So, as I said in the earlier blog, this week I started the education component– this is the lifestyles, education and career portion of the program. It’s a little different than I suspected, but, so far I like the approach. First of all, the approach isn’t just training in money issues (personal budgets, credit, financial advising, long term planning, and executing a debt recovery plan) – The ability to work in this program and not pay bills is certainly a bonus when I get to that phase – I will leave here with most of my debt paid, repay my parents who have helped me stay in the program and have provided me with the weekly cases of Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper and Diet Coke, beef jerky, sunflower seeds, and Whey Protein (and have generously helped me maintain my car payment), and my friends who have even paid my phone bills on occasion and maybe I’ll leave some money in savings.
The education component also includes the ability to further your education in the hope of getting a better job, and a general wellness class which includes diet tips and tips on how to maintain health – I think this is great since I am less apt to abuse my body if I spend a lot of time getting it in tip top shape – and it also it includes a component which I think is critical.....
One thing that this component focuses on is how the decisions you make regarding your life’s work or your job relate to and even contribute to addiction or alcoholism. In other words, what kinds of jobs do you chose and why do you choose them – status, freedom, hours, expectation, etc. – all these things could and most likely contribute to your addiction (you will spend a majority of your waking hours at work, so you can see this is extremely important).
If you have a job with little or no supervision, and access to lots of money, you may find that these long days alone will result in drinking. If you are working for money or status, then when you fail at this or when it is jeopardized, you may drink. When you are unhappy at work, you may drink, if you feel undervalued you may drink. If you have a job that you think makes you look good, you may want to flaunt this with the kinds of behaviors which will lead to relapse. For me, working in advertising and marketing – well, many a contract was signed over a dinner of dry martinis. You may be unhappy with what you do, so you escape to the bottle. And so, when you choose your career – your talents, history, goals, and the circumstances of how these things relate to relapse prevention are often over looked and frankly some of the most important.
Not to mention, the budgeting helps, as does the health training – Its gonna be great.
So far, at this stage, everything seems great. But it could be because I am not in a full-on brain chemistry recovery mode. And, in a couple months, it might hit, and the tone of the entries may change from happy canyons and sunflower gardens to tirades or rants about injustice or inequity, or just because people will bug me – or they may not. It remains to be seen, I am just warning people that there may come a point in recovery when your brain begins to resist the rewire and it can be a little messy and OF COURRRSE I am gonna tell you about it right now.
Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is an adjustment that the brain has to make while in the process of returning to life without chemical substances. It occurs when the neurotransmitters start to function again. In addiction there is artificial stimulation and disruption in normal brain function. PAWS occurs when you have been clean for like 6 months and it can last up to 18 months. When you first quit using a substance (even cigarettes, pot, or gambling) it may take 3-4 weeks just to feel good again. It is really common to believe that the addiction is gone in this portion of recovery. This may be where I am now because I am still not having any cravings. But like a boomerang, your body begins to send physiological signals to your brain that it can’t handle. At around 6 month of sobriety, it may feel like you just drank, smoked, whatever, yesterday - and you really want some more today.
I’m a little nervous, but feel satisfied that I know its coming and can make mental preparation. The pig can handle castration when you show him the castration band first – it’s a known fact – they wont fight it (a castration band, BTW is a large rubber band we place on a pigs nuts to cut off blood and the balls just fall off) . And, while I hardly think of myself as a pig, and I hope not to think of addiction recovery as castration – you get the point…. And I AM on a ranch, remember.
Mentally, I may become confused (I might even start splitting infinitives and dangling participles, or start believing things like all women look good in a pair of espadrilles – no you don’t by the way), I might have trouble focusing or concentrating or remembering instructions.
Emotionally, I might be over reactive, have mood swings, depression, anger, frustration, stress or numbness. And physically, I might have sleep issues, cravings, and physical sensations related to using – things like a sneeze (which I would always have when I would take my first swig of gin), might put me in a bad mood and I wont know why.
Some people are regenerative in this response – the symptoms improve over time. The longer you are sober the less time you have the symptoms. Some people are degenerative, the symptoms get worse and sobriety becomes so unpleasant that you will want to start drinking (the likelihood of relapse is very high at this point), some people are stable – which means the symptoms are never too bad or too good, they are constant and frustration comes along because people decide that its never going to completely go away and the likelihood of relapse is pretty high. And there are people who are intermitten, the symptoms come and go.
I don’t know which I will be. In the best case scenario, my alcoholism never reached the point that the long term damage to my brain chemistry will even have a real noticeable PAWS period. Worst case, I may decide in a couple months that this is all too much – pack my bags, walk off the farm and the next time someone sees me I will be dead in a ditch snuggled up to an empty bottle of booze.
And so, the key to all of this is my self awareness, and I have to keep an eye on it. When I bought my new car, I was excited to drive it, but the more I drove it, the more I would notice slight changes – knocks that weren’t there, clicks that weren’t there, small tugs when I would step on the break. I need to treat my body like this – I have to be aware of small changes and make corrections.
And when any part of relapse begins to happen, I should play the tape… the tape always starts out happy – drinking is fun…. Then I go out, I am social, I might even get hope that later I will go home and get laid, and at this point, people pause the great fun drinking tape (the MIXER tape LOL) and take a drink and then another drink and eventually forget that the tape is even in there.
If they keep playing the tape it may go something like this: then I drive home and try to avoid the cops, I sneak in the house to avoid being noticed, I am late for work, and when I show up I smell like a wino and look like a hobo, my boss and peers talk about me, no one wants to give me more responsibility, I go home frustrated, I meet my roommate who is pissed that I stayed out all night and drank away all the rent money and, at some point, may have thrown up on the toilet seat. So I say ‘I don’t need anyone’ (sound familiar from a couple posts ago), and I go get a bottle, but this time, I don’t go out, I sit at home and drink it, so I am able to actually drink more for less money…. And you can see that the tape goes on and on and on and on. And suddenly I am so disgusted by the idea that drinking that not only will I hopefully not ever drink again, but the idea of even seeing another human being drink or even living on a planet with alcohol becomes repugnant!
And so that’s where I am – it was a weekend of reflection met with a week of intensive study – oh and a misguided and ridiculous experiment in my desire to get my own way (and friendship). See, I have one pen, and I love the handle, I have another pen and I love the tip, and so I got several maintenance guys to help me try to get the good tip on the good handle and ended up making a real mess! Yes, 6 guys – all of them trying different ways to put my bic point tip on my pilot pen cruiser handle. But, I was very impressed with the friendship these guys displayed in trying to do me a small favor. That’s a true group of friends, you must agree, that will spend a Tuesday night trying to repair a disposable pen for a friend's small satisfaction. (Or certainly a bored group with a misguided task)
And, you may think this was a pointless exercise, but, in actuality, it killed a lot of time, and made me a little more grateful at the simplicity of my life these days. If only they could last…. I hope that, in my lifetime of sobriety, this kind of simplicity continues to occupy me as it does now. Or, at the very least, that I can maintain contact with these guys... because there will come a time when I am gonna need people to help me do home improvement work or move apartments and if these guys will do this for a pen, imagine what they might do for a new set of kitchen cabinets or a cross town move!
Have a great week all, and I hope you keep in touch. Thanks for the emails, keep them coming.