Do not start a blog about life if you intend to delude yourself as a rational and sane human being. At least that is my experience… Not that blogging has changed my psychological condition, but, holy smokes, have I realized that I can qualify for so many of the classifications listed in the Diagnostic and Static Manual of Mental Disorders!
This particular post started simply enough with my consideration of how I now appreciate writing as a great resolver of tension… My intention was to write about healthy ways to relieve stress. HAHAHA! It turns out, I have almost no authority on that subject!
Here was my original opening paragraph that led me to again consider my mental health:
Throughout my 38 years, I have used a plethora of techniques to deal with life’s stressors. For some reason, I much prefer addictive and destructive techniques over productive and wholesome measures. What I’m really good at is taking a little bit of a good thing, overindulging in it, and then creating some really bad habits! Even when it’s good for me, I prefer to take it to an unhealthy level! 🙂
This was just my hook to inspire you to read more and then ultimately talk about mechanisms for coping with life. Re-reading the paragraph above to myself though, I decide that it sounded a bit more dysfunctional than the light in which I see myself. So, off of to the Google machine I go to look up the definition of “addictive personality.” My intention was to prove that I did’t meet the basic requirements for that designation. I certainly don’t think of myself as the type. GUESS WHAT! I was totally wrong! I am the exact definition:
An addictive personality is a set of personality traits that make addiction more likely. Addictions can come in a wide range of forms, including drugs, alcohol, gambling, exercise, pornography and more. Uniting these addictions is the repeated use of pleasurable activities to cope with stress, pressure and conflict.
“The repeated use of pleasurable activities to cope with stress, pressure and conflict.” That’s a rather loose definition and I would think most of America could fall under that designation… Or perhaps my friends are a little more relaxed than most. 😉 At any rate, before I even get started, let’s recap:
Blog #3) I revealed that I used to be quite a lush. (No news for me, but an uncomfortable statement to boldly profess over the world wide web.)
Blog #4) I consider that I am innately a hedonist. (Hmmm, this I hadn’t previously realized this but okay, I’ll work with it.)
Blog #7) I have addictive personality disorder. (Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo! Put it all together and what have you got… A whole bag of dysfunction!)
I am a hedonist alcoholic with an addictive personality!?!? It sure sounds like a wild party over here ALL THE TIME!
So I may not be near the Gautama Buddha’s teachings of “om,” but I still think I can prove my usefulness to stress management, not in light of my contentious background, but exactly because of it!
Let’s just reflect on my history to see what we can learn. For the sake of keeping this blog to a digestible length, let’s just consider my life’s top 3 stress relievers: Alcohol, Food and Exercise!
#1) A drink!
Of course this is my number one, I am an alcoholic! I’m not saying that if this is your number one, you also have problems with alcohol… I’m just saying there is a reason this is the number one drug. It is effective and fun and great for taking the edge off… But, again, I AM AN ALCOHOLIC, and a long hard lesson learned. One day I will talk more about learning this truth but for now I will say, drinking worked as a great way to relax for a brief moment. Yes, yes, yes, the drink and I, we had some good times. (Just ask anyone I knew in college.) Conversely, the drink and I, we had many more terrible times. (Just ask anyone I knew after college.) Drinking is not an option for me anymore.
Up until a number of months ago, I would have said that I no longer think of drinking when put in a stressful situation. “The obsession to drink has been lifted, my friends.”
For the most part it has been removed but there were a couple of nights in the hospital when I wished desperately that I could have a drink to depart from my then current reality! “AFTER ALL WE’VE BEEN THROUGH, I DESERVE IT! COME ON!!” My mind those nights had become so incredibly dark, I was severely lacking hope and strength to persevere. I WANTED TO ESCAPE MYSELF!
“Ah, ah, ah,” says the little angel on my shoulder. “Not so fast. You know what relieving yourself of burden for one instant would do…”
Yes, just one little sip and I would end up passed out on the floor, with child protective services being called. Maybe not that particular night, but eventually. My children are the most important thing in the world to me, unless alcohol enters the scene. Then all bets are off. Sound pitiful enough? For me, it is just like that.
