Well that’s the First Session Done!?

Just had my first session of therapy for my Complex-PTSD (C-PTSD) two days ago. Still a bit tired. It is good to have gotten the process going.

But it may take some time. I was hoping the therapist would say we should get this done in 20 sessions but it seems we will be in this process for quite a while.

Possibly most of this year!

My Complex PTSD is very complex and involves repeated traumas inside and outside the home so will take time to process my past.

The good news is that I really like and respect the therapist.

I like her as a person, she is nice and considerate which is important.

I have heard it mentioned that the relationship with the therapist is often key in these therapeutic sessions.

She looks like she knows her stuff and can help me get a bit healthier.

C-PTSD appears to fragment the self and the processing and reprocessing memories from the past also appears to be a process of unifying shattered fragments of the self at the same time. This is my intuition that this will occur anyway.

One of my main issues with C-PTSD is dissociation. I simply had not realised how much I  dissociate and have dissociated throughout my life. In fact, I have probably been doing this since very early childhood.

So what is dissociation?

In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.

Dissociation is commonly displayed on a continuum.[5] In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defense mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress – including boredom or conflict.

More pathological dissociation involves dissociative disorders – These alterations can include: a sense that self or the world is unreal (depersonalization and derealization); a loss of memory (amnesia); forgetting identity or assuming a new self (fugue); and fragmentation of identity or self into separate streams of consciousness (dissociative identity disorder, formerly termed multiple personality disorder) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Disassociation is very common to PTSD and C-PTSD.

Obviously it is something that has bothered me. I have thought that maybe I have dissociated a few times in recovery under extreme distress but there appears to be smaller more moderate dissociations going on a lot of the time.

It is essentially a coping mechanism against  emotional distress and anxiety but also it seems to have become a coping mechanisms in terms of troubling emotions.

I have learnt to regulate my emotions in maladaptive ways. I dissociate and use other use immature ego defense mechanisms such as denial, rationalising, minimising, justifying, projection etc. I hasten to add that after 10 years in recovery I also have learnt to adaptively regulate emotions so this process has become more automatic as my brain as healed and my emotion regulation improved.

However, this ego defense mechanisms have been rife throughout most of my life.

Especially denial.

One of my first reactions to any extreme emotional disturbance is to deny it’s happening or has happened.

This is the main reason I have not entered into treatment for PTSD before. There is a large part of me that denies I was traumatized although the evidence is there in so many ways. Chronic dissociation, regression to traumatized childhood experience, explicit memories of trauma incidents  etc etc would suggest not only that I have been traumatized but on multiple occasions over a long period of time.

Regardless, my head tells me “are you sure this happened? But your parents loved you?” It is very similar to when I finally went into recovery after almost dying from alcoholism, my head would say “yeah but you didn’t drink that much?” This isn’t simply denying alcoholism it is also denying the fact I have lost control over me. My denial minimised and rationalised this so that it was not overwhelming. This is why we need to be careful accusing newcomers about being in denial about their alcoholism. We tell them our story and let them identify, this is much better as it does not scare them into even more denial as ego defense.

It was less about denying alcoholism than denying reality and actual lived experience. I will deny anything which I find threatening to my sense of self.  Without consciously knowing I am in denial.

Anyway, my dissociation also appears linked to very insecure attachment to primary care giver, e.g. a parent like one’s mother. It is particularly common among those with disorganised attachment styles and very much so with children how have reacted at a young age to their mother’s fear and trauma.

Basically when events are traumatic or overwhelming emotionally it is often common for children to dissociate. Also growing up in a extremely stressful outside environment and society can lead to using this coping mechanism to survive. So in essence a survival mechanism that was crucial to surviving trauma in childhood.

My dissociations over the years has covered so many emotional states. I grew up in a very violent society so dissociated to deal with physical threat. I could and still can dissociate into a “powerful alpha male” state when threatened with violence for example.

I can dissociate to the extent I have no idea who significant people are in my life are, can’t remember names, etc, can dissociate to the extent that I feel my body isn’t mine and so on. I can also dissociate in a way which somehow returns me to feelings of early childhood, almost like I am temporarily a child again which is very traumatic to re-experience. I discussed some of these with my therapist.

