My low few days appears to have concluded itself today and I’m pleased to inform you that I understand why.
Recovery from depression, addiction and co-dependency, for me, are like an upward spiral. I make some progress and then I take a step too far and I need to take a step back. This backwards step often feels counter intuitive. “I’m making progress, what’s going on? I’m entitled to make MORE progress”, is often my initial reaction.
I like the image of the DNA strand (upward spiral) below, because if you follow either line up, you eventually hit a dip. You can fall or climb the strands in between, but sooner or later, what goes up, must come down, if only for a short while.
Progress takes practice and practice takes patience. As I make progress I experience new things, some positive, some not so positive. All things are positive, because every experience allows me to learn something new. If I view reality from this perspective, I am always winning, even when I’m losing 🙂
A fundamental truth is that you can never do the same thing twice.
Even if you are unaware of it, you body is different, your mind is different, your quantum state is different, so you can never truly do the same thing twice. Each moment is different, even though there is only one moment. That’s the paradox of life.
As I experience recovery I learn new things. I need to take the time to appreciate them and take the time to reflect on what works and what doesn’t work for me. After all, this is my recovery, so I need to be paying attention to me. Focusing on me. Only I can fix me.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve lived with the misguided notion that addiction worked. Spoiler alert, addiction is a delusion left unchecked and does not work.
My addictive and co-dependent behaviours have all been my coping mechanisms. I believed that I would be OK and get through each day, if I just had a drink, looked at some porn, had sex or was generally controlling or submissive to my partner. News flash: THIS IS TOTAL BOLLOX.
If I’m honest, I have very little experience of what really works and lots of experience of what doesn’t. As my recovery progresses, I try new things. Experience deeper connections with people. Share common experiences with others. Find joy and peace within. I experience self care and self love.
Then there comes a point where I start to believe that “I’m OK”. I believe this is called hubris. I over stretch my capabilities. I falter, maybe even fall and then BOOM, I hit my old friend the F**K IT button. I’m ENTITLED to hit the F**K IT button. I’ve worked really hard at my recovery. I’m allowed a second, minute, hour, day, week off.
I start to feel like I’m entitled to happiness. To friendships. To respect. To joy. To peace. To love. To compassion. To kindness. To humility.
I stop asking for these things and instead I create an expectation that I am entitled to these things. I stop working for them and start taking everything for granted.
Soon enough, things start to go to shit. This can be days or even hours, it really doesn’t take long. Then I start isolating because I’m acting in a way that I perceive as unworthy, by my own moral code. I begin to hate the world and everyone in it, because I am now judging them by my own lowly standards. I reject the world.
I then start fantasising that things were SOOOOOOO much better when I was in a relationship.
Things were mostly terrible in all my relationships. The women I was with were lovely, but most of the time 2+2=2. The reason for that was because I wasn’t really bringing anything. I wasn’t present. I did what I thought they wanted, but had no idea what I really wanted and most of the time I was convinced that I just wanted sexual intimacy.
So I start to wilfully entertain this fantasy. I get caught up in the notion of euphoric recall, that life was simple and amazing with my last partner and how life would be so simple and amazing, if only we could get back together. After all, she really liked me. I can’t have been all that bad. Yes, if only I could get back with her, all my problems would be solved.
I feel entitled to her and this is a similar mindset to how my co-dependent sex addict was when I was actually with her. I am now back in an ill state of mind. It’s only taken a couple of days, yet in my head I’m back near rock bottom again.
I am conflicted. I know on the one hand that my thinking is wrong, but on the other I have convinced myself that I AM ENTITLED to this expectation I have set for myself and what is worst of all is that I start to believe my own delusion.
Fortunately, I have enough support around me now to identify that I’m starting to lose the plot. I have my mum. I have recovery buddies. I have this journal. I have 12 step fellowship meetings. I have my therapist, but most importantly of all, I have my own sense of discernment.
As I begin to realise that I am quickly getting out of shape, I can calmly reflect on what has changed. I can do something different or I can simply do nothing.
Better still, I know what works, so I do it.
Emergency self care:
- Eat healthy food
- Cut out refined sugar and other harmful stuff
- Shower and get dressed
- Go for a walk; a drive; a phone call; anything to break the monotony
- Watch some TV that I like
- Make phone calls
- Be humble and admit my shortcomings
The last one is the key. In the past I would have allowed my hubris and arrogance to overrule my better judgement. Today I just go back to basics. I shed my sense of entitlement, I remove my focus from the delusion and ground myself back in the present moment.
It’s all there in the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can, and the wisdom to KNOW the difference.
Grant me PATIENCE with the changes that take time. APPRECIATION of all that I have. TOLERANCE of those with different struggles and the STRENGTH to get up and try again, one day at a time.