The tigers and the strawberry

tiger

I’m feeling weird these days. OK, but weird.

The whirlwind and pink glow of early sobriety is fading and the over excitement is settling. I’m looking around my life and realising how much of it is about escaping the present moment. TV, eating, working, podcasts, busy work, (blogging even) all designed to keep me from being quiet with myself. What the hell am I so afraid of? I’ve had weird moments of insane joy (don’t know if I’m losing my mind here people). Small flashes of intense joy, just being with my children looking at their faces really BEING THERE with them. I’m oscillating between these small flashes of joy and flatness. I also have these thoughts of how I had a narrow escape from death. I feel as though I’ve dodged a massive bullet by being able to get sober again and it’s making me really emotional.

I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book ‘The wisdom of no escape’, I highly recommend her book, the teachings can very happily sit next to any religion you practice.

In the book she tells a Zen story about some tigers and a strawberry. I’m changing the monk to a woman because that’s the way the author told it and because I can…

There was once a woman who was being chased by a ferocious tiger across a field. At the edge of the field there was a cliff. In order to escape the tiger, the woman caught hold of a vine and swung herself over the edge of the cliff. Dangling down, she saw, to her dismay, there was another tiger on the ground below her! And, furthermore, two little mice one black one white were gnawing on the vine to which she clung. She knew that at any moment she would fall to certain death. That’s when she noticed a wild strawberry growing on the cliff wall. Clutching the vine with one hand, she plucked the strawberry with the other and put it in her mouth.

She never before realized how sweet a strawberry could taste.

One could simply interpret this as “when your life was in danger or you have a near death experience life becomes really clear and you appreciate the present moment so much more.”

Another interpretation is that the tiger below represent the anxiety of the future (and also our inevitable death) and tiger above represent the pain of the past.

The vine is the material world and the mice the passage of time. They are black and white because they symbolise day and night. This represents how each cycle of day and night brings us a little closer to death.

The strawberry symbolises the energy, beauty and vitality of the present moment. It is always there, available for those who are willing to bring awareness to it.

We are all born with one foot in the abyss, it’s the human condition. I once heard a talk where the speaker suggested you set an alarm on your phone each hour to remind yourself of the pure miracle of your existence! It’s a bloody miracle that you are alive and that you are breathing, each moment is a miracle. How quickly we forget this and take it all for granted.

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Moderation mountain

Recently a couple of people I know decided to dip their foot into the drinking world again.

On my own journey the very word moderation means hell on earth. It’s that stage where you sort of know you have a problem and alcohol becomes a boa constrictor around your body. It has you in its grip and the more you try to wriggle away (put rules in place) the tighter the snake’s grip gets around you.

If people can moderate their intake of alcohol the more power to them, I just need to clarify that I don’t have an issue with drinkers. I am talking about people that have identified that they may have a problem.

I am a total believer in abstinence based recovery. I tried to moderate for years. I went to a hypnotherapist, I bought moderation management books, I kept drinking diaries, I meditated, I started running,  I did therapy…I would manage to moderate for a while  but eventually the snake tightened its grip even more. The words soul-destroying come to mind. The more I failed the more the snake was squeezing the very life out of me.

So it makes sense that I would want to spare anyone the same pain and just say, skip all that shit. Just abstain, alcohol is a liar and get to the good sober stuff. But it doesn’t work that way. I listened to the bubble hour today and Jean was talking about moderation as a  diagnostic tool. I’ve never thought of it that way. Now I understand now why most people have to go through the hell of trying to moderate and failing, to really see and know for themselves on a visceral level that they are in fact addicted. Sometimes this process can take years. In my case it took many years. I really needed to make sure, just needed to double check that a long break from alcohol doesnt re-set the clock as it were.

The point is to find a place of peace around alcohol. My place of peace is abstaining completely. One drink has never and will never be enough for me.

It reminds me of that part in the Shining where Jack Nicholson sits at the empty bar and says…I’ll sell my soul for a beer. Lloyd appears (the ghostly bartender) Jack immediately orders a bottle of bourbon, a glass and some ice. One beer doesn’t exist for an addict… it never will.

Denial & the power of acceptance

I’ve been thinking about denial and how it keeps us hooked. How does it work? How can a seemingly intelligent articulate human being be duped into this weird shame/denial spiral for years and years and years. Why does it take some people several rock bottom moments and why are some people still completely hopelessly in denial even in the face of liver disease and social services taking their children away?

Factors that contributed to keeping me in denial about my problem:

  1. My peers and husband were mostly heavy drinkers.
  2. Misinformation about how addictive alcohol is and what an ‘alcoholic’ looks like.
  3. The fact that I was highly functioning, working, raising children, running a household and doing it very well (untill the end where it all came apart)
  4. The social Stigma attached to addiction and being labelled an ‘alcoholic’
  5. The mistaken belief that this is a habit  and that you only need willpower to control it. (This one is rife especially among people who love to drink!)
  6. I hadn’t suffered major consequences around my drinking, I hadn’t lost my licence/job/car/house or family.
  7. The idea that once I’ve done therapy and faced my teenage traumas and angst I would somehow be cured and be able to drink like a normal person.

Type A denial is when a person sees, understands, and knows that they have a definite problem. When confronted about the problem they flat-out deny it, knowing that it is true. This type of denial is outright dishonesty or lying.

