I think we can all agree we have experienced “Negative self talk” at some point or another in our lives. When dealing with addiction and mental illness, this can be more prominent; could even make or break a person. Once that head chatter gets going, it is so hard to think of anything aside from what is causing it. We can tell ourselves that it is all crap, even be conscious of the fact it is negative self talk, our minds trying to manipulate us into going to that addict personality. For some reason we just can not shake it out no matter what skills we have learned how high our education is. Once that starts it is a war inside the mind. To combat this, I personally use “Mindfulness”. I truly believe it works. Even if I can not shake the entire thought I can manage to get through the overwhelming feelings that are caused by the thoughts. Thoughts such as anger, worthlessness, self doubt, sadness. Mindfulness was a theory that was created by a man named Jon Kabat-Zinn. He believes that by living in the moment, instead of living for an hour from now or worrying about something next Friday. When we do this, we can be more productive in our lives and live a more stress free life. There are many Techniques he has such as “Mindful Meditation” ( which I recommend). I could carry on but I will leave the research in your hands. Just google Jon Kabat-Zinn and you will get YouTube videos. ( side-note if you watch it on YouTube, get the 60 minutes interview NOT the seminar it is very long) This method has been my number one weapon against this mind jungle of thoughts. I found myself recently in a predicament to where I had the worst “Negative Self Talk” I have ever had in my life. In the over whelming feeling of worthlessness, I found myself in a parking lot of a bar. I was just done with everything. Before I even put the car in park I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, then I just drove away. I ended up on a long drive which i felt I needed. I started remembering everything I learned about being mindful, so I played the tape forward to the “what if I drank scenario”. I realized that no matter how bad I feel at that moment it is only a moment. I now have the power to change the way I think. I can still feel a certain way but the way I think about it is different I now have my “control” back. I decided then and there I would not let something someone says, does, or any situation that is out of my control manipulate how I think or act. I am in control of myself. I choose how I want to live. Sure, a lot of things are out of my control but the control I do have I embrace it and fuel that to empower me. Since I did that I find myself feeling stronger inside. I take the mindfulness and use it in my everyday life. I appreciate the small things in life now, I am working on accepting my faults and push to make the changes I need to. That is the trick “I am doing it” not anyone else. I am used to being judged for a lot of my faults; it is just a matter on how I let that affect my daily routine in life. I can do many different things. I can say “Fine if that is how you think I can go be that person”. Or, I can judge myself and empower myself to make the positive changes “I” feel “I” need to make. Life is a long winding road we often approach situations that are not ideal. We have to keep driving forward as far as we can. I have a lot of goals for myself and my family. Getting our own place is one of them. I no longer blame myself for the fact that if I did not go to treatment would be in our own place. True as that may be, where would I have been mentally or emotionally? I would most likely not be alive today. I am firm believer that things do happen for a reason just as long as we keep pushing ourselves to make our lives and the lives of others better by bettering our own actions. I believe in the kill them with kindness saying it has taken me a long time to let things roll off my shoulders and there are times the thoughts get stuck in the middle in between my shoulders in my head. So no matter what happens in life, stay positive as much as you can; want more; strive for better; things will all work out when they need to.
Sponsorship I feel is very important to the role of recovery for some it is very needed. I know I need a sponsor, I have some underlying issues with it which is why I do not currently have one. I am in the market but taking on a male “role model” is something that is really difficult for me to wrap my head around. I have a lot of issues with this role as for me to open up to my deepest darkest feelings to a person other than my Psychologist is a concept I can not fathom at this time. I find myself becoming extremely picky when it comes to choosing a sponsor, to critical of anyone I think might be a good candidate. So I asked myself “Why is that?” I think it all goes back to when i lost my Dad that was a very traumatic time for me not to mention the most crucial time I needed a positive male role model in my life. Poof, gone then I had have a few Uncles who I looked up to in that role, poof they died. So is my fear of opening up to a stranger that a meteor will come down from the sky and crush them? Could I possibly feel that my trust dooms the unlikely fella that accepts my request for this role? In some ways yes, I do feel this way, I also think it has to do with trust I pretty much been my own role model for the last 17 years so for me to give that up to a random guy I see in my meetings. Turns into an overwhelming thought process, granted my have not been the best role model for myself by any means I actually could benefit from another persons insight. I guess I know have a new goal for myself to seek me out a Sponsor. Just another piece to this complicated puzzle of recovery, baby steps right? That is the proper way to deal with big concerns in life baby steps. In that case I might want to move up from the snails pace I have sitting in for the last seven months. I have some work to do as I know deep down a sponsor is the right way to go since I have come so far in such a short time, I mine as well keep on pushing through. Taking down all obstetrical in my way ignoring all the negative self talk or from others. Just keep the Hope alive in myself and know that my opinion is the only one that can influence how I live. So when i go to my meeting this week I guess I will be scouting and recruiting I just might need to turn the critical dial down a few notches.
