“You cannot always control circumstances, but you can control your own thoughts.” ~ Charles Popplestown
Wouldn’t I just love to control everything, everyone and every circumstance so that I may never be upset, angry or hurt. The truth is, I have no control over anything except my thinking, and that is where the trouble comes into play.
For years, I tried to control the behavior of others to manipulate my mood. I would tell them how to behave so that I may be happy. This is a temporary fix to a deep problem.
Honestly, the sheer effort it takes to control other people and their behaviors is exhausting. Putting people where we think they belong, helping them act the way they should act and relying on others to make us happy is unfair to us and them.
Do you find that trying to control everything is exhausting?
So a friend of mine told me about this blog called Kensington Blues. I thought, “hey, I’m from Philly, knew a lot of ‘Kenso’s’ growing up after junior high school, this should be interesting.”
Interesting was an understatement after I saw the photos of addicts on the streets of Kensington. I forced myself to look into their eyes of quiet desperation. My eyes darted over the real-life backdrops of littered streets, graffiti covered buildings and the devastating picture of Nichol who looks no older than fourteen.
The truth is no one wants a life on the street, selling their ass to get high or peddling for change to get another fix. Life just goes that way for some. I can’t explain it and I know in my heart that any of those women could have been me. That stark reality is forever at the forefront of my mind when I see a bottle of booze or happen to be within earshot of someone talking about drugs.
It is a life to which no one aspires. Sometimes it creeps in like a slow, ugly plague. Other times, it punches you in the throat when you’re thrown out of the house at eighteen or molested by a trusted adult.
Us addicts and alcoholics spent many minutes on our knees, begging God for salvation or death, whichever should come first.
Please, take a look at the blog. The life of an addict isn’t always some fancy story surrounded by a dysfunctional family in a three bedroom rancher portrayed on ‘Intervention.’ It can be much darker and sadistic.
Relapse is a harsh reality in the world of recovery. There are a million reasons people give for relapse but the number one I hear everywhere I go is this: RESENTMENT. Someone who follows my blog sent me a fascinating, short video about relapse. If you’re interested, watch it. Profound, it sticks to the point.
The disheartening truth is that addicts and alcoholics relapse long before they pick up again. A switch goes off and the obsession kicks back into the brain. The obsession leads to the compulsion to drink or drug. Once the compulsion is acted upon, it is off to the races.
Please, watch the video, visit the website if you wish, and leave your thoughts in the comment section! I’d love to hear from you.
I was always a people pleaser. Always… I couldn’t stand to be disliked so I would keep my feelings buried and wear that plastic smile, laugh that fake laugh and do what it took to gain acceptance. This is probably the worst thing I have ever done to myself. This is worse than sleeping with strangers, driving like a maniac or even breaking a window (on purpose). Because by not speaking my truth, I fortified a wall of lies around my soul that I still chip at today.
I suck at speaking my truth. I get that knot in my stomach and I get all frazzled and start thinking too much. That’s when my truth turns into a monster.
Now, while I am an average writer, I suck at talking. Seriously. I hold it in so long that by the time I do get it out (sometimes hours or even days later) it comes out all crazy and illogical. And honestly, at that point I have lost my focus. This has plagued me since I was little.
Saturday night my boyfriend and I went to a bar & grill. Ugh, I know. But his friend (who he hadn’t seen in over twenty years) was playing in a band (with his other long-lost friend) and he just wanted to clear the air with things in the past. Okay… no biggie.
We talked before we got out of the car and made a pact. Neither would leave the other under any and all circumstances. Period. If things got hairy or either of us started to feel uncomfortable we would say so and then we would jet. Okay, there is the pact.
That pact lasted about fifteen minutes. Yeah, he left me sitting at the bar (with my soda and Loaded Nachos) and went to go mingle with all his old friends. I sat there alone for thirty minutes being ogled by creepy old guys and the ‘shot girl’ asking me three times if I wanted a shot. My blood pressure shot through the roof the first time she came by with her tray full of booze loaded test tubes. I snapped ‘no’ as I waved my hand. Still, she came by two more times. Ugh, again.