Type B denial is when a person is either partially or totally blind to a problem that they have. Through a hundred forms of self-deception, rationalization, justification and excuse making, a person can actually believe that they do not have a problem, when everyone around them sees this it is obvious. This type of denial comes from being honestly dishonest or by blindness.

I think most of us know deep down that something is wrong with the way we drink but it looks like alcohol first has to do some real damage before we will even consider that we might have a problem. Isn’t it tragic that we protect the ‘precious substance’ and not ourselves?

Once we accept that this is drug addiction and that there is no going back to ‘normal drinking’ the healing can start and the struggle can cease. I am so glad to be at this point because I have done my share of struggling. It’s a relief to accept reality the way it is. Accept the drug for what it is and accept that your relationship with the drug is what it is. There is so much freedom in that! So much peace.

 

 

 

Chewing my arm off…

pic
My word for this year is self-care and the first and most important part of that puzzle is stopping smoking. I smoked for a very long time then stopped for a very long time so I know it’s just bullshit drug addiction that does nothing for me. All that being said I’ve been using it as a placebo prop to manage stress which is ridiculous especially because Nicotine is a stimulant and it causes your heart rate and blood pressure to skyrocket.

Now that the Christmas hysteria is over I need to put my big girls pants on and sort this shit out.

So today is day 3 AND I want to chew my arm off and punch people in the face and steal my children’s sweets…

I don’t want to be a smoker; it makes me tired and costs an absolute fortune. I want to do YOGA and lots of it! I want to be one of those people who jumps out of bed in the morning, drinks hot water and lemon, meditates and stretches! I can’t do proper Ujjayi breath if I’m smoking fags all day because I start coughing and spluttering like an 80 year old, which is very attractive I can tell you.

If memory serves I think the intense craving will go by day 5 so I’m hanging in there.

What my lapses and relapses have taught me.

This is a post for myself to refer back to if I EVER feel like drinking again. If this helps anyone else that is awesome too.

I had 5 years sobriety in my 20’s but was white knuckling it alone. In my thirties 2 and half years, then another year and half. Then a couple of months at a time (3 to 6 months stretches). I know it seems like I was going backwards in my journey but everytime I went back to drinking I learned something new.

A lapse is one night of drinking followed by getting back on the horse the next day. A relapse is sustained drinking until of course you stop again (if you manage to stop again I should say)

Here is what I learned from all of my lapses/relapses throughout the last couple of years.

  1. It get’s harder and harder to get back on that horse. The longer you relapse for the more shit goes down you are ashamed of and the more you want to drink it away.
  2. Once you’ve realised that you are addicted to alcohol going back to drinking is like going back into a burning house. You know the house is on fire so the cognitive dissonance of the addiction is there all the time.
  3. Alcohol doesn’t silence the inner critic. If you are addicted, the booze stops working the way it ‘used’ to. Even when you are drunk you are still aware of the inner critic voice. And the next morning the voice is screaming not talking.
  4. Alcohol doesnt soothe depression it exasperates it. Alcohol is a depressant. If it did soothe depression why are alcoholics so sad and lonely?
  5. Alcohol does not cure or help loneliness, the addiction isolates you. You can’t hang out with normal people and you can’t truly connect with anyone if you are drunk because you are not present.
  6. Alcohol doesn’t help anxiety. Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can and does worsen anxiety.
  7. Your brain is permanently changed once you have repeated the addictive behaviour enough times you can never go back to normal drinking. This is not a ‘habit’ it is drug addiction and it’s progressive.
  8. Drinking does not relieve boredom. If you are bored with your life it’s because you’ve been drinking for most of it and there is nothing more boring that getting or being drunk all the time.
  9. Alcohol does not soothe nor help after a trauma. It makes the trauma ten times worse. All it does is press the pause button on what happened and the next day in the cold light of morning you are faced with two devastations, the original trauma which was bad enough and then the fact that you drank.
  10. It makes you sick. You body’s immune system is at an all time low and if you keep going back it’s just going to get sicker and sicker.
  11. Level of alcohol consumption will increase at an alarming rate if you keep doing what you are doing.
  12. The first three weeks are the hardest BUT I’ve also learned that your body needs at least 1 to 2 years of sustained sobriety to fully recover from the damage alcohol did.
  13. Depression is very common in early sobriety because your brain needs to heal and recalibrate. You’ve been messing with the brain’s pleasure centre in the most dangerous way so your brain needs TIME to recover.
  14. This addiction kills people but before it kills you it will take away your dignity and it can do irreparable damage to the people you love the most.
  15. You can’t do it alone and in secret.If you keep that back door open you will use it! You need to be accountable to your nearest and dearest and you need community. This time I have community(ya’ll) and I cannot begin to say how much it’s helping me to know that I’m not alone in this.

It’s in everything, now even lip balm!

ginandtoniclipbalm
Sober Pursuits has posted a very entertaining look at the everyday products that now contain references to alcohol or alcohol favouring. The most perplexing of which I think is the Gin and Tonic flavoured lip balm? Who in their right mind came up with that? Do people WANT to smell like Gin and Tonic?

Be warned it is deliciously sweary.

A quote from her:

“Serious fuckwittery. I laugh at all this shit, then do a pause *think bubble* about the insidious normalising of alcohol to the point we can namecheck it is sweets, lip balm, crisps and candles (WTF?!), and then I despair.”

Read the full post here:

https://soberpursuits.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/marketing-go-home-youre-drunk.html

I agree with her, marketing needs to go home because they are all drunk!

xxx