Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reasons to avoid swinging dead cats

Well, I started working at a new job this week, and it’s at a job I love. I’ve been blogging about how my physical fitness is a real important part of my overall spiritual health – I can’t imagine staying sober with a body that hardly performs (or looks) the way it should. I mentioned once that in terms of managing an addiction, there isn’t one thing that works for everyone, and so, part of the trick is to find several things that work for you and then calling upon that list whenever you have moments of weakness.

This goes for smoking, drinking, gambling, whatever. And I am less inclined to want to abuse my body with a bottle of sugary rum knowing what kind of work I put into it to maintain it. I don’t know if this will be my sobriety method forever, but for now, its something I have grabbed on to.

And, so this brings me back to my job – at a company that’s all about fitness (with a significant ‘cool factor’). I am not going to add a bunch of details about where, but I am happy to say, I am doing something I love in an industry I really love, with people who I respect and like, and I have a kick ass office to boot. My mom and sister came to visit me yesterday, and remarked that they, “expect nothing less.” I suppose reaching small successes is part of the reason I did this to begin with, so I should be relieved things are beginning to work out.

A funny story about the job, as a side note, my boss googled me and the first thing was the article in the Denver Post. He asked me about it, I was honest with him - as I am when anyone asks me about this process - and I think he respected that. But I am going to own this, its who I am, its real. As I said in an earlier blog, if I had cancer I would be applauded for seeking treatment, and so I would hope that this would be received in the same way. It’s entirely likely that many people still will see this as negative, and slowly, I hope my message and more like mine will begin to change attitudes. One thing I’ve come to realize in the past few months is that no family is immune to addiction. Not even yours.

But he asked. The interesting thing is that I am almost relieved that it played out like that – that he asked ahead of time so it was never a surprise to him, and this adds a layer of accountability to me that I had not counted on. Its less likely that I am going to fall into old behaviors and casually toss them aside to someone who knows that might happen.

I am a little unnerved about my paycheck though. Having money again is going to open up a whole new set of circumstances where something can get tripped up. I mean, you can’t swing a dead cat in this state without hitting a liquor store. I am counting on the fact that I am going to employ all the things I’ve learned the past few months in order to continue on this path. The temptation to leave the program is going to be there, the temptation to even grab a beer with friends after work is going to be there, and though these things have crossed my mind in the past, the opportunity hasn’t been there – in terms of time or money. And I haven’t run across a dead cat I really feel much like swinging.

And I am going to have to figure this out relatively quickly because I will be paid in a few days. But, I’ve always known, I am going to have a job again in my life, I am going to have money again, I am going to have freedoms, I am not going to be in the safety of this program forever. But I hope I approach this in much the same way I have approached other milestones at the ranch – from my first venture off the ranch for my first 2 hour pass, to my first weekend at home, I am just gonna have to remind myself what I am all about, and do it. What skills will I be employing? Well, in those addictions classes, I mentioned something about the lesson on stimulus vs. response. Dave, our addictions teacher, really pounded in the idea that stimulus vs. response is a natural occurrence – if you don’t believe me, ask Pavlov’s dogs.

BUT – here’s where the skills I have practiced and learned at the ranch come in to play. Here’s why a good rehab is important not only because it allows you to dry out and work through the emotional mess, but a good rehab works because it arms you with tools and weapons to keep going. You see, as we practiced, as we studied, and as we were told (a most obvious solution, but, the simplicity escapes you until you see it on paper – or a computer screen). The thing about the natural stimulus vs. response mechanism is simply, the freedom to choose. The freedom to NOT respond the way you always have. Its not easy to put into practice, but when you do, its makes you feel amazingly powerful.

There is a certain rush of energy you feel when you make a blatant, obvious, uncomfortable decision to respond differently to an age-old response. I know you are reading this gem of genius on a blog dedicated to addiction, but this is something you can employ to ANY part of your life.

When you are tempted by that last piece of cheesecake, you don’t have to eat it – you can just decide NOT to eat it for no other reason that its OK to NOT eat it. When you want a cigarette after a spicy meal, you can just decide NOT to smoke, and you can NOT smoke just because it’s OK to NOT smoke (yes I split the infinitive, shhh). You won’t die, there will be other opportunities to smoke again in the future if you really want it, there will be other cheesecakes in your life, I G-U-A-R-A-N-T-E-E it. And each Friday I deposit my paycheck and the stimulus to go grab a drink hits me, its OK to NOT drink that one time – not because I will end up in jail or dead – but, just because.

