addiction, mental health, self-care

Sucking It Up In The Name Of Self-Care

Sometimes you gotta suck it up and let that stupid comment go.

You’ve got to ignore the messages from the person who refuses ownership – who refuses to acknowledge their part in what you’re parlaying.

And it sucks because in order to be free you need to let some people continue to just not get it. Maybe even let them think you’re the one to blame.

We’ve got our hands full because we have this buddy of ours, our ego, who really wants us to get all up in someone’s inbox, and let them know that what they’re dishing out isn’t OK.

I love my ego – It cracks me up. It teaches me to stand up for myself. But there are many, many times where I’ve had to say, “Thanks for the motivation bud, but I’m tapping out on this one. There is no point in pursuing the need to be right with this particular person.”

Sometimes you have to suck it up and let someone think you’re wrong in the name of self-care.

Even when people try to displace all the wrong right back on to you, you have to hit delete and carry on.

Especially when it comes to addicts. Because you can’t expect truth and generosity and bravery from someone who is locked in an addiction. It is simply not possible, and to try for it is a disservice to your health. 

Addicts are living in survival mode, which skews their ability to witness or acknowledge reality.

A person with a heavily engrained addiction will do whatever they can to protect and defend it and the lifestyle it requires to survive. (Think dissociation. Heavy doses of it.)

I’m not saying the folks without hardcore addictions are always right. No one is immune to being arrogant, narcissistic or selfish on occasion (Because we are human, through and through.)

But when you don’t have a crutch killing off brain cells faster than you can make them, you’ve got a lot more clarity than those who do.

Ego has a field day with hangovers and withdrawals, using it as prime time to make sure everyone knows that no matter what, it is never wrong.

It remains committed to denying ownership or responsibility for any chaos that results from its wake.

And sadly addicts don’t know how to be emotionally generous, specifically in situations where they are being called on to step up and take ownership of the outcomes of their behaviours.

As much as we want to clap back and let them know how we really feel – that what they are dishing out is grade A bullshit – we need to be strategic with our efforts.

As my friend Jen used to say: “Choose Your Battles.

Self-care is more important than attempting to convince someone who isn’t capable of being generous that you’re right.

Which means sometimes you just have to walk away. Or hit the delete button. Or mute the conversation. Whatever works. 😉

addiction, drugs

Let’s Talk About Cocaine

I’m going to talk about something no one will admit to doing in this fentanyl-laced society, but a lot of people still do: cocaine.

If you do a quick google search you’ll see loads of articles about all the fentanyl deaths due to drug use these days. It’s horrifying, to say the least.

What you don’t know is that these headlines aren’t stopping people from doing it. There are loads of folks who still use it on a regular basis.

These are people with nice cars, good jobs, mortgages, vacation funds. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters.

It sounds weird, right? Why would people who seemingly have their lives together, and have so much going for them risk losing it all for cocaine?

And it’s hard not to judge them, right? I mean on the surface it appears to be the dumbest thing you could do: risk your life for a temporary high. And it’s not like they’re all using it daily either. For some, its one-offs a few times a year. Why bother?

I’m going to explain why a person would risk everything for cocaine.

I used to use cocaine – a lot. I was a severely depressed person who spent years self-medicating with alcohol. Cocaine worked in conjunction with booze. It boosted my dopamine levels more than any anti-depressant ever could or did. It made me feel better. It allowed for a temporary reprieve from my intense depression.

Here’s how it would go: I’d feel depressed and start drinking. Shortly thereafter my inhibitions would go out the window and I’d make the call. By “make the call” I mean call a drug dealer. There was always some guy to pick it up from. Some of them would even deliver.

I could have killed myself. But I made it out the other end of what research and psychologists acknowledge as being the hardest cycle of self-medicating to get out of.

That’s right: the cycle of a depressed person using cocaine and alcohol to self-medicate is the hardest addiction to recover from.

Why? Because for every high you experience from a line of coke the lows are devastating. You end up even more depressed than you were before. So you drink to feel better. And a couple of glasses of wine in you think, “gee, I know what would make me feel even better.”

Then you are depressed for days afterwards. And if you just can’t take it anymore you decide to pick up another bottle of wine and the cycle continues.

At my worst, I used cocaine most weekends and sometimes during the week. I know people who have the same schedule today. And I also know people who use it less frequently.

What I want everyone to understand about people who use cocaine is that they aren’t pieces of shit. They aren’t terrible human beings who should be given up on.

They are people who are suffering. And I know they are suffering because they wouldn’t feel the need to escape from their lives to such a degree if they weren’t.

