“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?
How awesome is it to celebrate freedom from the slavery of drugs and alcohol? Once a drudgery of self-loathing and hatred, when I put down the drink and the drug, I found a new way of life and discovered freedom to the core.
There were no more lost moments of clarity. Nights once spent in a drunken stupor were a thing of the past. My nights turned into eating at diners after meetings with other like-minded people in search of a common goal. I discovered that drinking and drugging were not a staple when it came to fun.
Fun and entertainment came in new and enlightening ways without drugs and alcohol. As I started to work my program, the chain-links of self snapped one by one, creating a gate I could swing open into a new world.
“One of the best ways to uncover some of those long-hidden wants is to pretend.”
Yes! This is a fancy way of saying, “Fake it until you make it.” And why shouldn’t we? A few years back I read “The Secret” which is all about the Law of Attraction.
Whatever your predominant thoughts are, you best believe that stuff is going to happen. Don’t believe me? Have you ever driven to work (running late of course) and all that is on your mind is awful traffic along with foxhole prayers for no red lights? And what happens? Red lights and crazy traffic. UGH.
Yeah, I’ve been there, too!
Sometimes I envision great things for myself. No, I still haven’t woken up looking like Julia Roberts, but I have noticed that when I pretend things are going to turn out awesome, they almost always do.
Sometimes I pretend that I am a bigtime writer for Rolling Stone magazine. While that hasn’t happened yet, I am now writing about music for three websites. Am I getting paid? Nope! But I have my eye on the prize and I am loving what I am doing.
Have you ever tried positive thinking? How did it work out for you?
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.
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.
Through my addiction, I thought I was escaping the self-inflicted hell I had brought upon myself. I used and drank to escape my demons, never realizing I had created more each time I picked up. It’s a hard lesson, really, and one I am glad I grasped before I fell too far down that pit of scarred brimstone.
The sneakiness of addiction is interesting. One night I was high as a kite sailing through a windstorm in a vain attempt to mask my hate and loneliness. Before I knew it, I was living in a basement, my kids taken from me and I was further into hell than I could imagine.
I looked like walking death (literally – I should have taken a picture). All that hate, self-loathing and insecurity I tried so hard to hide, seeped out of my pores like puss from a poorly popped pimple. My isolation was profound. I had resorted to sitting in a basement, doing drugs and drinking while writing pages and pages of angry, tormented journal entries. Those journals are lost forever, but some of the stuff I wrote looked like:
Why am I so pathetic? What the fuck is wrong with me? I wish I would die in my sleep. I’m ugly. I’m a loser. I did so much coke tonight and drank so much Blackhaus, I was sure I would die. But here I am… awake for another epic fucking day.
The thing about such a revolting self-inflicted hell is… it’s damn hard to climb out of that hole. Being unemployed (and unemployable), weighing 120 pounds (I’m 5’10”) and feeling sick (like dope sick) and having to look at that shit in the mirror, it’s hard to say (or think): What the fuck am I doing? This sucks!
That’s crazy, right? But that’s what the demon did. It caressed me slow and soft, told me lies all the while dragging me day by day to hell. I am eternally grateful that by the Grace of God and getting help from my program I was able to crawl and then walk out of the shadows I created. It was not an easy road, but after a while, I realized that the road (my new road) although rocky and sometimes bumpy, was a lot more pleasant than my old road which went right through hell.
When you were in darkness, did you ever think you’d see light?
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?”
I noticed something about myself yesterday and it wasn’t one of those, “oh wow, this is so cool! I didn’t know I could do that!” epiphanies. It was more like an, “are you freaking kidding me, why do I do this?” glaring defect.
Sometimes I act a certain way, think a certain way or feel a certain way simply because I think that I THINK this is what I am supposed to do. Like, I really get upset over unmonumental bullcrap. Sincerely. This light bulb went off in my head this morning.
So then I ask myself: “WHY AM I SO DAMN ANGRY?” Like, why do I let my head control me to the point of borderline insanity? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I do know that it drives me batty and I am in the painstaking process of changing the way I think so I can change the way I feel there by changing the way I act.
Did you ever tell someone something and their reaction is along the lines of, “Well, just stop doing that.” or “Think about something else.” or (and this is my favorite) “Get over it.”
Get over it?! Cue bitter resentment teetering on unabated rage. “Nobody tells me to get over it! I’ll get over it when I’m good and ready!” “How dare you tell me that. You don’t know how I feel.”