She was very enlightened about the subject. She said it was just as it is,  for now, it is neither good or bad. It was and is a coping mechanism.

It is not to be feared as it passes but we will become more aware of it’s triggers. It is good to know that it is not “Bad” it just is. It will be dealt with in due time. I liked how she took the “sting” out of my anxieties over it.

I actually dissociated prior to the therapist session, a couple of nights previously as it was obviously distressing me at some unconscious level, the idea of starting treatment, the idea of the emotional pain to come.

The other point that was discussed a lot was the overlap between guilt and shame.

I generally believe shame is a major controlling emotion with me but that I had dealt with my guilt a lot during my 12 steps, steps 4-9 in particular. I have since realised that this guilt over wrongdoings to others primarily as a result of my drinking is very different to post traumatic guilt. All the way through the session I had this knot of guilt in my heart so tightly wound up it felt like a chestnut.  I tried to talk about shame but the guilt kept getting in the way.

We discussed this. Essentially PTSD and C-PTDSD are linked, one affects the other. Essentially we have PTSD with complex other issues added on.

I had trauma incidents which would constitute PTSD diagnosis alone plus other things too.

When a person has experienced trauma,  one has an overriding feeling of terror and helplessness and a very strong feeling of guilt.

This guilt tells one that they are somehow to blame for everything happening as it did – it whispers that one could have somehow prevented it happening. The self balks against helplessness.

We may feel that it was our fault that it happened. For me this is one of the roots of my troubles.

I once dissociated back to childhood (regressed perhaps) and I suddenly said “when I make mistakes people die!” which is a very extreme thing to say and a statement obviously steeped in trauma.

This memory related response and  associated networks of memory still lives in me and it is this and other traumatic memory  associations which need to be reprocessed.

It may even be that there are memories preceding this that I cannot access in my memory at present but which will crop  up in my mind as all memories are linked in memory networks to other memories. It is in reprocessing certain memories that other memories appear in one’s mind too.

It may even be a “memory” of something that did not happen in the sense that I interpreted something as happening in a way it didn’t. For example, two parents having a violent argument in front of a child may lead to the child blaming himself instead of the parents as it would be too emotionally overwhelming to blame the idealised “perfect” parents. This is more interpretation of events rather than the actual events themselves.

This is called the encoding of a memory. Memories are often encoded emotionally especially if the memory was encoded during a moment of emotional distress. Mood congruent memories, for example, happen when we remember something from the past because we are in similar mood to when other memories were encoded, hence the emotion helps us retrieve this and similar memories.

The same happens with trauma memories. They are often retrieved during similar heightened distress or states of hyperarousal as when first encoded.

A problem with C-PTSD memories is that we cannot always consciously access them at times or sometimes we have little memory at all of traumatic events.

This does not mean they are not in our memory banks are that they do not have influence on our behaviours, they simply do so implicitly without much explicit and conscious representation in our minds.

They do still influence our reactions and behaviours regardless of being really recalled. I used to say they lived in our bones but they more accurately they  live in our nervous systems.

The guilt and helplessness is linked to shame in me. The situations of my trauma were exposed to the community I lived in – people in the surrounding area had to intervene  in certain traumatic episodes to help us and so knew about our crazy family.

My guilt has thus been compound by shame, by not only being guilt but my self-perceived “guilt” and it’s repercussions had been exposed to wider society. Everyone knew what I did and that I was to blame  for everything that happened. They knew it was all my fault and what I was really like. A secret I have kept hidden since then, decades later. So toxic shame is linked to traumatic guilt.

This fear that people die when I make mistakes has led to a chronic perfectionism for myself and those around me. If I am perfect then all will be well. All will be controlled and bad things will not happen and everyone will be not fighting.

I set the bar high for many other people too as well as myself. It is like I can’t afford to make mistakes and either can others, particularly men as I have obviously blamed my father for our shared traumas and assigned my mother as the victim of the trauma. Hence I am wary often of men and protective of woman.