They wouldn’t feel the need to risk their lives whenever they make the call to that drug dealer who is “cool and would never sell coke with fentanyl in it.

They will try to justify using coke with statements like, “I just want to have a good time.” or, “it’s just once in a while.

But let’s deconstruct these troubling statements. How much self-hatred exists in a person if they attribute staying up all night, risking their lives doing cocaine and binge drinking with having fun? How much pain must be hiding behind that surface-level success we see from the outside?

Therein lies the problem: Too many people don’t like themselves. Too many people are hurting. Too many people are living in survival mode with zero self-worth or sense of self, doing their damnedest to justify their high-risk behaviour by labelling it as a good time.

Here’s what isn’t a good time:

  • The pain your loved ones feel when they find out you risked your life and potentially irrevocably damaged your children, parents, friends and siblings for a good time.
  • The devastation your loved ones feel when they realize they can’t enable you and therefore, can’t have you in their lives anymore.
  • The betrayal your loved ones feel when you try to turn it around on them by saying they are overreacting and that it’s not that big of a deal – That it’s normal.

I don’t know how to fix this issue. I don’t know how to make people love themselves enough to stop doing drugs like this.

All I can say is that I see you, I hear you, I care about you, and that you are loved. Because I’ve been there. And I know it’s not easy to change. 

But please do whatever it takes to find a spark of self-worth big enough to motivate change. I’m begging you, no matter what your usage levels are, do whatever it takes to consider a life without this deadly crutch.

Because you deserve so much more than throwing your life away over a night of coke. 

Truth: People who love themselves don’t risk their lives for drugs. People who hurt do.

If you want to understand the cycle of addiction and what leads to it I recommend reading Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, and watching the documentary, In Utero.
addiction, health, wellness

Avoiding your fears through addiction

I might have spent 20 plus years on a convoluted quest to feed an addiction to things, like alcohol, cigarettes, shopping, and drugs. But the act of avoiding my fears was the soil that these socially unacceptable vices of mine grew out of.

I embraced fear in the early double digits — around 12 or 13. I started to believe that to live was to suffer and there was no way around it. I thought I was destined to experience a lifetime of discontent.

So I began to worry a lot, about everything: making mistakes and being rejected for it, not being perfect and being abandoned by my friends and family because of it, never being able to make enough money, and not being able to sleep.

Needless to say, all that fear caused a lot of problems. I struggled with intense bouts of depression and anxiety, got sick a lot, and had major sleep issues. And I was forever feeling terrible, both mentally and physically.

So to distract myself from this learned addiction to fear and the feelings surrounding it, I began to commit my life to the act of avoiding it.

It all started with shopping. As a kid, if I had a really bad day or week, my mom would buy me clothes. And I’d feel better, albeit temporarily. So when I could, I started doing it on my own, the problem being that I didn’t have the money she had.

I was ruthless about it: I would go to any means possible to get what I wanted. All that mattered was the rush I got in the immediate moment of purchase, and the subsequent feelings of comfort surrounding getting the items home and hung up in my closet.

I coveted anything new and expensive, and I became obsessed with the constant pursuit of acquiring things that made me look good on the outside. And It was all done in the name of avoiding feelings of inadequacy that stemmed from that dreaded emotion, fear.

Shortly after I began to embrace shopping as an avoidance tactic I found alcohol. 

I loved it — another escape, albeit a more powerful one. I essentially became a functioning alcoholic in my late teens, until I reached my mid 20’s, and there was no way to hide the fact that I’d lost the ability to do so.

And then there was the smoking that started in my teens, and the drugs that came into play in my 20s – the use of which evolved and intensified as the years passed.

I could go into great detail about how my life fell apart because of all these destructive activities that I felt I needed to survive and be happy. But I’d rather focus on the motivations behind these addictions, as I feel they are most important.

Straight up, I didn’t know how to love myself.  I was never taught how to. And when you don’t have self-love you get the opposite of it, fear.

Based on my views of life, and how terrible I believed it was destined to be, I began to embrace behaviors grounded in fear, like negativity, and aggression.

The logic behind my commitment to negativity and aggression goes like this: If I called out the world as being terrible, rather than letting the flow of terrible only be directed at me, I could feel like I had more power and control.

So I became a beacon for aggression and negativity. I was sending and receiving it and it dictated the direction my life went for many years.

You can imagine how difficult it would be to wrangle in an ego that out of control. That sucker was like a wild horse. To spend 20 years being scared, angry, and bitter, and then to attempt the work involved in removing that toxicity from my mind and soul has been one hell of a process. And it’s not over.

