We had a conversation in one of my empowerment classes about the things that hold us back and keep us from moving forward.
We talked about our thinking process and how they say, “Alcoholism and addiction is a disease of our thinking.”
Keep in mind, the main focus in this group is to create goals, plans, and strategies to create a clean and sober lifestyle.
We discussed the word “Relapse” and what brings people back to where they left off. It is argued by me that the reason is not because a lack of knowledge or understanding of our actions; however, there seems to be a disconnect in the application process.
Certainly everyone knows the first basic rule, which is made simple to us all. The rule is don’t drink and you won’t get drunk. Of course, everyone knows this.
Don’t use drugs and you went get high either. See that? There you have it. Minds blown. Hands down, mental illness solved, right?
If this alone were enough, there would be no such thing as addiction or alcoholism. If this idea was enough, there would be no such thing as mental illness or depression.
Just don’t drink, right?
Just don’t be sad and you won’t feel depressed.
Just don’t think about panic and you won’t have an anxiety disorder.
Don’t worry about crowds or people, places, and things and your social fears will just go away.
Just don’t be agoraphobic.
Sounds simple enough.
Oh, you have insomnia?
Well why don’t you just try falling asleep?
Problem solved . . .
Obviously none of this makes sense.
Rather than discuss the symptom of our behavior, we began to discuss why we behaved the way we do.
Everything we do is connected to a reason. Whether we see this or not, everything we do is done to honor a need, a want, a thought, or a feeling.
In the case of habitual and addictive behaviors, we began to list some of the top triggers that lead to relapse.
Anxiety was on the list. Fear was another one. Resentment and regret made the list too.
Low self-esteem was another. Depression made the top of the list. Family went up there too. People, places, and things, all made the list. Faith (or lack thereof) made the list and doubt was up there alongside it.
Let me think here, what else holds people back.
Oh, yeah . . .
Rejection. Humiliation. Exposure.
Shame holds people back. Guilt and blame keeps people stuck in habitual patterns.
How about the simplest reasons of all—getting high and drinking, although the benefits are fleeting and extremely temporary (and I’m unsure why try and deny this) but it feels good.
I have taken these following lines from a doctor at one of my rehab stays when I was young.
He said of course you want to get high.
He explained, it feels good. The lights are bright. The music is right. The girls are sweet. Of course this feels good. There is no pain or worry. There is no concern, at least not for the moment.
The pain might come later. There might be a hangover or an aftermath to deal with. There might be a price to pay but for the moment, all else is temporarily and systematically euthanized for the time being.
When I first found myself in a nod, I saw heroin as my own personal little cocoon. I liked it. I was weightless and painless and perfectly absent. I was sleeping in a dream but yet, I felt this warm sensation that flourished throughout my body.
I threw up a bit. In fact, I puked quite a bit at first, but eventually, my body learned to accept the trade. Eventually, my bloodstream learned to accept its new host and inevitably, my mind, body, and soul began to depend upon its contamination.
Sure, everything around me was falling apart. At the time, I was smuggling in my habit through someone that worked with my family.
I had enough to keep me going for a while. Besides, I had to hide in my room because there were people in the town looking to beat me up.
I had my first arrest hanging around my neck like a noose or a heavy chain. I was punched in the face at my doorstep by a so-called friend.
I had people laughing at me because I looked like a fool. I was unhealthy, sickly, pale and almost green-skinned.
I weighed next to nothing. I swore I was going to die, which was fine by me, because what other value was I to anyone else?
I knew everything was bad and everything was falling apart. I was afraid of the fact that I might have to serve time in jail, in which, if this were the case, I knew there would be no other way for me to survive.
I would either have to sign up on a suicide watch or literally end myself.
I knew that my outcomes were directly connected to me and my behaviors. I knew that my drug use had turned against me, but yet, I also knew that with all the harm and with all the wreckage; my compulsion to use defied the obvious logic that would advise me or anyone else to stay away.
One would think this should be enough to make someone quit. The guilt and the shame and the regret should be enough to make someone stop.
I saw guns. I had pistols in my face. I saw violence, in which, I could have been killed several times, but yet, none of this was a deterrent.
No, this was just par for the course.
This is just what happens.
One would think this should be enough to make a person want to quit and run away, but no.
Instead, the compulsion comes back with lies because although fleeting and temporary; at least there is relief with getting high. Otherwise, where would the relief come from?
In my case of relapse many years ago, I felt old pains and old fears. I was dealing with social discomforts and personal frustrations.
First and foremost, I stopped my critical care, which in this case; critical is the correct word when it comes to personal wellness and mental illness.
One problem became two and two became four. I felt weak. I felt uncomfortable. I had no place to hide and I lost my way.
I forgot how to take care of myself. I forgot my methods of distraction and replacement, which are key elements to anyone’s transformation when moving away from habitual living.
I went back to old rituals and old routines. I slipped back to my previous behavior, which inevitably sent me back to my previous mindset, and as a result, I found myself back in the old scene. It wasn’t long until I got high again.
The list that we wrote on the board in class was certainly all present when I made my choice to get high again.
I was out of the life. I was away, free and clear, but yet somehow, something drew me back in.
People ask why would anyone get high or drink this way.
To feel good is the answer. To feel better. To forget. To see the lights get brighter. To hear the music get better and watch the girls become sweeter.
As for me, I just wanted to feel better.
I wanted the rush. I wanted to feel nothing and yet feel everything the high had to offer. I wanted to get high because in all honesty, I never believed in the possible potential for me to feel better without using an outside source.
When I had to face my mistakes, I walked into the basement meeting at a hospital near my childhood home and announced what I had done. I said “Hello, my name is Benny. I’m an addict and alcoholic. And I have one day back.”
People said welcome back. Some applauded. Some curled their lips because they swore they saw this coming. Some came up to offer support but the guilt and the shame, the appearance, and the assumption of their judgement was too brutal for me .
There were thee ones that came up to tell me “What you really need to do is,” and list their ideas on how I should handle my chemical imbalance and my depression.
Meanwhile, no one in the 12-step world is supposed to be better than anyone else. There is no authority. We are all supposed to be on equal ground.
Once I came clean, I felt more lost than before.
I felt worse. Not better.
The humility was painful; which I choose to remember because in all honesty, I never want to fall this hard again.
In order for me to improve, I had to learn how to move beyond my flaws and defects of character. I had to learn how to navigate away from my fear. I had to learn how to step away from myself.
“It’s not that easy,” said one of the men in the group.
Nobody ever said it was easy.
I know I never did.
It’s not easy
But it was worth it!