiny New York Farm

“…The farm is run by recovering addicts and alcoholics from New York City, men whose various addictions, and repeated relapses, have left them sickened and homeless. Called Renewal Farm, the patch of land boasts neat rows of vegetables and bright flowers, as well as two greenhouses fashioned out of thick sheets of plastic.

The men’s days are split into two very different parts. They tend the farm, lacing the air with locker-room banter and gentle ribbing. And then they exorcise their worries and voice their hopes at St. Christopher’s Inn, a hilltop rehabilitation center nearby where they sleep.

The men’s lives are shot through with such contrasts. …”

At a Tiny New York Farm, Seeking Freedom From Addiction – NYTimes.com

Another Good Reason For Support Groups Like AA and NA?

The Lonely American

Americans in the 21st century devote more technology to staying connected than any society in history, yet somehow the devices fail us: Studies show that we feel increasingly alone. Our lives are spent in a tug-of-war between conflicting desires—we want to stay connected, and we want to be free. We lurch back and forth, reaching for both. How much of one should we give up in order to have more of the other? How do we know when we’ve got it right?

Two recent studies suggest that our society is in the midst of a dramatic and progressive slide toward disconnection.