I chose the above photo to open this blog because after seeing a series of photos the other day from this abandoned, stuck-in-the-70s Japanese strip club, I was smitten with them and couldn’t put my finger on the reason. I’m still not exactly sure why, besides that I’m smitten with most any photo of an abandoned place in which it appears people just walked out and left everything as it was. Then I had a very self-involved epiphany: I related to this photo in particular so much because it’s what the inside of my head felt like at the time. I’d switched medicines that day–from
Dopamax Topamax to Campral–and was missing the high that the Topamax gave me. That’s the reason it worked so well for the four months I was on it: I constantly felt buzzed and many times high as a kite, so there was no need for alcohol. (Disclaimer: I did indeed drink while I was on it, and many times experienced an overwhelming urge for a drink when I was taking it sober. The handful of days before I switched prescriptions were wrought with the desire to drink, to the point I told my AA sponsor I felt like giving up and just getting the relapse over with.) All this to say that the inside of my brain felt trashed: the Dopamax party was over, the new medicine gives me no sort of high, and I felt lonely, insecure, and scared. Probably the same way the photographer felt who captured this shot in the Japanese resort town where this strip club still sits empty, streamers still hanging from the ceiling and the stripper stages empty and dust-covered.
My focus this last week has been on changing the way I think. There’s a line in the AA Big Book that says something to the effect of (and this is a liberal paraphrase), “We all have God inside of us; it’s just a matter of unclogging our minds to seek Him.” And I think that’s so true. I’ve always prayed daily and gone to church and the whole nine yards, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to a truly intimate relationship with God. So very rarely do I sit still and just listen to what He might have to say; my prayers are very rote lists of requests (mostly for others) and things I’m thankful for. I’m trying to learn how to meditate, which should be easier on this new medicine. It was difficult for me to wrap my mind around the concept that there isn’t a big secret to meditating–it’s more or less breathing exercises which then facilitate calm thinking (or at least that’s the way it was explained to me). Starting at 30 seconds and working my way up to longer meditation sessions is something I’m working on, though it’s a challenge.
I follow some great recovery-centric Tumblrs and one of them posted this a couple of days ago. Reading these two simple lines is what made me realize I have to change my thought patterns. And it’s easy to throw up my hands and give up before I start…how exactly does one “change their thinking?” For someone who overanalyzes everything, it made me want a drink or four just pondering this. I know from the Boundaries book my first addiction specialist had me read that a big part of this is not entertaining negative thoughts. The minute they pop in your head, just don’t entertain them. I’ve wasted
hours years obsessing over negative thoughts that I shouldn’t have entertained. I’ve worked myself into frenzies over problems that ended up essentially being imagined…imagine that, if you will. It’s letting go of frivolous, time- and energy-consuming behaviours like that which morph into a renewed way of thinking. Like most changes, it doesn’t happen overnight. I had a situation this past week that really got me worked up. I vented about it on Facebook (and then deleted the post…it was that negative and needless, though it felt necessary when I posted it), but thankfully I didn’t entertain the thoughts much past the venting. And I needed to vent because I was very upset; but I couldn’t change what the other person had done to me. The only thing I could change is how I chose to react to it, and so that’s what I did. Realizing his behaviour isn’t worth my time, energy, and negative thoughts is realizing he has no power over me. That’s what changing our thinking does–it gives us power over our emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical well-being.
Here’s some quotes I’ve found this week, again from the recovery-centric Tumblrites:
“Renewing the mind is a little like refinishing furniture. It is a two-stage process. It involves taking off the old and replacing it with the new. The old is the lies you have learned to tell or were taught by those around you; it is the attitudes and ideas that have become a part of your thinking but do not reflect reality. The new is the truth. To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. To the degree that you do this, your behavior will be transformed.” – Charles Stanley
“Life always give us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor, every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every breath. Every moment is the guru.”–Charlotte Joko Beck
“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”–Kahlil Gibran
“You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago.”–Unknown
“The disapproval of those we love most is amplified so much that it overpowers the rest of the opinions that actually matter– like our own. It is a long road before we learn to turn them off, to release ourselves, and to remove value from how they think and feel before we’re able to hear everything clearly again. That’s when we start to hear the great opinions about us again; they’re so evident, so refreshing to hear. And we, more than anything, realize how the voice of that one person sometimes sounds a lot like ours, but we just don’t have control of theirs when it gets out of hand. And when it becomes louder than our own, we lose our way. It is through giving everything we have that we find all that should come to us. Loving ourselves is usually the aftermath of loving another so much that we’re exhausted and broken and have no other choice. Because loving someone more than they love you isn’t inherently a problem, but it becomes one the day you finally hear yourself say I deserve so much more.”–Unknown
“In the end loneliness is the most terrible and contradictory of my problems. I hate having only myself to come home to… It’s not that I want a sexual partner, a long-term partner, someone to share a bed and a snuggle on the sofa with – although perhaps I do… It’s a lose-lose matter. I don’t want to be alone, but I want to be left alone… And perhaps I am writing this for any of you out there who are lonely too. There’s not much we can do about it… But I want you to know that you are not alone in your being alone.”–Stephen Fry
“The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do.”–Anonymous
“The area dividing the brain and the soul is affected in many ways by experience. Some lose all mind and become soul: insane. Some lose all soul and become mind: intellectual. Some lose both and become: accepted.”–Charles Bukowski
“There is mind-bending beauty in the fact that we are eternal. We come, we go, and we travel so far beyond our conscious understanding we’re left blindsided and brush it off as fable or tall tale. This is who you are now, but it is not who you will always be. This may be how you feel now, but it will not be how you always feel.”–Unknown
I like that last typed quote and pictured quote especially, because they put into perspective how transitory our everyday problems and irritations are. Yet so much of our time and energy are consumed dealing with just those issues! Oh, the irony of life…for most of us who’re given the chance, it’s not until the end of it that we realize how petty and inconsequential most of those things we stressed over and tormented ourselves dealing with were. Yet we must deal with them daily or they get bottled up. And then people like me hit the bottle, and it’s off to the races. Realizing, too, that I was drinking simply so I wouldn’t care about my issues has been eye-opening. It was also the reason I wanted to drink so badly this time last week. I felt like I was doing everything I was supposed to do towards my recovery, yet I was so unhappy. Choosing to look on the bright side and reminding myself of all I have to be thankful for is what’s going to keep me sober. Not the medicine; my way of thinking.
I’ve written a book this week, but I do want to give a shout-out of congrats to my beloved Connie Britton from ‘Nashville’ on her fourth consecutive Emmy nomination (for three separate shows!). This speaks volumes about her acting ability and how well-liked she is in the industry, because as much as I love ‘Nashville’, the writers didn’t give her character much to work with past the typical primetime soap dramatics. So congrats, Connie…I can only hope you’re flippin’ your hair over your nomination.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for the support from those I’ve leaned on in the past week. Sylvia Plath once said, ““I’ve been needing, more than anything, to talk to somebody, to spill out the tight, jealous, envious, apprehensive, neurotic tensions in me.” I can relate, and not in a suicidal, put-my-head-in-the-oven kind of way. I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have great friends and family in my life who’ve had the patience of saints with me, so thanks to those who’ve been there when I called, e-mailed, messaged, or saw them in person. You really are all saints in my book.