Those Damn Emotions!

English: emotionsSo I’m sitting there on my couch, I make a comment, someone comments on the comment I make and… BOOM! Commence being up in my head fo the next 36 hours.
“Why did they say that?” “Am I not good enough?” “How can I be better?” “Dammit, my ex’s were right.” “If only I had better(insert trait or quality here).”

Why do I have to take everything so personally?  The truth is, I don’t have to take everything so personally.  I kind of choose to when it comes down to it; we all do. Maybe it is the way I am wired, maybe it is the way I was raised… who freaking knows.  All I know is it ticks me off and while through my twelve step program I have learned tools to combat my inner demons, sometimes they blind side me as I sit there with my soul bleeding through my fingers.

Now, back in the day (like three years ago) I had to let my offender know exactly what wrong they had done me and you can believe, that poor soul wished they never saw me after I was through with them: definitely a form of hostage taking at the highest level.

As I’ve walked this journey of sobriety and self-discovery I noticed something.  I am either really up or really down and when I am in between (very rare) I feel like something is wrong. I do try to be somewhere in the middle and get nervous if I am there for too long.  My boyfriend pointed this out to me.  He said something like, “Babe, blah blah blah.”  The truth is I don’t remember.  But it had something to do with me being up and down.  Had his statement hit me on an emotional level, I would have remembered what he said verbatim.  But it didn’t, so I just shrugged it off.

These days, I have a tendency to still hold resentments (bad ju ju in recovery!) but I handle them in a different manner… sometimes.  I am an emotional creature.  I find that most artists, writers, etc. are more emotional than others.  Maybe that is why we draw and write… I don’t know the answer to that either.

What I do know is that I have a sickening knot in my stomach now and my program flew out the window.  No, I did not drink or drug, but this anger/resentment/rage thing is nauseating.  If I get the laundry done in time, I’ll head to the 7 pm meeting tonight that is right up the street.  And yeah, I say “get the laundry done” because no one else is going to frigging get it done.

So, what should I do when I feel like this?

Call my sponsor.

Call someone else in the program.

Get to a meeting.

What should I not do?

ISOLATE AND THINK…. I am very good at this. I need to unlearn this behavior… stat.

Frustration… Procrastination… Those Damn ‘tions…

English: A Diagram of procrastination cycle. T...
English: A Diagram of procrastination cycle. Task features, internal factors, irrational beliefs, behavior and consequences are shown. used for a university assessment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am at a point now in my life where things are pretty much exactly how I want them (minus the ‘I’m rich’ status).  I have an amazing man in my life.  He pretty much encompasses everything I ever wanted in a guy (he doesn’t like sports – but I look past that!) right down to the way he touches me and tells me he loves me.  There are so many other things that have happened in my life in the last 6+ years… I sat here tonight and thought… “I am truly humbled.”

See, everything was so overwhelming when I first got sober… I had truly hit rock bottom.  I was living in my enabler’s basement, my kids were taken from me by Youth Services and I was unemployable.  I remember dropping to my knees one night as I sobbed and begged God to help me.  God heard me and stepped in.  Of course, I had to do the footwork.  I did that footwork with such thirst and hunger… I still do the footwork to stay sober.  Staying clean and sober is an ongoing process that requires little thought on some days and a lot of prayer on others. I can’t remember the last time I actually craved a drink or drug.  I am fortunate in that sense… there are times at meetings I hear people share about how they “want to drink.” I am not saying I am immune to ever picking up a drink, but I can’t go there.  Me picking up a drink or a drug is like an average human being walking in front of an oncoming train.  Suicide.

FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD

The statement above is one of the truest I have ever read.  Think about it.  You can pray for a new job, a new home, more patience or a smaller butt, but those things are NOT going to fall into your lap without striving toward them.  I prayed for a new job in 2007 and busted my ass looking for one.  I found a great one.  I prayed for guidance with my previous relationship.  All the clues pointed to ending it and I did so.  I could go on and on….

Here is where things get iffy.  All the ‘tions’ I mentioned in the post title.. those are character defects.  Or as my Al-anon sponsor says (I’m ad-libbing here) “character defects are strengths unchecked.”

My biggest character defect is PROCRASTINATION.  I am so good at it, I could probably teach it as an art form at the local community college.  I come up with excuse after excuse and reason after reason for not doing what I need to do to go where I need to go.  Facebook of course is a huge catalyst in my procrastination, but really it is me.  I am the culprit; my own worst enemy to throw a cliché out there.

