I am reading 12 smart things to do when the booze and drugs are gone, by Dr. Allen Berger. He is the same author of 12 stupid things that mess up recovery. I was reading smart thing 12: the "problem" is not really the problem. This chapter got me thinking. Not only is this chapter useful to me but I'm hoping it could be useful to someone else.
When I first got into recovery I thought that my addiction was my only problem and that I had everything else under control. But the drugs just covered it up, by not feeling is how I thought I had it taking care of!
In the book he talks about emotionally sobriety. He says with emotional sobriety, we will move toward our true-self, and move away from our idealized or false self. We will move away from perfectionism, and move toward appreciating progress. You will learn how to take charge of your emotions rather than letting your emotions drive you.
That sounds nice to me. I don't want to feel like I have to be perfect 24/7. Matter of fact it is exhausting and annoying not only to myself but my daughter and I am sure others around me. In fact I know it gets to Kelli. Last night when I was trying to get the kitchen done I had to have everything in place. Kelli put something somewhere it didn't go-not that it was hurting anything-but I went into a big spill about why that didn't go there and how everything had to be this way and why if it wasn't this would not work, blah blah blah. She looked me straight in the eyes and said; "Mommy I'm done helping you, you’re getting on my nerves" and she is only 5! Ok, I realize what she said could come off as disrespectful, but it did open my eyes! If we continue to strive for perfect we are going to be going at it alone! We will push the ones we need the most away. What is it with newly recovery addicts that we feel like everything needs to be perfect?!? I don't get it!
Anyways back on topic! Dr. Berger says that the problem is most often not the real problem. What you've identified as the problem is really a sign that something is lacking in your life. Once we find what is missing we can regain our true self. When we are seeking emotional sobriety our job is to find what is missing.
There is a paragraph in this chapter that helped my find my "missing" problem: If I didn't want to feel at all, then I would have a hole in my heart. Think of these as functional deficits. These deficits limit our ability to cope. If I have trained myself to "not see" certain things, then my ability to cope with any situation that includes those things will be compromised.
That is so true for me! I compromised many things because I didn't know how to cope. But I started drinking and becoming the addict I was when I was 14, I didn't give myself time to learn to cope, I stopped my emotional growth there. Now at 26 I am trying to put 12 years of emotionally growing in a few short months. I am trying to teach myself how to cope with situations instead of getting high. It is hard, when you are more comfortable with being high and not in this world, but I just have to do it. I have to figure it out. I'm not going to lie, there are times when I want to say "Screw it, you people have fun in your world, I'm going to mine" but then were does that put me? At the worse, back in prison for 10 years or dead. At the best...well I'm not sure there is a best for this situation. So I have no choice but to cope.
Another question that Dr. Berger asked is how is that we end up with these holes in our development? He explains it by saying: It happens because we have alienated or disowned various parts of ourselves in order to live up to our idealized self-image-in order to make ourselves more acceptable and lovable. Let’s say I am “supposed” to be understanding and compassionate. In order to be this way, I have to disown any part of me that doesn’t meet these specifications. Therefore, I can’t be impatient or annoyed with you, even if you are really annoying me. There’s no room for this reaction in my personality. So I project these feelings and deny them. If I don’t recognize that I am feeling annoyed, then I am unable to take care of myself. I am unable to assert myself and do something about what is happening. When Kelli told me I was getting on her nerves she wasn't denying her feelings, she was telling me exactly how she felt at that time. Does that mean she loves me any less? No, it just means that she loves herself enough to respect herself and her feelings. If she can do that at 5 why can't we do that as adults? But as addicts its very easy to deny our feelings to ourselves and other, we are deceptive, to be honest the art of deception is one thing that we addicts become very good at. If we are not good at anything else, we are at that!
But Dr.Berger does give us hope, we can become emotionally sober. In the book he list tips for handling problem to find the
REAL problem, he says they help you stop, step back from the thing that's bothering you, and look for the emotional dependency underlying your reaction:
1. Do something different: doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. A good rule of thumb is to do something 180 degrees put from what you have been doing.
2. Stop “awfulizing”: accept the present reality as it is and settle down.
3. Let the best of you do the thinking and talking: stay committed to letting the best of you stay in the lead during a crisis or when struggling with an ongoing problem.
4. Focus on the solution: Stop playing the blame game. Blame will only make it more difficult to find a solution.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff: ask yourself if this issue is of critical importance. If it is hold your ground, if not let it go.
6. Get some distance from the issue: sleep on the problem. Very few things need to be solved right away.
7. Ask for help: just because you have tried everything you know, it doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless. New information can help unlock gridlock.
Note: there are 14 to the above list, I just listed the ones that I have trouble with, and the others are helpful as well.
Something that Dr.Berger suggested and that I use a lot is the serenity prayer, there are many different versions but the way I say it is:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (others)
the courage to change the things I can (myself)
and the wisdom to know the difference.
I hoped this chapter helped someone else as much as it helped me. In reality this Blog has helped me tremendously, actually getting out what I am feeling and thinking has been such a chip of my shoulders, it has been freeing. Thank you all for listening- or reading in this case- to my ramblings!
Just for today: I will put my emotional well-being first!