First of all, this weekend was a Holiday weekend, and with that went some relaxing activity – more on that in a bit.
Lesson 4 in the addictions class is called the Road to Relapse. It sounds like a fun journey, doesn’t it…. But it’s hardly that at all. Many of these lessons in addictions class are very clinical and I try to describe them in such a way that they don’t read like some sort of medical journal.
I look at maintaining sobriety and rehabilitation like I look at the ranch. The ranch is a useful place where I can get a lot done, it’s a relaxing place, and living on a ranch requires many things to work all at once. It also requires maintenance, it requires dedication, feeding, cutting, plowing, milking, even the tragic- like slaughter – sometimes it sucks and I wished I lived somewhere else, but for the most part, I think of it like that. Constant work, constant maintenance, but a lot of good things come from the ground when you work at it.
I also think of alcohol addiction much like maintaining a ranch. I had to maintain that as well. People who are not addicted to anything hardly realize that addiction is not for the lazy, and that addiction requires a LOT of dedication. I had to schedule time to drink, find money to drink, I had to work on when I could and could not see people based on drinking – I would plan my whole life around drinking – and it was a lot of maintenance – A LOT! Hell, I would venture to say I didn’t have a ranch, I think I had a whole damn territory…. Perhaps the size of the Louisiana Purchase – and imagine the kind of work that required.
I am in the process of building a new ranch, I am planting many new crops and leaving the old ranch. And sometimes, in a weird way, when I am on my new farm, I look across the street and see the old farm – it looks so nice from here – I remember the safety of being drunk, the ease at which I could satisfy myself, the lack of effort I had to put in to my relationships – I never had to worry about visitors, from this side of the street, sometimes it seems so beautiful. I forget that behind the beautiful manicured hedges is a desolate wasteland of dead crops and skinny animals. But sometimes it calls to me.
Relapse is sometimes sequential, sometimes methodical – there are cues we get and behaviors we begin, which lead to relapse.
Some relapse is not sequential. These are a result of triggers, so I’ve had a whole weekend to think about these.
People ask me all the time, “How are you doing?” And immediately, I answer, “Fine.” Even in the throes of a binge, I usually answer, “Fine.” An alcoholic or an addict understands the cost of admitting that we’re really sick – the looks, the remarks, the idea that I can’t control it, the cost is uncontrollable. It would seem ludicrous to say to someone, “You know, sometimes I feel like having a drink so bad I can’t stand it and I want to choke someone.” And so we don’t – instead, we draw neat little analogies on the internet about pretty little farms and hedges.
But hey, you got a nice visual, so enjoy the ride, it’s not over yet.
Part of the exercise was to think about what has caused relapse for me in the past and there are many things I’ve decided. Some were very hard to admit, and made me a little alarmed and sad when I thought about the specific situations that were the impetus for these details and triggers for me.
Refusing to talk or discuss feelings of fear and anxiety is a stressor and a good indicator of my relapse – and so, as long as I keep blogging, I feel like I am avoiding this behavior a little. Low tolerance for frustration is also a signal (so that means most of my family is on the verge of relapse to something! Kidding). – but seriously – constant snapping or getting short is a good indicator – for me, at least.
Becoming defiant- I’ve seen when lingering hostility and even anger begins to replace situation where love existed in my relationships (this is a deep one and you should think about it in yours because it happens with such stealth) – when you get on my nerves just because you are you, and no other reason, when I become too very self-centered, in other words, I feel like I am always a victim (many people have this one in my life), I tend to isolate. I get a critical attitude and things that bug me about people are often things that are bugging me about me. Except for people who breathe out of their noses – that bugs me just because it bugs me…. And I don’t do that – but you get the point.
Increased dishonesty about small stupid things – I think this is because deceptive thinking takes over as I may try to hide the drinking and the need to drink. Sometimes I am over confident (“I will never drink again”) and other times, I am under confident (“I’ll never make it past 6 months, so why bother”).
And, strangely, good moods are a trigger – I tend to drink when good things happen – and, I read somewhere that ‘high’ moods are equally as stressful as ‘low’ moods in terms of brain chemistry.
