What a Craving Feels Like

Regular people have cravings, I know, but I have always thought an addict’s craving must be quite different. I’m open to the fact that I could be wrong, but I have always said that if people felt the way I felt drinking alcohol, everybody would be an alcoholic.

I was in counseling, going through a program called DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) quite recently where we discussed cravings. The therapist said that most cravings last 10 seconds. So, I was supposed to think of that and allow the craving to take its course and tell myself that I do not have to act on that craving.

I don’t find that to be true at all for myself. A true craving for me is first an obsessive thought that is accompanied by a physical craving. It is powerful, it relentless, it is oppressive, and, if I do nothing to counteract it, I will give in.

Nobody can understand the process an addict goes through to obtain the object of their addiction. Surely in the 30 minutes it takes to get dressed, put on shoes, get in the car, drive, park, get into the supermarket and so on, there are many opportunities to just stop. A sane person would get a hold of themselves. In the Big Book, the phrase used is that the disease of alcoholism is ‘cunning baffling and powerful’ (page 58) So maybe psychologists can understand it, but I’m not a psychologist and I can’t explain it even though I’ve seen it over and over again.

For me, the addiction is not about the 95% of when my mood is altered. It is the first 2 or 3 minutes of having that feeling of release of tension in me and the fear falling off and a great sigh of relief. The rest is just chasing after that feeling in an idiotic way, somehow being able to be in denial about how it’s all going to turn out.

They used to have commercials about Nestea that I use as a mental visual. It’s from 1980…..a man driving through the desert dry and cracked and dusty and tired, and he reaches for the Nestea and it’s that moment when he first tastes the refreshment that is the peak. Like falling into a swimming pool. Relief from the dry, dusty, thirsty road.

To me, this also occurs when there is sin in a person’s life. They have a mental assent at some point that kind of lightly topples the domino and the sin is realized. I have stood many times on the precipice, having the option to choose right or wrong and just in one small breath I make the decision to do the wrong thing.

Well, that’s a post for another day.

What a Craving Feels Like

Importance of Mentoring post 1

I don’t think I’m particularly special or gifted. I do think I’m intelligent, and I always thought I was a little more than average in terms of my attractiveness, but there isn’t anything I have understood in myself to merit the attention of those who have mentored me.

Mentor is a term I use, but the people I attribute it to might not realize they have mentored me.

To me, it’s someone who invests something special into your life that changes the course of it. According to Merriam Webster, a mentor is ‘someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.

I have had and do have spiritual mentors, mentors to guide me in child rearing, financial mentors, academic mentors and career mentors.

The mentor who changed the course of who I am and what I do was a man who took me, a document writer and gave me a job that enabled me to form a career path when I was still working. I had zero experience in programming computers, but  he helped me to learn and supported me when I took classes and read books to improve my skills,  and was flexible when I had children and understanding when I began to have symptoms of my mood disorder.

He also taught me about living life well. He was brilliant at what he did in his job. He set an example in working hard and playing hard. He was active, he was a musician, he traveled, he never stopped learning, and he shared his life with a special woman.

If I sound too effusive, perhaps I am.

He is retiring now at the ripe age of 86. Living life fully is what I think of when I think of him. I also know that retiring professionally is not the end for him. It’s a new beginning.

Performance of Satin Doll by Bathtub Gin Band

So, congratulations on your retirement Jack.

Importance of Mentoring post 1

Asking For Help

When I was in college I took a sociology class with a professor I liked very much. Sociology was extremely interesting to me and I think I took a lot out of that class and was able to apply it to my real life.

One of the things I learned had to do with asking for help. The professor taught that in many firehouses, they would take a new recruit and have him hold the hose while pointing full blast at something.

The power of the hoses are too great at full blast for one person to hold. So the person would flounder. Either they would call out for help or they wouldn’t succeed.

The point was that the firefighters want the people in their squad to be able to ask for help or they couldn’t count on them when they were needed to act as a group in a dangerous situation.

The trick is knowing when to ask for help.

Asking For Help

My Favorite Verse

Everybody seems to want to have a favorite verse from the Bible. It is a way of identifying, encapsulating who we think we are, who we would like to be in relation to God. It’s not mandatory, you don’t have to stick with the same one forever, but it comforts and describes to others a slice of who we are.

I realized this week, that I have a new one and I’ve had it under the radar for a long time, but it hit home this week, and that is the verse in Romans 1:3 ‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.’

I like the phrase ‘sober judgment’ a lot, and I always have. ‘Sober judgment’ pulls me down from up high and up from down low. It is somewhat entwined with ‘being sober.’ Being sober is a coming down. When you drink, you are up high and then down low. This verse pulls it together a bit.

When I am living in self-condemnation, this verse tells me the truth. It doesn’t let me get away with denying the good parts about me. I say denying, because I believe I have put myself down throughout my life to avoid being hurt by realizing it’s actually true, what I’m thinking about myself.

I’m not sure if this makes sense.

It’s a bit harder when I’m on the manic side. It feels really good and I feel really competent, but I forget the ways I’ve hurt others and I expect them to accept me and if they don’t, perhaps they should go Alanon.

