One Spin Around the Sun Later.
Did you know the Sun’s name isn’t actually the Sun? I mean, sure, if you’re not on a first name basis with the Sun, then by all means, call him / her / it the Sun. But actually, to those in the inner circle (like Mars, Earth, Venus, and Merc), the Sun is called Sol. As in Sol from Solar System.
I’ve managed to do one full spin around Solly without picking up drugs or alcohol. The landmark day was last Thursday. It was a hell of a ride.
As my therapist said, it’s been a year of trench warfare against myself.
Drugs and alcohol aren’t always the primary problem a person has. Sometimes, in my case, they’re a symptom of a deeper malady.
Unfortunately, symptoms in (actual) diseases do sometimes kill. In the case of substance abuse some quality time with Mr G. Reaper is more and more likely the longer you or a loved one are in that abusive relationship of drug addiction.
Addiction may or may not be a ‘disease’ in the medical sense. But it certainly is a destructive set of behaviours that, in me, revolved around dangerous self-soothing actions. I self-soothed with booze, self-soothing my emotions into a more manageable state. Some people say they completely numbed themselves. Maybe that’s them. I did not numb anything, not with alcohol. I just managed my emotions. I still felt everything, and perhaps close to as intensely. There was just a thin wall, a layer of skin if you will, between them and my skeleton of being.
Perhaps it’s a bipolar thing. I’ve mentioned before that as a bipolar, my emotions are physiologically way more intense than the average person’s. This is according to my psychiatrist, who specialises in mood disorders. It’s to do with the manner my brain processes emotions. Badly. As if the crew managing them has gone on extended vacation, and left the office temp with a bad attitude problem in charge.
And when it gets too much, I slip into a kind of madness. The official term for it is mania, and I can go anywhere from completely insanely happy, to completely desperately depressed, to completely freakishly freaked out.
Long before drugs or alcohol entered the picture, I self-soothed through removing myself from you humans’ reality, entering my own. Through books, through wooden sticks turned into samurai swords, to loud music I was sailing along to as lead singer in a superstar band. And we rocked you. We rocked all of you. Even Solly felt it. The Universe shook. I was awesome.
Of course, in actual reality, people just saw this withdrawn boy disappearing inwards.
Later, I started drinking, and realised I could, like some other socially stunted alcoholics, actually have a good time when I had the burning fire of ethanol in my belly. I could be, I felt, the person I imagined in my fantasies.
Not quite. Even in my most social years of substance abuse, I felt lesser than. Lesser than you. Lesser than your girlfriend/boyfriend/dogfriend. Lesser than your neighbour. Lesser than your neighbour’s mongoloid son who throws beetles at passing cars. Lesser than, lesser than, lesser than.
I still went into my world. Until I found that ecstasy pills actually did make me feel like I was worth it. Ecstasy made me love everything. Even myself. I had never ever felt comfortable in my own skin. I disliked everything about me. My therapist (Houghton House™ issued – gotta catch them all©) pointed out, when I told her I wasn’t a violent man, by any means, that in fact I did great (psychological) violence to myself. More on that another time.
But on this magical pill… suddenly, I loved myself. I was like, Hey, how you doing? Having a good time? I think you’re awesome, dang, you are so awesome. Can I get an autograph? For my kid? He really hero-worships you. You’re up there on the top shelf with Wolverine and Batman.
Sad, really. That it took a street drug to make me feel that way. There’s a whole other story, won’t go into it, but I only ever landed up with a girlfriend when I had this faux confidence. Confidence lacking in a life that’s missed so many opportunities.
So that’s how I justified my drug usage, in my little conversations with my inner senate. Or legion, if you prefer…
But, as these things inevitably go, I literally crossed a line. Ended up using the white powder called Cat, and smashing vodka, and popping pills, and slowly my life began to fall apart.
It was like the metaphorical slow-motion car accident. As it happens, the motor vehicle of my life was dangerously out of control, and I drove along a tightly curving road in heavy rain, suddenly all the elements, like the worn brakes, the nearly treadless tyres, the frazzled driver, the wonky steering wheel, made hitting the barrier inevitable. And exploding out the mountain path into the depths of the valley below.
I started this journey of recovery many years ago. I have a list as long as my arm of fallen comrades in the war against our addict selves. Because it is an intense civil war. Bombshells called cravings exploded all around me. The artillery fire we call self-will run riot peppered friends into smoke. The gun rounds known as euphoric recall knocked me off my feet too many times to count whilst I charged across the battlefield.