“Who am I really?” seems to be a common question to the majority of the human race, especially with people living with Mental Illness and or Addiction. I spent years asking myself this same question, I searched for myself or where I thought I was. I would do things that I thought people wanted me to do in search of who I really was. Acceptance is something we as human beings strive for it is what our minds, soul and heart need to feel alive. Without any sort of validation we feel empty inside if we feel empty then we simply just stop searching. That is where addiction comes in to fill that void of belonging, sure when you are rocked off your ass on booze your frame of mind gets so twisted you really do not care what any one thinks. As this poses many problems I will focus on just one, not caring what people think is dangerous because that is not how we are wired as humans. We do care what people think, we do need to be accepted in many ways, we need love and nurturing from others. People can say all day they do not care deep down in their heart they do. They are just afraid of showing they care from fear of rejection, which we all display from time to time. Think of it this way if you went to a social get together and there was only one person there you knew, you would just go mingle with everyone or find that one person and glam onto them like a leech. I am thinking you would most likely be the leech in fact %98 of us would be. Why is that? well that one person we know gives us a guarantee of what we need in order to feel safe at this gathering, that is a sense of validation and acceptance meeting new people we do not have that guarantee. Which brings me back to the “Who am I really” I have work very hard on this for the last seven months during my journey, I finally got to know a really cool person who I actually like, myself. I no longer feel the need to get the false gratification from the booze, the false sense of validation I now know and understand who I really am. Why I think the way I do, what makes me happy, sad, angry. It was not until I re-learned who I am deep deep inside did I finally come to the terms of feeling accepted b y others. For so long I have always felt I did not fit in anywhere or with anyone. I felt as I needed to be drunk or high in order to fit in be the “true” me truth is that was not me, being drunk is not who I am its what I used to do. I still have moments to where I do not feel comfortable and =feel the need to glam onto that one friend at a gathering the only difference now is I am able to venture out and unhook myself from that friend to meet other people. Sure I will always worry about being accepted I just do not feel I have to prove anything anymore I am confidant in who I am as a person. I have to come to terms with my faults and learned to embrace my strengths. So many people spend their lives living for the sake of others approval, when the most important person that we need approval from is also the hardest to get is our own. Society as a whole is very judgmental on so many levels so why make it that much more difficult, well that would be the fault of what we learn in our early years. Self-esteem is not given to you it is something that is learn and manifest itself in the brain it can either make you or brake you in your adult life. Some cases in the teenage years, that is why so many kids these days turn to the aide of narcotics and alcohol to numb that pain of not feeling wanted. Such a fragile thing self-esteem and it plays such a crucial role in our lives, it can go from high to low in a matter of seconds. Fear of this is what stops many people from doing the things they want to in life, the fear of rejection which will damage the self-esteem. In my early recovery I learned that I still have a little boy inside so I became a fierce protector of him. I know what my weak points are so I protect them. It is so easy to write about this but to actually apply it to your own life is the up hill battle, I can only speak on my personal experience but to me it is worth the climb. I truly feel I am a better person than i was seven months ago, I know I still have work ahead of me just now it is easier for me since I no longer feel I have to be accepted by anyone aside from myself. Self validation is very powerful and can take you a long way in life, next time you walk past a mirror stop say”Hi, How are you today?” sounds silly but seriously. The stigma that many of us grew up with is that if you talk to yourself then you need a rubber room and a one size fits all jacket. Think about it like this you have to live with you 24/7 no breaks right? So why not get to know you say “hi” give yourself that positive affirmation after all we only get one chance at life, mine as well be happy for the better part of it.