That’s not how AA works. Not for people in Alanon or for people in AA. It seems as if it should be the case that the Alanon person should force the AA person into sobriety, and certainly alcoholics want the family to do their bidding once they get sober and they are ‘cured.’ BUT, the goal is to be able to live well and help others to live well.

For the person with the mood disorder, it’s more tricky, but I think for me, going into situations and remembering to think of myself with sober judgment to the best of my ability every day, I will get well, my relationships will be healthier and I will be more accepting and at peace with my place in the world.

Bottom line for me: HONESTY. Henry Cloud talks a lot in his ‘boundaries’ books about seeking hard after the truth and accepting it.

AA is the same, find someone, share honestly and see improvement in your life.

Knowing and doing it are difficult. I have made bad choices over and over, and it is hard to want to change. 

The other part of Romans 12:3 is ‘in accordance to the faith God has given you.’ It plainly says God gives you the faith. That to me doesn’t sound like striving hard for something, it sounds like a gift God has given to us and that we are able to find who we are in ‘sober judgment’ or in another way: thinking in our wise minds, the part where reason and emotion intersect.

My Favorite Verse

Accepting Responsibility

I recently posted a Facebook status that said ‘Accepting responsibility and doing nothing is the same as not accepting responsibility at all.’ 

That may be odd to most people, because I think people with integrity pretty much accept responsibility. People speak out of their own experience, and what they say tells a lot about them. They tell on themselves without realizing it. That’s me. Complaining about bipolar symptoms when they are really addict symptoms.

I heard in a meeting recently that we can stay sick for a very long time simply by ‘gathering evidence.’ Researching, reading, studying on our ‘issues’ as a way to avoid dealing with them.

That’s me. 

I thought/think the more I learn about God, prayer, scripture, the more likely it would be that the Holy Spirit would take over.

That’s not how it has ever worked for me. First I need to confess. Then I need to repent. Then I need to make amends.

Pretty similar to WORKING THE 12 STEPS LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE?

I’m not unique. I’m special, but not unique.

I could go on and cite some references and try to sound smart, but I think I need to acknowledge my stupidity today.

Accepting Responsibility

Mind Body Connection

I never put a lot of stock in the theory of a mind/body connection. My thoughts are my thoughts and they have nothing to do with my physical being. I don’t eat organic foods, I don’t go the holistic medicine route, I just sort of forge ahead, trusting what seems to be the ‘moderate’ people suggest….the food pyramid, that kind of thing. Actually I don’t even do that. I just want to say I did it.

I say that I never did. I do now, and it’s really within the past 2 years I recognized and realized how responsive the body is to emotions, food, situations, and all of that. I really saw most of my feelings as involuntary and I was at the mercy of them. To a certain extent, that is true, and I will explain why, but I’d like to deal with the part that’s false.

When I started sleeping 2 or 3 days straight, I didn’t associate it with depression.  When I was awake, didn’t feel depressed the way I thought a person should feel depressed. This sleeping problem went on forever…for like 15 years. I’m so chaotic and disorganized, I just didn’t see where this issue was coming from. Things in my life were bad and scary and overwhelming all of the time.

When my former husband did some bad things online, I felt nothing. 6 weeks later I started smoking again. I never put the two together. I had told a therapist I felt these addictive urges returning to me and she kind of blew me off….or maybe I didn’t listen.

I am in so much denial all of the time, I didn’t really connect the dots. But I think I blamed myself and I think he blamed me, so we were perfect together. I even got a diamond ring out of the deal.

At some point he said that he couldn’t take responsibility for the smoking anymore. He was right in the sense that I had a choice, even if it was a difficult choice to deal with the problem. I guess I didn’t want to deal with it. It was easier to smoke. Then I could cry about not being able to quit.

That sort of went off and on, off and on, just like all of the substances I was abusing, but there was a shift. Alcohol did not remain my drug of choice. The Delsym did. To write that sounds so weird. The addiction behaviors were just really unpredictable.

I reacted to things by using, eating, smoking, exercising, all of these ways of inwardly punishing myself for not being as good as I was expected to be.

I’m really trying to just own my own stuff, but when your spouse tells you you don’t love your kids because you don’t turn their shirts right-side out before you fold them, something is very wrong.

Since the separation, I have slept too much maybe 5 times or less….which, let’s say is way down from sleeping throughout half of 2012.

All of a sudden, I was out of the house, away from my husband, and I’m not sleeping all of the time. I’m able to put together what circumstances would cause me to sleep too much. Having an intense emotional week with family. The kids not calling on my birthday.

The things I get upset about, are foreseeable. So I think they must be containable. But they just aren’t…..I need to learn a new way of expressing my feelings. I can’t say ‘oh the kids didn’t call on my birthday because they are teenagers and teenagers do that kind of thing.’ That would be a correct statement. At the same time I have GRIEF that it happened. So, I’m at a loss as to what response I could have that would keep me from sleeping for 2 days straight. I obviously have strong feelings about it.

The family dynamics aren’t important right now. What is important is this way of dealing with things.

I learned from DBT Therapy that feelings are something you feel in your body. So I started to pay attention. When my shoulders prickle, it means I am anxious. A canon ball in my gut is dread. Sleep is depression, shaking hands is nervousness.

My hope is that I can identify these feelings and do something about them that does not entail me going to bed for 2 days.

Hear hear.

Aside