So I am trying to see through the wall to locate my boyfriend in the other part of the bar. “Where the fuck are you?” I am thinking as I get upset. I can’t see him but hope he is on the other side of that wall.
I finally spot my boyfriend and some hot blonde hanging all over him. Okay, now I am feeling resentful, angry and jealous. This is just not fucking going well… at all. My whole ‘fight or flight’ thing is kicking the shit out of me because I am extremely uncomfortable.
I do not belong here.
So finally after all that, he comes back over with one of his friends. I know my face says, ‘you suck’ because, after all, I wear my heart on my sleeve. His friend apologizes to me for keeping him away. Do I get an apology from my boyfriend? Nope. All I get is justification and ‘I didn’t do anything wrong.’
For the rest of the night, true to form, I stuffed in all inside because I didn’t want to ruin the night or act like an ass in the establishment. That’s what I used to do back when I was ‘out there.’ I’d act like a total psycho no matter where I was if whoever I was with at the time hit me with a perceived injustice. But this time I wasn’t drunk or high. I was just me… raw and real with my emotions.
So I guess I have grown up a little. Most of my old behaviors didn’t ooze from my pores and I kept my composure for the rest of the night. I did try to bring how I felt up later on when we got home, but that didn’t go well.
Today I did bring it up. I had to speak my truth. I had to say where I was inside and I had to let him know that I was not mad at him, but that he broke his word to me and that hurt. And it wasn’t a question of me being right. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted an apology for him leaving my side; for him breaking the pact we made in the car. He did apologize (sort of) after (from an outsider’s point of view) a hilarious argument/discussion/fight outside on Sunday.
I was always the “why kid.” You know, that annoying little brat in the back seat (or at the lunch table) that questions everything. I mean, I never questioned why the sky was blue or the sun was hot, but I did question a lot of stuff that really spoke for itself.
When I drank and drugged, I questioned why my life sucked so bad. I questioned why life felt like hell everyday. I questioned why the hell God kept me around after it was clear I did not want to be alive. Honestly, my life sucked because I chose for it to suck. Simple…
What I have learned in these past years is that questioning everything is a ridiculous behavior that I still get caught up in… a lot. I start to question things when I don’t go to enough meetings. And the questions I ask, in the car on the way to work (this is when I have my conversations with God) are pretty silly. They are the kind of questions a teenager would ask their mother or God.
Yeah, I am slowly catching up to my real age. I think at this point I am like 20 in drug years.
Other things I question are people’s motives or actions. For example, I might question why my boyfriend did ‘x, y, or z.” But you know what? It doesn’t really matter because he did whatever it is he did. My job is to figure out why it makes me feel sad, jealous or angry and go from there. I should question myself more and question others less.
You’ve heard the sayings… “don’t look back” — “learn from the past” — “the pain heals, but the scars remain” — there are hundreds of sayings that talk about the past. Looking back on the past kept me in a whirlwind of sorrow and misery. I would stay there, dwelling and obsessing like a goat over a woolen shirt. I still do it sometimes and then I think, “what the hell am I doing?!”
Feeling sorry for myself became an art as I sat at the bar, drowning my sorrows yapping about my pathetic life (which was everyone else’s fault, by the way).
I used to be hung up on the “why” of the past. Why did this happen to me? Where did I go wrong? Why me? WHY ME? WHY ME?!
The trick for me is to look back, learn and move the hell on.
It’s true, I have learned from the past. I learned that drinking and drugging were transparent band-aids that masked my misery while pouring salt in my wounds. That is a part of my past I cannot forget. Ever. But, I had to get over it… the pain, the sorrow and especially the feeling sorry for myself. How would I do that? After all, I was great at feeling sorry for myself. I was great at sitting in my own crap while I donned the face of misery and self-pity.