When a person who has been lost inside of an addiction for a long period of time, then they finally take that huge leap towards bettering their life. They tend to push others away or they get pushed away. I am no expert but in my time of studying this and the behaviors of addiction. Such as my own I like to learn everything as possible when it comes to my won recovery, why I act like that. What I do know is this, when ever a person has abused anything their body gets so used to the chemical it adopts it in the body’s make up. Meaning the chemical is now a part of the brain chemistry to help the body “function” with out it you get withdraws symptoms when they first get of the chemical. The brain just freaks out like what the hell is going on “I need that drug” because when abusing a drug or alcohol all the poison that is connected to that drug or drink re wires the brain. Take that away will cause major problems. This can be “fixed” with with proper treatment and or detox under supervision of a professional. I will never tell anyone to go “cold turkey” of a drug that can be dangerous and sometimes fatal. So you are done with the treatment it has been 30 days you have been sober and yet you find your relationships are not what you thought, or you find yourself really angry out of the blue. Watch out for the main days 30, 60, 90 and 1 year when it gets close to those days in recovery you will experience what is know as PAWS ( Post Acute Withdraw Symptoms) these will last for about 2 years. Now me personally I had mine at 30, 60 they were brutal I was irritable as all hell I was just pissed at life. I was mad I “had” to be sober that I could do what I wanted and was sick of being told I “can’t” (side note stay away from the word “I can’t” all that does is piss you off and make you do it anyway say you “choose”) When I hit 7 months I did not have any of these but I am preparing myself for the 1 year even though I personally do not think that far ahead but I know in the back of my mind when I need to start watching for signs of PAWS. Knowing is a very powerful weapon in the world of recovery if you know your triggers and when or why you feel a certain way then you can head it off before it becomes a relapse. Many people think a relapse is when you go and do the drug or you drink, a relapse is the thought before that leads you to the action of a relapse. So knowing the signs will help you to avoid situations that might not be the best for you at that time. I have had a ton of “relapses” but no actions I never took a drink but in my early recovery I had a lot of plans to, or my “what if” or the “if this happens I am going to” but I never acted on any of them eventually they went away. Now with the PAWS you may notice you might be pushing your loved ones away or it seems that they are distancing themselves from you. That could be PAWS, another thing to remember is that people who become sober feel that because they made this change to better their life and it will benefit everyone else, we as addicts tend to forget about all the stupid shit we did when we were active in using so even though we are clean and sober does not erase what we did, said or threaten when we were using. The people we have in our life that watch us go through the self destruction with not a damn thing they could do about it. It is like watching a person you love deeply die a horrible slow death. That is what addiction is a horrible slow death why it is a disease, so as we turn the page and make the positive changes our love ones need to do the same. We were so unpredictable for so long it is hard to just flip a switch in our loved ones mind for them to just be 100% trusting of us. I personally have put my wife through hell I was never abusive but I said and did some really dumb shit I never cheated on her but I would just be so selfish and I left her to pick up the pieces. Just something to keep in mind that our loved ones need to heal to so when you feel you are being pushed away you most likely triggered something in them to make them feel like they used to. My wife goes to ALANON the same time I go AA I am lucky to have her in my life as she knows she needs to heal. The one thing that my wife and I have which I feel is extremely important in open honest communication. Like I mention before about being aware of your PAWS or mood changes this is increased depending on your Mental Health as well. I know when I am not feeling good so I tell my wife when i feel off, then I can go lay down and work through it or she tells she if she has any concerns about certain behaviors I may exhibit so I can be aware. Unfortunately addiction is also a sub-conscious disease as well the more you educate yourself about YOUR addictive behaviors and addiction itself then you can bring these to the fore front of your mind which then you can work them out and deal with them on a more conscious light. Recovery is a healing process for everyone involved not just the person who is the addict.