And I thought about all this and I realized that one of my best gifts is also by biggest curses. You see, I am almost tragically emotional. I feel everything – every nuance in a person’s behavior I notice. I am beyond compassionate – and I think the receptors in my brain at some point just decided that it was too much to feel – and so I withdrew into a nice safe plastic bottle of McCormick’s Gin….. oh such a nice place to hide for a decade. (The bit of descriptive irony in detailing that particular bottle as a hiding place is that it seems like it’s a safe place to hide, and being plastic its unbreakable…. But the plastic bottle happens to be transparent – and everyone who looks can see inside. Anyway…)
This weekend also marked a turning point in one of my most important relationships – the one that’s been troubling me for a couple weeks. One that saved me and helped me decide to come here is also the one that is hardest to change – And while I am not mad AT ALL, I am certainly sad about this. It’s interesting how I am changing – at one time, this situation with this person would have sent me through the roof with anger and hostility, but the forced reflection of being at the ranch has certainly softened my heart and my mind – and the lingering resentment and animosity has ebbed into a peaceful acceptance of something I can not control, and someone I am not responsible for.
What’s important to me now is not that people please me by doing things I want them to do– but instead that they love me and I want to develop the wisdom to love them back, as they are, on their terms. In trying to practice this, I’ve realized there is so much good that’s spread out throughout my life, and these good things I live are only getting better – and not because I am manipulating the situations, or trying to illicit behavior from people, but because I am ready for the goodness that’s coming my way in all of my life. You know, forgiving someone for how they mistreat you is simply loving them on a higher level. I learned this from my dog.
I’ve also gotten a project as a horse trainer. My boss and my therapist both each have a horse and they house them together. I mentioned to both of them at different times that I would love to be an animal trainer and that I really wanted to work with horses. And they decided to help me make this happen. I can’t wait to explain all the things I am gonna learn from a horse. But – I had been thinking a lot lately about the future and where I would be next year at this time – and it was stressing me out thinking about work and an apartment, etc. I don’t know if I want to go back to my old job in Marketing – so I made a list of things I would want to do – we’re talking pie in the sky kind of stuff here and I decided no profession would be off limits….
Number one on my list was to be a correspondent on the Bonnie Hunt Show. You see, I am real funny on TV, too, and I had been on television for several years and well, Oprah has Nate, her clever little designer, who decorates and does all sorts of amazingly creative stuff and looks trendy with cool hair and can make all the women in the audience say, “Is he… for real? No way!” – why the hell couldn’t Bonnie Hunt have me! Besides, I have way better hair than Nate…. Well, its OK to dream.
But – strangely, the second thing on my list was to work with animals –
The list continues and includes such things as social secretary for the First Lady, a newspaper columnist, and nutritionist.
So, I left this to the universe, I slept on it, and on Monday, my counselor came to me and said he was having trouble with his horse because it’s a lot of work, and would like to try equine therapy with me. So I will be horse training couple days a week with a trainer and I couldn’t be happier.
In my family, I have always been somewhat of a traveler. I moved away to live in Vegas out of a van when I was 21, I lived in an apartment alone way before my siblings did, my travels have sometimes required me to live out of a car for brief periods, showering in libraries and swimming pools, surviving on my charm and my own devices – I have moved away to the east coast, visited hundreds of cities when I was working as a television host, etc. Lately, my life has been in suspended animation – paralyzed by inebriation, stalled by intoxication.
And, I feel like my inner gypsy has been released again – and it’s not a wanderlust I’ve ever experienced – as I begin to accept the goodness of my life, of being alive, it’s almost like the earth is moving beneath me, that I am not traveling to some place, that the place is coming to me. I have to wonder why I didn’t try sobriety a long long time ago – I am telling you – if you have something holding you back, once you decide to release it, it releases you, and life becomes magnificently fluid – better than anything I’ve ever drank. And, if I relapse, which is a real possibility, I hope someone shows me this paragraph so I can be reminded.
So, this weekend, we went to watch fireworks in the small town adjacent to the ranch, we had hot dogs, I bought a small necklace with my birthday money. I had fun with friends, and watched fireworks from the softball field in town, I was happy that my friends who went on weekend pass all came back and didn’t relapse.
Then, I rode the three miles back in the dark – happy to be heading to my “new ranch” – the one I am building and the one where I sleep. The whole time, I was thinking that same thing I mentioned earlier, ‘When you give it a chance, the good… it only gets better.’ I like living that way.
Peace, all, and I’ll talk at’cha later this week.