I should bother to look back, but only to learn and share.
I’m not sure how many of my beautiful readers dealt with bullying and teasing as children, but I have to say, that stuff has a profound affect on people. It sure as hell had a profound affect on me. So much that, even today I, at times, have a case of the uglies. You know that sick, yucky, disturbing feeling inside… that “I’m not good enough, not pretty enough..” Hell, not anything enough.
As I write this post, I am reflecting on my day. I had a good day all in all (any day sober is a good day!) I did have a case of the uglies today, however, and when it was going down in my (always) amped up mind, I was beating myself up… royally. The “uglies” as I call them, are sneaky, vile little things that grip me up in a second if I cannot “kill” them.
I was talking with my boyfriend today about this stuff in a sense. Not specifically “killing the uglies” but more so why the hell shit bothers me that bothers me. Like, stuff that shouldn’t really bother me. One thing I do when I talk to people is listen to what I am saying because, believe it or not, there is always some message in my words that I should hear. Does that sound vain and egotistical? Perhaps…
I brought up a profound event in my life that shaped my sense of self from the age of nine until this very moment. I talk about these things because I have to KILL THE UGLIES. I have to remind myself that there is a deeper root to my insecurities and low self-esteem if I am going to get better. There is always something more than the “surface insecurity” and that is what I have to get to… fast.
This is where a big part of my program comes in. I couldn’t get over any of the pain, torment and geekiness I felt from a child through my early thirties. Being a good alcoholic, I drowned my pain in booze and promiscuity, as I searched for someone or something to fill that void or abandonment. Long after I got sober, I still searched. There had to be someone or something out there that could kill this damn ugly feeling. But alas, I learned that I had to kill the uglies from the inside.
Some days I still struggle. I might stop praying, slack on my meeting attendance or stop networking with my sober circle. That’s when the uglies start to seep in. Thankfully, I know just what to do to squash those bastards.
Do you have something that helps you when you start to get overwhelmed?
Grief. It’s one of those things that is hard to let go of and hard to handle. We grieve loss: Loss of people, places and things; loss of pets. But did you ever consider grieving over yourself? I’ll bet you never quite looked at it that way.
Recovery is a rebirth. We come into the rooms, the doctors’ offices and the out-patient programs beaten and broken. We are torn, tattered and abused; looking for something or someone to save us. We’re either meek and mild or loud and brazen. Some of us are a little of both.
When I first got sober I was a little of both. I was kind of shy (especially around women) and I dressed provocatively, stuck with the men, pulled up at meetings blasting my heavy metal. I needed to be noticed. I needed that attention to flip that self-worth switch on inside. Seeking outside validation is classic in alcoholics and I was (still am!) a classic alcoholic. I made all the conversations about me (I was really good at this!). Gosh, I could go on forever!
This self-seeking behavior (definitely a character defect) went on for years until one day…
I got serious about my program. I started hitting six meetings a week. I got another sponsor and actually talked with her and did step work with her. I listened at meetings and even started sharing at some of them. I started hanging with the women, giving my phone number to newcomers and even hung out with these chicks outside of the rooms. What was happening to me?! Who was this woman who stared back at me in the mirror every day? I didn’t know her, but I liked her.
She was different. She didn’t want to wear “hoochie mama” clothes anymore; felt comfortable around other women. She liked the image in the mirror.. sometimes.
Yes, I still blast my heavy metal but I definitely notice a change in me. So do a lot of other people. I like who I am these days. I no longer hide behind the insecure mask of “LOOK AT ME!” I know that sounds strange, but insecurity leads to external validation which is a band-aid that never heals internal wounds.
And I did take a moment a couple of years ago to grieve the old me. I sat down in a park with my journal and nature and wrote a letter to myself. I said, “Goodbye, Old Darlene. There are some parts of you I shall miss, but ultimately, not much. This is my new path, with my new life and a new me. I’m sure you’ll visit sometimes, Old Darlene, and that’s okay, but you cannot stay.”