October 13th 1998, is a day that would change my life forever. I said my last goodbye to my father before they pulled the plug. My mother found my dad unresponsive three days prior to this dreadful date, they said he had Strep Meningitis and that we was “Brain Dead” there was nothing more that could be done he was basically only alive due to the machines and tubes pouring out of him. I just turned 18 on Sept 26th so the thought of me becoming a man in the eyes of the world but not having a man to model that for me was beyond impossible. I down right shut down I became so introverted and just hated the world, the one person who I looked up to my hero, my Batman, had just died. Gone left the world just like that no see you later I will miss you I love you. GONE in a condition that could not be fixed or repaired. I do not think I have ever had so much hurt, anger, sadness or guilt before in my life. The beginning of the end the time in my life where my PTSD took form where my server depression I was diagnosed at an early age just got feed a big dose of the “fuck its” from that moment on I would go on the most destructive path tearing down friendships, relationships and building a highest walls you could ever imagine. For the next 16 years I would live in a never ending nightmare of pain and sorrow. See I drank and smoke weed before hand, I started drinking at age eleven. I am not talking a sip of daddy’s beer, I am talking I drank a half bottle of Southern Comfort. Never even got sick so I had it already in my blood I was doomed from the get go, after the dust settled and the funeral was over I was drunk or heavily stoned all day every day morning to night it still did not kill the pain no matter how mush I drank or smoked I still woke up feeling as the world had stopped in that moment of time when I watch my father die. Like I was meant to suffer which just fueled my anger and hatred for myself. I blamed myself for a lot of things in my life in some ways I do for my dads death. Fast forward 15 years to when I was by my mom’s bed side and watch her die in front of me again not a damn thing I could have done. After my dad died my mom took his place in the alcoholic department so naturally she was diagnosed with Cirrhosis of the Liver, I say naturally because at that time my thought process was “why not” “life hates me” there is a long list of people I have lost in between that time so I was really pissed. My mother battled for five years in and out of the hospital a few times my wife and I packed up our car and drove out to Michigan in the middle of the night from Minnesota because I got a call from my brothers saying she was not doing good. As you can imagine all those close calls just reek havoc on my psyche but no fear my buddy alcohol was there although he seemed to come around just to make me forget for a little while then would leave, but not before destroying something else in my life first. Even though I was and still am married to the same women I still felt a void that could not be filled. Something that no matter how hard my wife tried would never be able to fill in a million years. I felt abandoned by my parents here I sit 34 years old and an orphan there is that pissed off young 18 year old again coming alive after I worked so hard in therapy to “fix” my brain. All the while I was lying to myself I did not “fix” a damn thing I suppressed it so down deep only my friend alcohol could bring it out. This part I was not a fan of when alcohol would revisit the past it almost always lead to a bigger issue at the time of the next day. The messed up thing is that this whole time I thought I handle my mothers death well, can you say denial at its finest, it mine as well been my first name. I got so good at hiding behind the pain and misery that I was that comfortable in it so comfortable that when painful things would happen I brushed them off and thought I was handling it like a champ. When the truth of the matter I was the only one who did not see the destruction take place. After a rash of another death of a close loved one and the one year anniversary of my moms death my Mental Health and addiction took the sharpest darkest turn ever in my life. January 21st 2015 was the last dark day I would ever have also the day I would have my last drink or weed, I attempted to take my life after 23 years of living with the grief, pain and misery. The feelings of that I am not worth anything I am a shitty person, father and husband. The feeling that the world would be better off without me. I finally got the balls enough to do it, after my nanny arrived to take care of my kids I called into work grabbed 3 beers went to my music studio. I snorted 2 lines of Ativian slammed the 3 beers in a matter of seconds, I smoked all the weed I had left then I polished off a bottle of rum. I blacked out after that I woke up in the hospital where my wife took me, apparently I downed the rest of the Benzos which were estimated at about 15 pills left. My wife also told me the only way she got me to the hospital was bribing me by stopping for a 40oz on the way, which she said she was not really going to do but I threaten to jump out of the car I do not remember any of this I went in the store, no recollection, nothing ,blank. Remember the part when i said I drank a half of a 5th of Southern Comfort when I was 11 with no repercussions I mention that for this reason. According to three Dr that came in and talk to me the amount of pills and alcohol I had in my system they were not only SHOCKED i was alive but that I was not in a coma. I never ever ended up in the ICU no stomach pumped nothing like that. Just spent a week in the Pysch unit. So I say this because I will be damned if I ever give up a second chance like I truly feel I have. The whole reason behind me starting this Blog, I am going to do everything in my power to reach as many people as I possibly can to let them know, they are not alone. I know view all the shit from my past as a gift not a curse its a gift because I stand before you now having lived on so many sides of the spectrum. I am a huge advocate for Mental Health always have been I worked in the field for 14 years before retiring early from the career. Though I am not a Dr I do not have a big fancy degree from a collage I do have a degree in life, I have lived it to the end literally then back. Today I am proud to say it has been 7 months since the beginning of this journey and I am sober and proud of it. I am free of the mental beating I used to endure, I love me, I love life for the first time in my life. Also happy to say I can only move forward it may take me awhile but as long as I keep moving nothing can get in my way. Stay strong out there you are not alone. There is ALWAYS hope.