So I started thinking:  How can I stop procrastinating?  Because procrastinating and not doing what I need to leads to an overwhelming amount of frustration.  I’ll tell you how I can stop.

JUST STOP PROCRASTINATING AND START DOING! JUST DO IT ALREADY!  There is no magic pill that will help me with this crap.  There is no book, no seminar, no class, no pill, no drink, no anything that will help me do what I need to do… I just have to do it.

I want to publish my novel that I wrote in November of 2011… hasn’t happened because I haven ‘t done anything about it.

I want to score a cushy writing deal regarding alcoholism/addiction so I can help others and myself… hasn’t happened because I am inconsistent.

So there is the cycle.  I want to change my life… I procrastinate.. I get frustrated.. I give up.  And it goes on and on and I am exactly where I always am which is exactly where I do not want to be (in terms of a career).

So if I have faith that things will go the way they should go and I do the footwork to make my goals, dreams and aspirations come true, things will fall magically into place.

Do you procrastinate much?  How do you get over the lazy hump?

People, Places and Things

Sobriety medallion
Sobriety medallion (Photo credit: annrkiszt)

When I was new in sobriety and going to my outpatient group along with attending four or five AA meetings a week, I heard “people, places and things” a lot. When I was out drinking, using and being a degenerate, my people, places and things were drug dealers, bars and excuses to give me the fuel to drink or use more.

My very first time in an attempt to get sober was in January of 2005.  Now, my reasons for wanting to get clean and sober were inwardly pathetic.  I told my dad I did not want to get high or drunk anymore.  He said, “Darlene, is this an attempt to detox so it won’t take so much to get drunk or high?”  “Of course not, Dad.  I really mean it!” So on New Year’s Day in 2005 my dad drove me up to Livengrin in Bensalem, PA and dropped me off to detox for four days.

Now, when I went in there, my dad was right on the money.  That was exactly why I wanted to go to detox. But after being in there and getting weaned off of opiates and detoxing from alcohol and spending time with people who had it far worse than I did, I changed my mind. I really did want to get clean and sober.

After four days in detox, I got out and felt refreshed.  I had a roommate who lived in Bucks County (I was living in Philadelphia at the time) and we exchanged numbers so we could hit a meeting in a couple of days.

I went to an AA meeting with her; it was the only AA meeting I attended in 2005.  My dealer lived right down the street from me and I knocked on her door about seven days after I had gotten out of detox, told her I just got out of detox and asked her if she had anything. She looked at me stupefied.  Looking back, I do not blame her.

See, people, places and things are huge in recovery.  I am not saying that everyone that goes into recovery or treatment or gets clean and sober should move, change their name and paint their dog, but it is a good idea to be aware of triggers (people, places and things).

How I avoided people, places and things:

1)      I moved.  This is not possible for everyone, but it helped me.

2)      For the first few months of my sobriety, I avoided passing establishments (places) I previously frequented.

3)      I worked on what my triggers were and went to great lengths to recognize them; not embellish them and use them as an excuse to drink.

For those who cannot move, I suggest building a strong sober network and keeping in touch with those people.  Addicts and alcoholics still active in their addiction/alcoholism feel resentful at those trying to get sober.  And while they will not necessarily try to drag someone down who is trying to get clean and sober, they will not exactly be on your cheering squad.

I have a friend I used to get high with and had coffee with him a couple of times after being new in sobriety.  I could not figure out why I had an awful knot in my stomach and wanted to get high each time I was in his presence.

Thankfully, I had a great sponsor and was in outpatient therapy at the time (both of these helped me greatly) that gave me the tools to recognize that he was a “people” and I needed to cut ties for a while.

Do you have any people, places or things that trigger you into bad behavior?

Building a Sober Network

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de kafo. Français : Photo d’une tasse de caffé Español: Taza de café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first came in the rooms, I did not know what to expect.  As an active alcoholic, I made it a point to avoid people (especially women) at all costs because of the shame I felt inside. So when I got sober, went to meetings, and saw people talking and laughing as they drank coffee from little Styrofoam cups I was kind of freaked out. It was one of those things like, “Ok, I didn’t know what to expect, but I surely did not expect this.”