I am not going to spend my entire life coming up with complex reason to NOT drink. I am just not going to drink. Maybe someday in the future there will be an opportunity for it, I don’t know, I don’t think about that, but for now, I don’t want to drink – and the reason is super duper complex right? I just choose not to. Sobriety for me isn’t going to be a lot of work, it isn’t going to be a daily argument with myself to not drink. When it’s like that, then chances are, I am not finished drinking. If I have to come up with a reason every free moment to not drink, then I am not done. And I am done.

So, on to other things. Someone wrote to me and told me that they did an intervention on their brother and he didn’t respond to it. I asked this woman what they offered her brother in terms of a solution, she said she didn’t have one.

I am only going to say this because I put myself in her brother’s shoes so I could maybe offer insight to what he might have been thinking, and I am no expert by any means when it comes to this stuff. I am ONLY an expert on my own experience, and from my experience, if people you care about sideswipe you with an intervention (and believe me, it is sideswiping, but that’s why it might work), but then they don’t have any solutions like, “We have gotten you into this program, we have put you on the list for this program, we have looked into this program and it fits your needs, we are going to go right now to a meeting,” if you don’t do that, then your intervention is just a group of people who gather around you to call you out for being drunk. And what the hell is that all about?

So, in my very unprofessional, very un-expert opinion, while I think an intervention can be very effective because it really forces you to face your loved ones head on, an intervention without a solution is just a group of people you trusted who gather around to tell you what a lousy drunk you are.

My family tried an intervention on me several years ago after a camping trip and that VERY afternoon I went to a bar with one of the people in the intervention and we got hammered. I am not sure if I would have gone anywhere anyway, but had they been armed with real answers, like ‘You can enter such and such facility in 5 days for a 40 day program, etc.,’ I might have been more inclined to at least think about it.

As a note, I am not slamming my family in the least bit for this. Heck, they didn’t know what to do, staging an effective intervention isn’t something you really get a whole lot of training on and not the kind of thing you learn in business college. I am grateful for the repeated attempts my family made to get me sober.

But when you do make those attempts, be prepared for your addict to reject your attempts. I will say, it wasn’t until everyone left me alone, to my own devices, to my own conscience, to my own tired spirit, that I stopped making excuses and looked into this program. I am not saying this is how it needs to work for everyone, but for me, it wasn’t until I felt completely alone, that I didn’t have to answer to anyone but myself, it wasn’t until I had to look in the mirror at the one person on earth who really knew who was looking back, only then did I decide this was it.

And I will also say that one day in March, I was talking to Alex, and I said I was having second thoughts, that I wasn’t sure if I was even going to come to the Ranch, and Alex looked at me and said, ‘OK, but I think you can do it.’ And I don’t know why that stood out to me, I don’t know why that moment meant a lot to me. Perhaps its because Alex didn’t say, “You NEED to do this, you SHOULD do this, blah blah blah.” Alex said, ‘I think YOU CAN DO THIS.’

Almost as if Alex knew that my defiance wasn’t defiance, it wasn’t even denial, it was fear and a lack of confidence. And those words really fixed me up on the idea. That day was Friday, March 27th, I know this because I wrote about that comment in my journal.

You see, having the confidence to do this isn’t easy. Heck, I recently heard of someone who decided not to come to the ranch because he was worried that if he decided he couldn’t do it, he’d be too far away to escape. That’s a lack of confidence and fear. (I will say that if anyone decides they can not do this, the ranch is VERY accommodating about getting that person to a safe place, there is no ‘escape’ – we arrange a van and drive that person, with dignity, to any location they need to go – including other cities – even one guy all the way to the airport – escape isn’t something people ever need to do from the ranch, participation is completely voluntary)

So, I ran a race today. It was my first official race, I was there with the running team, at 8am, in 20 degree weather. I finished in a respectable time, and it felt AWESOME crossing that finish line, a bunch of guys came along and greeted me in the final 1/5th mile, and they ran along side me and cheered me, then as I crossed the finish line, other guys from the ranch were there to take pictures, hi-five me, and chant my name as I made my way down the winner's corral.

And my finish time?
Is ‘ABOUT TIME’ a time?
Well, that’s all I am saying, I ran a race, I crossed the finish line and ….. ITS ABOUT TIME.

Peace all and have a great week.

1 comment:

  1. Way to go on the job and the race! It is inspiring to be a part of this with you. You help me remember that there is hope for my dad and me if he can just get some help too. I love what you write, thank you.