Luckily, I have friends who will drop everything in an instant and be there to help carry any burden. You know who put those friends there!? Yup, the true authority on Om. I have a great God in my life. The ten years of sobriety that I put together before Brooks got sick were just practice at reliance on Him. This past year was full of real tests for that dependency. Those couple of nights I proved I should attend All Soul’s College at the University of Oxford.
While my drinking ended in a crash and burn, I ultimately rebuilt a more solid infrastructure for life. Construction required much assistance from the little helper called “Prayer.” (This mechanism works less instantaneously, but it is certainly more sustainable.)
My husband will sometimes say that I’m a foodie. When he says this I usually feel defensive but grit my teeth laugh anyway. The funny thing is, I don’t know what a “foodie” actually is… I just don’t like what I think he is implying. 🙂 Back to the trusty internet we go.
A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.
Guess what!? By that definition, I am not a foodie! NOPE, NOT A FOODIE! I do, however, like food. It tastes good. It makes me feel good…
Erich has no way of knowing this, but calling me a foodie strikes a deeper chord. Why? Because I really want to be the person that eats only out of convenience and hunger.
For the most part these days, because my lifestyle demands it, I eat mostly when hungry; but it hasn’t always been that way. I can call to mind the first time I ate for comfort. Please bear in mind that I have never told anyone this before, not even Erich. Here is that story:
My family, my dad’s side, is huge. He has 5 sisters and 1 brother. Holidays brought chaos…glorious chaos. As a youngster, I idolized my aunts and uncles. They were loud, boisterous and free. I, however, was shy and terribly self-conscious in groups… even with my extended family. My family was all gathered for Thanksgiving when I was 12 years old. Everyone was hanging around, creating mayhem with a special flair. I wanted to join in, but I was 12 and awkward. I went to the kitchen and grabbed something to eat. It tasted good. Endorphin kick, escape anxiety, eat more. I remember eating beyond satisfaction. I actually remember feeling bad for having done so. At this point, I might have gone out for a run. I’m thinking this is when my running career actually began. I can clearly recall how my jeans felt after that week. They were noticeably tight. I had always been naturally thin and never gave much thought to my weight. This was my first conscious thought devoted to that vanity.
After the party ended, I did adjust and go back to eating normally, but the comfort of cuisine was there. I would return to it at various stressful times in my life.
I don’t talk about my curious history with food very much. I did not go into this post intending to bring it up, yet there it is. I think I don’t talk about it because it is part of my past that no longer haunts me. Also, I really don’t want people to worry about me every time I prepare a meal the way (I hope) they would eye me were I to prepare myself a drink.
I have slightly been inspired to divulge more so I will dance around this subject a little bit longer. I will say that things with my friend, Food and I did get a bit worse before they got better. They unfolded into a nice little eating disorder in college. When they did get better it was because I found another hobby. DRINKING! And need I reiterate, I RAN THAT TRAIN TO THE GROUND.
Food today does not have a hold over me. Even though my husband will call me a foodie, I think I have a normal relationship with most foods. I grew up and became more comfortable as I grew in sobriety. I’m not saying that getting sober solves everything, I’m saying that God does. His presence influences solutions that work for even the most crucial of SNAFUs. I have gained so many coping mechanisms that truly do work, namely support that comes from the aforementioned prayer and friends!
In all fairness, I must say that one culinary indulgence I still appreciate is SUGAR. I love sugar. I can’t tell you how many times I have said, “I will quit eating sugar tomorrow.”
I do have some actual tips about managing sugar. Total abstinence would be helpful but those words are WAY TOO SEVERE FOR ME. I have substitutes for that horrible phrase! Through all my years of trial an error, I have stumbled upon two fantastic recipes that I will share with you! My sugar tooth hits right after I enjoy any savory meal. In order to curb this craving, (#1) I enjoy chocolate chips 70% cacao. YES, IT HAS TO BE 70%! It satisfies my sweet tooth but does not leave me with the desire to continue feeding until I have insulin shock. The other possibility for me after a meal where I am really hankering for some sugar; (#2) I chop up an apple and put the chunks into a bowl with unsalted roasted almonds. This is a tasty, delicious and fulfilling treat. Additionally and important to note, indulging in these sweets does not leave me feeling rotten thus drive me back to the source to escape the guilt. Insert the Fat Bastard “I eat because I’m unhappy cycle” here. I get it.
“BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!” I am finding that I have a lot to say about this subject after-all. I think I will do a review of various eating plans and products that we have used to maintain health in a future post; stay tuned. (Coming soonish – I have a few other subjects brewing first so I will add this to the list…)
Now this is a place that I can hang my hat and actually say I have embraced some success. Although some people might argue that I have taken this one to an extreme at times, I never hit a bottom with exercise the way I did with drinking or come close the way I did with food… It relieves stress, I really like it and it is good for me! TRIFECTA! I can hold my head up and say without hesitation, “I am an enthusiast!” I can talk about this in the open without fear of who might hear me.
Running gives me a release like no other. It gives me clarity and and a total body makeover (from brain to booty). Of course, my initial impetus in finding this outlet (exercise) was so that I could appreciate another (food) but I think there is no wrong reason to do the right thing. I also have to admit there is some narcissism to this sport. I found that I was good at running. People cheered my performances! “Ding, Ding, Ding! We have a winner!” Being good at something and being appreciated for it is reaffirming. I relished in being associated with the running community. I made it part of my identity. (Wow, I can’t hide anything from you guys…)
My title is now starting to become quite overwhelming: “The hedonistic alcoholic’s eating-disordered addictive narcissist.” And you know we are just scratching the surface of this one.)
Currently, I am not a runner. I don’t have time during the day. My nights are now devoted mostly to writing. I was quite a marathoner before I had kids. Perhaps I will get back into it some day. If you ever want to talk running, I’m your girl. I’m also your girl for talking You Tube exercise videos. I make time for a 10 minute video during most days. I already told you my favorites and have not added much to that list. Running and You Tube – that is about where my specialty for exercise taps out.
This leads me back to where I originally wanted to start this post: WRITING! Most of you know, I have recently gotten into this writing biz. Although, I only post a blog or two each week, I write almost every night after I put the boys to bed. I am sorting out the day. I am considering ideas for future blogs. I AM PROCESSING STRESS! Putting words to my thoughts is one of my more gratifying methods I have found to combat emotional pressure or swings. So many of my friends are boosting my confidence, telling me to write more. My husband tells me I am happier. I love this encouragement! To keep doing what I already like doing, HECK YEAH! Given my track record though, I’m wondering how long it will take me to turn this into a bad habit. 🙂 Good thing my kids go to bad late – I have very few hours with which to overindulge.
So let’s review those helpful tips I promised you.
After a long hard day, we all want to unwind. Easing tension is essential to functioning properly. How one chooses to do so is varied and numerous. From skydiving to Netflix, the options are limitless. Once you choose what is right for you, here is my advice:
- Replace old bad habits with new ones
- Really commit to total annihilation
- When all else fails, the Master of Zen is available for consultation
- Or… Skip the pain and go directly to prayer
Because of all of my life’s lessons and failed decisions, I have had a chance to really evaluate the effectiveness of available medicines. I put them through rigorous testing, exhausting all possibilities before discarding. When I get really agitated, it is not running or writing or food or even sugar that helps. It is God. In the darkest of dark, when I’m out of all other options, He is there for strength and inspiration. His voice is there in my heart in those quiet moments of desperation. It tells me to hold on. It tells me to call a friend. It tells me to make a gratitude list. It tells me to keep praying.
I can’t say that little voice is telling me to share my darkest secrets with you… I’m pretty sure that’s all me. God did give me a fine ability to put sentences together (written only) and I want to use it. So I write, and out comes the truth. It’s not exactly the image I want to portray of myself. Yet, there it is. I take solace in that fact that we all have our failings – we just don’t all broadcast them. Perhaps if we did, we would all get along much better! So, I’m just going to add Promoter of World Peace to my title!