As I sit here and think about my addiction and what kind of destruction I have created in my past. I can not help but to think “Wow what an asshole” I mean seriously even though I was not an abusive person to my family, nor did I steal things to pay for my addiction. I only got one DUI when I was 19 I am still with the mother of my children, yet I still think “asshole” for this reason. In all the years of my addiction I was selfish I only cared about my next fix, if I did not get my way I would be, well, an asshole to be blunt about it. I used to think because I never did anything “bad” that I was “normal” NO I did not have drinking problem, in fact had no problems drinking I was pretty good at it. I did however spend a lot of money on it would probably have a savings today if I did not piss it all away. In very beginning of my recovery I had to really get down deep beneath the surface, bare bones if you will. I had to uncover shit I had buried so deep I forgot all about it, I knew this was the only way I could get any where in my recovery. The hardest thing I ever had to endure in my entire life, having to face pain, anger, feelings of being lost, scared and alone. I had to face all of this without any sort of numbing agent just me and myself mono e mono no holds bard gloves off. Even though it was the scariest, hardest thing I have ever done I can proudly say it was worth every bit of doubt I had in myself. I came out of that 28 day treatment facility a new person stronger than ever, I would like to say I hit my rock bottom that is what landed me in the hospital for a week then off to rehab. The reality of that is there is no rock bottom that would be death, now I did skim the bottom pretty close considering it is a miracle I am alive today. Which is why I am taking this second chance to share with others to give them HOPE there is a way out it is possible to live sober. With the growing rate of addiction in America today we are looking at 1 out of every 8 people suffer from one form of addiction, with %50 of them being in between the ages of 18-21. Shocking? no sad very sad now here is a harder truth you are probably thinking “yea, but most of them are homeless” NOPE in fact %70 of the people recorded with active addictions were employed they are “normal” working people of our society that battle a deep dark ugly demon within. If that is not enough to rattle you how about %15 of Americans are under the age of 18, they may not look like a huge percent but when you figure in that 23.5 millions of Americans suffer from addiction with only %11 actually receiving treatment then figure in that percent of kids. Mind blowing addiction in America is on the rise and it is a dangerous self destructive weapon. Just sit back and think to yourself how many people do you know that struggle with addiction? well %25 of ALL Americans will suffer from a form of addiction at some point during their existence again small percent in comparison to the population, but if we continue to ignore the problem those numbers will be much much higher. The very sad fact is that addiction is one of the only diseases that you can suffer from that everyone else in society will look down on you for having. As if it is your fault, you woke up one day and decided to go out an be an Alcoholic, or you are a horrible person because you “choose” drugs and booze over your family. No one offered me a gift basket or came over and baked me a pie when it came out I had a terminal disease, why is that? stigma in the media and society itself. Truth folks many people die every day from this disease they do not have to, it can be treated with the proper plans and help. If you know someone who is suffering from an addiction please talk to someone email me if you need some information. The only way we can win this battle if we band together and spread the word and the truth about addiction.