Yeah, somebody call me the Waaambulance.
So, this morning after much coffee and a bowl of Special K Fruit & Yogurt (okay, two bowls) mature thoughts started to creep in my head (kinda like a black goo, only not as ugly) and I started to think:
I do not have to feel this way!
Anger is a choice and it’s on me if I choose anger (or any one of the subcategories of anger).
I can come back to these ugly thoughts later.
I will feel how I choose to feel today.
Let me repeat that last one: I will feel how I choose to feel today.
And that there is the truth about anger. We choose to feel angry, resentful, jealous, bitter and any of the other byproducts of hate. We also choose to feel many of the byproducts of love. We get to choose how we feel about anything at any moment in any situation. We have that power. That’s some huge stuff right there!
Today I have a choice and so do you. Today I will choose love over anger, confidence over insecurity and acceptance over jealousy.
More so in the last ten years than any other year there seems to be this strive for perfection. People want the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect nose, boobs, butt… I could go on forever. And don’t sit there like you don’t know what I’m talking about, because you see it, too.
Wake up people! There is no such thing as perfection… none. So strive away and kill yourself if you must trying to make it, do it, write it, sing it, draw it or look perfect.
IT. WILL. NEVER. HAPPEN.
But what we can do is strive for perfection. We can always do better, be better, act better, write better, think better, talk better, love better, work better….. we can always be better.
As an alcoholic (which translates to a sick mo-fo) one defect that plagues me to this day is the defect of “having to be perfect.” So in a sense, this blog post is written to me along with the rest of my awesome readers because I have been feeling insecure for the past week or so.
Insecurity is my warped devil. It tells me I will fail at everything. It tells me I am never good enough or anything else enough. I have to smash that devil with the hammer of hope. I have to tell myself that, “yes, I do have flaws, but my flaws are what make me the beautiful human being I am.”
Some days I believe it, others not so much. This is where my program of recovery comes in to play.
When I compare myself to others, I fall short every damn time. “She’s this, she’s that. He has this, he has that. Theirs is better. When am I going to get my just desserts?!”
When I compare myself to myself, I excel every time. This time last year I was living somewhere else, in a different (loveless) relationship and depressed. I was overweight (one of my ‘I never’s’) and feeling like total crap.
I made a conscious effort after a mild epiphany to “Strive For Perfection.” And must keep in my mind I will never attain it, but striving for it will and has helped me continue my progress. Some days I have a mild setback, other days I kick butt! In the words of Dori in “Finding Nemo” – JUST KEEP SWIMMING.
We are as perfect as our imperfections…
Do you strive for perfection? Are you a perfectionist? How do you deal with the demand for perfection in today’s society?
Keeping a progress journal is not “AA approved work” but it helped me. As a writer, journaling has always been my go-to for jotting down ideas, writing my dreams and aspirations and detailing my day-to-day events. Journaling does not always have to be writing. It can be doodling, drawing, cutting and pasting pictures from magazines and even using stickers.
There was a period of about a year in my early sobriety that I would cut out a meditation from “Meditations For Women” and tape it in my journal. I would then reflect on the passage by writing my own ideas and finish it up with cute stickers on the page. It worked for me and when I went back and re-read my entries years later, it gave me hope that change is possible.
For example: on May 26, 2008 I celebrated two years of sobriety yet was still feeling insecure and helpless in a sense. On May 26, 2010, after four years of sobriety, I could see that I was making concrete changes to the way I thought, which in turn changed the way I felt. I had let go of old ideals and notions, replacing them with healthier ways of thinking (and living). On May 26, 2012, I celebrated six years of sobriety and still on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance of truth in my life.
Journaling allowed me to express myself without fear of being judged. It allowed me to express ideas that may or may not be accepted by society. Today I use Penzu, which is an online password protected website where I write my heart out. Of course in the beginning (when it was all new and shiny) I was journaling in Penzu everyday, but like anything else in my life, the shininess dulled and I started journaling when the mood struck or I was really pissed off. I also journal when I feel elated (like when I met my new boyfriend).
Through journaling, which is really just a way of being blatantly honest with myself, I learned what I want in life, what mattered, what didn’t matter, what pissed me off, what made me happy, what I thoroughly enjoyed, what personality traits in myself (and others) I liked and disliked. I learned that I always have the option of changing and adapting. The way I think can always be re-arranged until I am able to think in a way that leaves me feeling peaceful and full of love.