Have you ever given any thought to an “old you” and “new you?”
When I was little, I wasn’t scared of much, which is kind of scary in itself. I remember being afraid of my closet and upsetting people. Oh, and worms… but these days I love worms. Funny how feelings change. All my life, while not afraid of objects, heights, scary movies or a bad hair day, I was terrified of hurting others feelings, failing and not measuring up. Most of us can probably relate to these fears which are normal to an extent.
These fears destroyed me! My fear of failing caused me to not try. My fear of not wanting to hurt others’ feelings caused me to make choices in my life that were damaging. My fear of not measuring up kept me in toxic relationships because I felt, “hey, I cannot do any better than this!”
Having no fear isn’t healthy, either. I remember when that slogan was everywhere: NO FEAR. I saw it on pickup trucks, shirts and have even seen a tattoo or two of this slogan. It is fun to project the ‘no fear’ attitude, but fear is real and sometimes it is there for a reason. Fear is that feeling in the belly that says, “Danger!” It is up to me to assess that fear.
Is my fear legitimate?
I found a fascinating article on the five basic forms of fear here. The interesting this is that they all deal with the death of that crazy thing called EGO. I suggest reading the article. It details great explanations of the five basic forms of fear:
Loss of Autonomy
In my twelve-step work, I had to take an honest inventory of my fears (which was a fear in itself!) to get to the nitty-gritty of why the hell I could not stop drinking, why I insisted on sabotaging my life and a host of other calamities that caused me unnecessary stress.
When I got the core of my fear of abandonment, rejection and humiliation my life started to change; I started to change. I asked for a raise. I left a toxic relationship. I let my guard down and started being me.
As I continue my journey to self-discovery, I still have fears. After all, that human element is something inherent in me forever. With the help of God as I understand Him, my program, and the awesome people in my life, I am able to work through those fears and grow.
How do you handle fear? Do you recognize an irrational fear?
What a cliché, right? The first time I actually heard this saying was in the movie “Kiss of Death” with David Caruso. David’s character was the one who said it and the phrase kind of echoed in my brain every moment since then when things got a little (or a lot) rough.
Also, “Stronger” is a great uplifting song by Kelly Clarkson. Check it out of you haven’t heard it. You’ll like it, I’m sure.
But I’m not here to talk about Kelly or David. I am here to talk about the hurdles we face, the doubts that creep and the life stuff that keeps on happening even when we just want to slam the door shut and get five minutes of peace.
You see, I feel like God keeps testing me and my faith. Is it a test of how sincere I am in my willingness to change and hand stuff over? Maybe. I don’t know. I do try to hand stuff over on a daily basis. I pray every morning and every night and I always ask God for the knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out. That is another blog post entirely, because I still struggle with that. What is God’s Will?
I always try to do the next right thing, keep my word and help others. There is a lot of truth in the fact that if I always do these three things, I will always have a great day and will feel truly blessed. And it really happens that way for me, until something upsets me.
Usually I try to figure the crap out by myself through journaling or talking with friends. Tonight I tried something different. I called my al-anon sponsor.
That was the best idea I had in the last three weeks.
The things that won’t kill me and have the capacity to make me stronger are those life events that I think I can’t handle, but wind up handling. I then look back and say, “Wow. How did I get through that?” You’ve said it, too. Those painful, disturbing chaotic life events that happen to us – sometimes gradually, sometimes immediately – and take us to a realm of being we’ve never experienced before. We get through them; all of them. And when we come out on the other end, that’s exactly what we ask ourselves: how did I get through that?
I think analyzing such things is pointless. To reflect would be okay, but analyzing kind of kills the element that you did get through that thing you thought you never could. Basking in the moment of triumph would probably feel a whole lot better. Analyze later.
Was there ever a moment you thought you could not go on but managed to get through? How did you feel afterwards?