Being a woman (and I hear this in the rooms and the stories) and newly sober I did not get along with other women.  I stuck with the men because I had always been more comfortable with men and apparently, I am/was not the only woman who felt that way. 

It took me a good three years before I took a deep breath and started chatting with women outside the rooms before the meeting, during the break and after the meeting.  There is a slogan “show up early and stay late” concerning meetings and that is the best thing any alcoholic can do to build a sober network.

There is also a slogan “the men stick with the men and the women stick with the women” that newly sober people should stick to, but rarely do (I did not stick with the women in early sobriety and wish I would have).

How I Built My Sober Network

The biggest thing in building my sober network was getting rid of the old, drunk network I once had. That was first and foremost as people, places and things are a huge part of getting sober and staying sober. So I had to weed out my old “party” friends and replace them with new sober friends that have similar goals in mind.

As I met people in the rooms and got phone numbers (from women!), I quickly realized that getting a phone number and actually calling that number were at opposite ends of the comfort spectrum level. I had to talk to these women or I was going to stay stuck in the rut of anger, resentment and bitterness that had consumed my life.

 This is what I did:

  • Said hello to women at meetings.
  • Made it a point to make small talk with women during break.
  • Got phone numbers and gave out my phone number to women at meetings.
  • Went to women’s meetings.

Doing all of those things was extremely uncomfortable but they needed doing and I could feel myself grow a little more each time I talked or interacted with another woman in the program.

Today I do not have many female friends, but the friends I do have are good, sober women that I can count on if I ever need an ear a shoulder.  We have coffee, chat about life stuff (not always pertaining to sobriety), are honest with each other about where we are, and if there may be a better way of doing things.

Tell me about your network (sober or otherwise).

Expressing Emotion

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings
English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emotions are a part of our internal make-up.  All emotions derive from two core feelings: love and hate.  Slice it how you want, all the positive feelings we have stem from a form of love, all the negative feelings stem from hate.  

I just finished reading a great book (I reviewed it – the link to that will be up within a couple of weeks) called, “Why You Drink and How to Stop” by Veronica Valli.  I was skeptical at first, but I kept an open mind and although I am over six years into my sobriety, I learned some valuable information from this book regarding emotions.

One of the worst behaviors I ever learned was “acting out based on emotion.”  Being a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, if something made me feel sad or angry, I would act accordingly.  Likewise, if something made me feel happy or fuzzy, the addict in me would react in a positive manner and want more, more, more.

Now, human beings are emotional beings.  Duh, like I am telling you something you do not already know.   However, when we let our emotions rule us, we get into trouble.  There is no law or rule that dictates “everyone must know how everyone feels all the time.”

I will share a psychotic story from my past:

            When I was 22 years old, I was already married for six years.  Yep, I got married when I was 16.  It was part of that whole “alcoholic thinking.” As an alcoholic, I thought outside circumstances could fix the way I felt inside always.

            I had found out my husband at the time was cheating on me and I went ballistic.  Like full on rage mode:  seeing red, black, shaking, and everything else, that comes with unabated rage. Being ruled by my emotions (all stemming from hate) I decided to do what I thought was in my best interests and show him.

            So, being out of my mind (and to make a long story short) I wound up smashing my beautiful 1986 Monte Carlo into his pick-up truck.  Yeah, not smart.  This is not the best way to express emotion!  Now I had new feelings and emotions to deal with: remorse, guilt and sorrow.

           In the midst of the insanity, I thought I was expressing emotion in a healthy way!  I mean, I was pissed and needed to let someone know, right? Well, maybe… but there are healthier ways to express emotion. 

            One of the best tools I learned in sobriety is to take a moment and calm the hell down.  Just because I am feeling “some kind of way” does not mean I need to freak out, hop in my car to drive like a maniac or start throwing dishes. 

            Some of the ways I have successfully controlled my emotions:

  • Calling a sponsor or a friend and talking it out.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Chanting a mantra.  “Feelings aren’t facts, facts aren’t feelings.”
  • Journaling! 
  • Going for a walk or some other physical exercise.
  • And yes, even taking a nap.

                        I know I have brought up journaling a bit in previous posts, but writing does help.  Moreover, finding what helps (not hinders or hurts) to control and deal with emotions is the key. 

                        I still have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve, which may just be one of those character defects I have to learn to control if it has not been removed.

            How do you express emotion?