Negativity and aggression is like a blanket with thorns. I get scared and cold, so I want to wrap myself in it, but every time I do I end up scratched  to shit.

And I can’t even get frustrated at myself about it anymore — I know it’s my subconscious trying to protect me.

Because all addictions, whether to things, feelings and emotions, or behaviors, come about as a means to keep us safe. Even though they end up doing the opposite.

I’d like to say I have it all figured out — that I have it all under control. I’d also like to be able to share a clear explanation for how I released my addictions, and learned to deal with my fear in a more constructive way,  because I think that could help a lot of people.

But the truth is I’m still trying to figure out how to keep some of my go-to’s,  like negativity and shopping, at bay. I still default to them when I feel the rush of fear, telling me to put up my guards of aggression, or my credit card.

And while I’m still working on understanding and explaining exactly how I managed to pull myself out of the darkest times in my life, I’m also trying to deal with fear in a different way.

I still feel it. In fact, I feel it more than I’d like to or know to be healthy. But whereas before my greatest fears stemmed from being abandoned or ridiculed, the scariest moments I experience now are when I realize I no longer have my addictions to comfort me.

I feel a deep ache of mourning every time I realize that my fear or anger can’t be helped with a bout of rage, a cigarette, a bottle of wine, drugs, or some emotionally charged shopping.

And In some ways I miss my addictions like one would miss an old friend who passed away. I mourn the loss of them every single time I am upset.

This new response to fear, which encompasses the realization that I have to feel this – there is no way out – is bewildering to me. It’s such a foreign concept, to know there’s nothing that can be done but just feel what I’m feeling until it passes.

But I have no other choice. This is what life has offered me. I can only surmise that the fact that I’m experiencing the feelings or emotions I’m experiencing, is so I can learn that I can and will survive them –  if I only choose to surrender.

Surrendering to everything — every good experience and every bad one — is how I choose to live these days. Some days I really struggle with it, because I’m human, and I have this ego that wants its own way, all the time. But on others I handle everything in spectacular fashion, and really amaze myself in the process.

Every day though, I continue to train myself to get used to the idea of a bad feeling not being life ending. And in doing so I teach myself to fear less, trust more, and make better choices that contribute to my health and wellness — not my addictions.

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addiction, storytelling, writing

avoidance, acceptance, and addiction…

 No one is immune to the waves of addiction.

They come and go, and we ride them to avoid facing the feelings on shore.

But we have to return to shore at some point, or we’ll drown.

There are lot’s of options for us to choose from if we want to run from our pain. Some tactics are accepted with ease, while others aren’t.

Fitness addict? That’s cool. Food or alcohol addiction? what a loser…

People discriminate; addiction doesn’t.

Judgement is another form of addiction, a much relied upon avoidance tactic. Judgement distracts us from our own issues. Pettiness overrides love, which happens to be the very thing an addict is looking for…

Addicts are too distracted by fear to see the possibility of love through the fog.addiction doesn't discriminate

Addiction says you cannot handle life on your own.  It’s a constant, pessimistic, invasive reminder that you alone are not good enough. It says, “You are not powerful enough. You don’t have what it takes to thrive in this body and soul on your own. You need me to be and feel love.”

Addiction is about control.

Sensitive and empathetic people are prone to addiction. When you are born into a family with sharp peaks and unpredictable alienation, every feeling permeates your spirit. You aren’t just handling your own inherent fears, you are feeling yours AND every other family member’s individual degree of trauma.

Who the hell wants to feel that? And what kid is born with the skills to handle themselves well in that scene?

Why wouldn’t you want to avoid the feelings that scene feeds you? You didn’t sign up for that!

Pity is addiction at play.

addiction is about control

Don’t take the pity road.

Pity says because we had a hard day we deserve more of that which takes us further from ourselves. Pity delivers us into the arms of bad decisions and invariable hangovers from whatever our drug of choice may be.

Addiction convinces us that bad decisions are OK. You know, the ones we try to justify, but because our competency is compromised by our addiction, no one is supportive of…

Try telling someone in the throes of addiction that their behavior is wrong: it won’t work. That would take ownership, and how can a person take ownership of themselves when they have no idea who they are?

Addiction keeps us from seeing what’s beneath the fog.

So how can we expect to become greatness if we bury ourselves with addictions?

We can’t.

We can have all the so-called fun we want, avoiding chances and opportunities to be great, but there are consequences.  If we want to change the world, we must find ourselves among the chaos, and stop hiding. We must become that which we are.

Validate yourself. Accept the truth. Face your pain.
third eye quote