Well let be me the first to say I am not a Dr. but here is what I do know about these two disease and how they are not only connected but they are similar in many ways. They often go hand in hand about %50 of addicts have what is called dual diagnosis or co-morbidity it all starts in the brain the chemicals that our in our brains is the make up of who we are or what we have. So many people have a predisposition to have an addictive personality or mental illness the second they are born it is an up hill battle, Now you can also develop a mental illness from excessive drug or alcohol use meaning that in long term use with either you can almost bet the farm that you will have depression which makes you use more and more increasing the tolerance in the body to the foreign chemical which results in all kinds of chaos in the brain and body. Long term use not only puts the brain chemistry at risk but a lot of other health problems as well. The sad thing is that so many people use the term depressed so loosely for most of them they do not even have the diagnosis the people that do are the ones who blend in to their environment like a chameleon similar to the workings of an addict all the while trying to be as “normal” as possible Living with one or the other is hard enough but having a dual diagnosis is like having a boulder on your chest forget the shoulders. Living with these diseases is a constant boot on your throat, always wondering questioning “why cant I be normal?” ” why do I do I always take that drink?” “why do I have to take medication to function?” which is very dangerous because the self medicating starts all the self control is out the window, self doubt, neglect of one self, hatred to the world and all that live in it. Trying to navigate through a life you no longer want anymore is scary and the most uncomfortable feeling in the world. The constant beating in your head that you are not good enough you are a waste of time, is exhausting then the drugs or booze comes in to play, then you have a more worthless feeling so you use, that solves the worlds problems for a moment until that high runs out. Then they shitty feeling you had just doubled now that you are faced not only with the feelings of worthlessness before now you can add regret and guilt to the mix. Depression, PTSD, Anxiety are the three common Mental Illnesses that are relatives of addiction, PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)has its own stigma to it. Society likes to think that you had to live through a war in order to have PTSD which could not be further from the truth the term Post Traumatic says it all it is a traumatic event that happen to a person in their past, which could be anything from a car accident to the death of a parent. Young or old it can happen any time to anyone. Unlike Depression which can be caused from genetics like anxiety and addiction, So now we have all of these variables in life to have to live through then during the height of our addiction we really crash and burn, now live sober forget everything you have ever learned in your life on how to deal with world problems. Re-learn how to live without your safety net of escape that is what it is like in the mind of a person who gets sober and enters the world of recovery with an attempt to change your way of thinking. I know about this all to well I suffer from everything I named, I have the diagnosis of PTSD, Server Depression with an Anxiety disorder and I am also an addict a recovering Alcoholic who for the last 6 1/2 months have been re-learning everything I thought was “normal” with both of my parents being Alcoholics to my parents Owning and operating a bar for 18 years of my life. My parents are no longer alive and though it was not a direct result of my fathers death his Alcoholism did not help him in anyway, my mother died from cirrhosis of the liver. So I have seen enough people die or be sick from drinking you would think that would have stopped me, right? wrong!! another common mis-conception society has you hear it all the time, you have a great life, you have this or that. “You have no reason to be depressed” ” I can’t believe they would go use” it is not the fault of the person people who suffer from these disease have no control in the matter it is a chemical dysfunction in their brains. Now I talk about choice a lot for me once that sweet poison hits my blood my choice it gone, once I stop taking my medication as prescribed, choice is gone. The only choice I have now is to either be controlled or control it. Easier said than done when you take a person like myself who for the last 23 years have numbed the pain from the past and ignored the possibility’s of the future by using drugs and alcohol it is like a rebirth. January 21, 2015 is my sober date but I refer to it as my second birthday since I have to re-learn everything without the escape from my head. The trick is learning to live with yourself, 24/7 no breaks I have to live with me guess I better learn to like me, huh? Although these disease are chronic and terminal they can be treated and healthy full lives can be lead. Just takes perseverance and patients, determination and HOPE.I am a firm believer that anyone with either on or both of these illnesses can be free no matter how bad their life is, was or they think it is. Truth is life is not about comparing our life to the next no one person has it worse than another it is all in perspective of the person living it. We can choose to let it defeat us or we can battle, the hard part is realizing you are not alone and you do not have to battle alone. Find a friend or another who has the same experiences all addicts are the same in one way or another may be at different distances on the road but all are equal distance from the ditch. No matter if you have 1 day or 25 years of being sober no is exempt from the reality that this disease is not a joke and if you are not careful and conciseness of the fact it can creep up and destroy everything you re-built.