So, after a while on the ranch, we of course are given a lot more freedoms, and I usually take Sundays to do ‘normal’ things off the ranch. This past Sunday I had an awesome day – after church, two of my best friends and I stayed in town and walked around.
The purpose was to volunteer at the church a little as well as get a good idea of places where we might be able to work once we get to the work phase of the program – and for the three of us who all entered around the same time, this period is fast approaching - Our adventures took us to small shops where we read used books, we tried on clothes we want, flirted with the waitresses at a brunch restaurant, we had lunch, ended up at the library where we caught up on news and gossip magazines – basically spent a long afternoon being regular people.
Its pretty easy to forget that the rest of the planet is moving while we aren’t part of it. Its sometimes a little shocking to step back into the groove of the real world and remember that everyday people do everyday things, every day. Brian and Marty each handled the situation differently. Brian was overwhelmed by being away from the ranch and had a tough time adjusting. He was almost panic stricken by the freedom of our Sunday afternoon, like a fish out of water. It was kind of unnerving after a while. Marty was the polar opposite and it almost appeared as though he completely forgot that we were just on pass from rehab, it was equally unnerving. But the pendulum swings to the extremes for everyone, I suppose. And I remember thinking, my GOD, these guys annoy me. Just kidding! Seriously, I am just kidding.
It was a nice afternoon with lots of activity. When we returned to the ranch the three of us decided to go on a bike ride – I have been logging 11-18 miles a day on my bike and they wanted to see my route. We went on the shorter 11 mile route. Stopped by a fishing pond in a nearby wilderness area and snapped some pictures of each other and of the scenery. These times are when we really talk and laugh at each other. There is a connection that the residents on the ranch develop because we are the only people on the planet that really understand what we’re going through. Struggles, humor, the sometimes ludicrous policies or administrative blunders – the food, the schedule, and the lives we put on hold in order to figure all this out.
But some of the best jokes come from this – its critical to my program that I maintain that humor. Between my addictions classes, the daily Christian devotions and bible study, the education classes on lifestyles and education training – the health classes, the classes on money and values, the therapy sessions, the Church services we have to go to, the small groups and support groups – I spend a crap load of my time hearing lectures and I have to be honest, it gets pretty freakin boring sometimes just being talked to non-stop.
So you can imagine that the times we get to spend together relaxing are cool. We’ve begun joking around that this must be what rehab on Harry Potter’s world would be like. But we call him ‘Harry Pothead’ – but the studies, the homework, the levels/phases we must get to, the different dorms, the gatherings in the dining room, the faculty, the strange animals, the festival – hell, even the distance we travel to get here, on the outskirts of civilization - all very Harry Potter-ish.
And when we returned to the dorms after our bike ride, Marty asked if I wanted to color – and strangely, I did – so we sat at a table and colored and listened to music and had a good time – again joking and laughing and then we each retired to our dorm assignments and went to bed.
And you might ask why this was important to note on this blog and the main reason is that many people have asked me about cravings. They say that they are getting a lot of information from this blog about the nature of addiction, but wonder if I, personally, am having cravings – if there are situations that I am having trouble managing that are leading me to consider drinking. I, too, have wondered when they might come, and have been a little alarmed that they aren’t hitting me.
I am also asked about the speed at which I am progressing through the program, and whether I am frightened that this is all going pretty quickly.
And I am not sure what I expected from all this rehab stuff either, but the truth of the matter is, I have not had any unmanageable cravings. I have not had any situation that has made me want to rush to the liquor store. Even when I first got here, my mom was alarmed to learn that I am away from the ranch and away from supervision even from the beginning.I really miss drinking sometimes, but dont feel inclined to rush back to it.
And the truth is, I have to make this work because I want it and not because I am being watched. I get a weekly gratuity from the ranch, and I am only a couple seconds away from a liquor store of I wanted to drink.
The other truth is that we are being given skills and ability to bypass the desire to give in to our addiction. And I must be employing these skills all the time without even thinking. They are becoming a part of my daily thinking – and I mentioned earlier that a change in my principles changes my results. The simple psychology of Stimulus then Response leaves out one very important factor.
While a psychologist may say that that is the foundation of human behavior – you are stimulated to get or do something then you respond to the stimulus, the most important part of that equation is absent – The Freedom To Choose. I can get a stimulus and I get to choose my response. It’s a great thing, choice. We’ve all got it.
And so from the beginning, I have been given freedom here and its been up to me to manage this – and this has to be a model for the rest of my life. Addiction tried to take away that choice, but I am getting it back and its cool.
And the reason I mentioned my Sunday afternoon to you is that I had a great sober Sunday with some really good friends. We did a lot of things. And successfully rehabilitating yourself requires that you fill in the gaps where you used to spend drunk, recovering, or preparing to drink with other things; mindless things sometimes. But these things are equally as rewarding to do. And that’s part of what I am doing by being here. I am getting back the time I lost by being drunk, I am filling in the gaps with other ideas and other activities.
My mom made an astute point about it. She said that an alcoholic loses so much so slowly most of the time and that’s why we don’t notice we are in a spiral of loss until its all gone – I suppose its like losing your hair. You don’t notice the individual strands that come out, but one day, you look in the mirror and WOW – you’re bald! That’s how it works with an alcoholic.
And then all of a sudden, you realize that living a life with a wig is no substitute for real hair and so you get checked into bald-head rehab, start going to bald-head anonymous, begin to understand the things that made you lose hair in the first place and many times, your hair begins to grow back – one strand at a time. And this is recovery. The funny thing about this is, you DO notice the hair as it comes back. I guarantee, any bald man who one day begins sprouting hair is damn-straight gonna notice it.
And rehab, and living a sober life SHOULD NOT be a struggle. It SHOULD NOT be hard. If it is hard, you probably aren’t ready to give it up. If you spend each day trying to convince yourself not to drink, then you probably aren’t really in the mindset that its over. Admittedly, I was alarmed at the ease that I am handling the program and handling sobriety as well, but it could be that I am just ready to be sober. This isn’t a struggle for me, a daily uphill battle, because that’s no way to live my life either.
The thought that I am gonna be fighting the urge to drink every single day is almost as scary as the idea that I am gonna be drunk every single day.
Life shouldn’t be hard when it comes to this. Life should be Sunday afternoons with friends, laughing at ourselves, it should be an evening of activity that is unusual and simple, it should be days spent NOT thinking about addiction. And so, I am not worried that I am not having cravings because I am employing many of the skills I’ve learned, and I am seeing that this is how my life should be, and the fact that it isn’t an awful struggle just means that its working.
Its weird, I used to imagine my life like this, but I never realized I would ever just do it and now that I am living it, I have to get out of the mindset that I haven’t worked for it and that I don’t deserve it. Its always seemed like a goal I was never going to fully reach that now that its kind of my routine, I just have to breath, relax, and live it. I shouldn't feel like a fish out of water, this should be my new normal.
So, you should stop worrying about it too. It’s not a constant struggle, and it shouldn’t be. I think I'd probably rather be drunk than stuggle with sobriety every single day. And, geeze, doesn’t my new head of hair look fantastic!!