I managed to get up, got helped up, and was sometimes carried over the shoulder – by Houghton House and their team of counsellors – in that desperate bid to get and stay clean.
But, as I first mentioned, drugs and alcohol are signs of a deeper malady in me. They sometimes call it a ‘hole in the soul’. I have heard other addicts describe a similar thing in them. A yearning to fill this void within.
There’s a sense of ‘completeness’ when an addict finds their drug of choice (whether alcohol or otherwise). To the point of experiencing a relationship with it. With a substance. People often make jokes along the lines of hanging out with Charlie (cocaine) or spending time with Johnny (Walker, more than a passing acquaintance for me, in another life).
But recovery is about finding completeness in myself. Recovery is also wanting to recover. And my not-wanting-to-quit became not-wanting-to-quit-also-not-wanting-to-die-terribly-or-at-least-not-wanting-to-have-a-life-of-mistery. Need-a-way-out.
My samurai poet experience (as detailed here) was sort of the start of the journey into a genuine recovery. It took a few more spills, before I went to my family and asked, for the first time ever, for help.
Coming into Houghton House’s rehab was the best thing I ever did. Alex Hamlyn and Dan Wolf have built a haven for drug and drink addicts like me, with a programme that helps teach us the skills and tools needed to live a life free of addiction.
After their primary rehab programme, I continued at their secondary facility, The Gap. It further entrenched the toolkit I’d need when I left the safety of rehab. But out I had to get. I had a lovely cat waiting for me, and she’s been a big part of my sobriety this year.
They say a black cat is bad luck. But she’s been the opposite. I can’t get over the love she exudes whenever I walk through the door. And no, it’s not because she wants food. 🙂
That’s the only kind of cat I want in my life now. As for getting to this point, it’s helped being at a Houghton House’s halfway house, with other addicts like me sharing a journey of sobriety.
I still tend to keep to myself. I found working, either on creative projects or simply writing, to be fantastically therapeutic.
One thing I can definitely recommend, if you’re fresh in recovery out of rehab, is to teach yourself (through Google, youTUBE, and from friends with a talent in that area) a new skill. Like, I got into photo manipulation or simply turning photos into art in some way or form. It started really hard, but became easier and easier. I found I got really focused. I experienced a sense of genuine achievement as I created something fresh and new.
This photo, a variation of which was used for my post about a story I’m working on, took me nearly an entire day’s worth of productivity to make. Hours upon hours.
Nothing was as rewarding as becoming adept at the previously unfamiliar.
Something else that worked well for me was family. Family. Family. Family. A support network of people outside of the fellowship of addicts. Normal people. I found that normal, stable persons are a good influence. Obviously, there are some families that the recovering addict might consider ‘sick’. Going into rehab changes your world view. Making you more aware of group dysfunction.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t find a new ‘family’ of friends, who aren’t addicts, and don’t use substances (although drinking every so often does come close enough to normal – for them, not you!), and certainly are sympathetic to the plight of addicts, these people make good influencers.
They’re normal. They lead balanced lives. They manage to wake up without hitting the snooze button, take out the garbage, get showered, dressed, and to work on time. Go to gym, get home, make dinner, play with the kids, enjoy some TV, play some Playstation, meet friends one or two evenings of the week, go on picnics and s#!%, be normal. Be balanced.
They’re great for addicts. Especially addicts just out of rehab. We are who we spend our time with. We’re social animals. We form small sub-cultures.
Find your tribe, as they say.
I’m not the best example of this, I just have enough of a taste of it, to know, it’s beneficial.
I’m clean today because I had help from Houghton House, ongoing and not just from time in rehab. And I furthered myself in a way that helped me grow. And I spent time with people who are following a new way of life. And spent time with people who had a great way of life to begin with. Lastly, cats. But maybe you’re a dog person. Just don’t make them your dogfriend. (If you do have this problem, there is a resident clinical psychologist at Houghton House™ who should help cure you. Ask for Lagertha.)
I still go into my own world, though.
I’m working on it, getting back into your reality, peeps. But, right now, I have the dark forces of the Shadow Khan to fight, and I’m my world’s only samurai.
I just can’t leave them now.
Not while Solly, representative of all I have achieved, still shines bright in the sky.