In fact, I grew up too quickly because of this, to protect my mother and guard against my father.

Although I consciously love both and have forgiven both and myself for what happened in our shared traumatic past, the memories of the events live on and colour my responses to and views of the world, men and women, even today. My memories of decades ago are like a computer virus corrupting my data files.

I write all this to process my therapy but hopefully to connect with others who are experiencing this stuff too.

I need to write to understand exactly how I am feeling and also to make connections in my brain/mind.

Whatever happened prior to my trauma episodes from childhood which led I believed to a life and death situation in more than one occasion was not the fault of a child who was say 6-7 years old. A child does not affect the behaviour of adults in such a profound way.

What happened, as is common in PTSD, is a mis-appraisal of what happened, a levying of unfair guilt on the person who witnessed the event. This guilt,  that it was their fault or they could have done something, keeps the trauma going – it becomes post trauma but still lives on in one’s mind and body and behaviours.

It is the misinterpretation of events that is internalised and processed as memory. It is this mis-appraisal that gets embedded in memory as if it was the truth, as a true reflection and recollection of what actually occurred when it was not what actually occurred.

Sometimes the trauma is so profound that the child does not want to think his parents did not love him or would hurt him (why would the be acting the way they do if they did?) and takes the blame rather than face this overwhelming emotion.

It being his or her fault is more tolerable at the moment. This too lies on in inaccurately embedded memory. It is a memory that perpetuates a traumatic lie throughout our lives. It is this lie which lives on in our negative self concepts. Telling us untruths about ourselves, that we are defective, not good enough, that if people really knew US?

It is a poisonous, malevolent neural and mnemonic ghost which haunts us decades later.

It needs to be re-addressed and the memories need to re- encoded accurately instead, that way we allow them to rest, embedded in our long term memory.

Via this process memories are reconsolidated, all the fragmented parts of self, stored away from each other in faulty interpretations and falsehoods about ourselves, that we keep alive in our memory networks and listen to as if they were the truth.

This is how I think EMDR helps exorcise the past leaving a past reality closer to the truth.

More will be revealed…

 

“My Name Is Paul. I’m A Recovering Alcoholic”

For all my US friends and friends from around the world who did not have access to UK television here is the link to “I’m An Alcoholic: My Name Is…” documentary on alcoholism which aired last night on Channel 5. Well worth checking out.

It was like a “collective” experience strength and hope (to use 12 step terminology) and will hopefully have highlighted the progressive nature of alcoholism as well as highlighting that there is treatment for and recovery from alcoholism. It was a message of hope. I’m sure it will be a useful starting point for many in “identifying” with other alcoholics to help in the process of self diagnosing.

It was great to see a documentary in the UK address alcoholism and recovery “from the horses mouth” – too often in the UK alcoholics are marginalised or absent in informing the public, by telling their story, of their alcoholism.
It was informative also that we could see the progression of this condition via all the interviewees regardless of how they later described or named their condition, how they “treated” it themselves or described their “recovery” from it.
So at least we can all agree, it starts in a seemingly innocuous manner, gets worse, then a whole lot worse, then chronic and life threatening, causes untold emotional damage to loved ones and requires both acute and long term therapeutic redress. Sounds a bit like a disease state to me that but each to their own.

As long as we all pass on the message, you can stop, you can recover from your present condition. There are lots of help in various places, in different organisations, thousands of people who suffer from the same condtion as you. They want to help you too, and you can even recovery to such an an extent that life becomes more fulfilling than anything you could ever have imagined. All the things you “treated” with substances and behaviours can be “treated” via recovery, this will happen and a whole lot more it you put the effort in.

Just click the image.

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My Name Is…And I’m An Alcoholic

 

My Name Is… And I’m An Alcoholic

1 × 60mins for C5, TX January 13th 2016, 10pm

In a country awash with booze, 8 million Britons are considered alcohol dependent – and all of us know someone whose affection for the bottle is damaging to their health, their friends and family, their careers. In this groundbreaking documentary, My Name is… And I’m an Alcoholic tells the frank story of 8 people and their tempestuous relationship with alcohol: from their first drink, their love affair with booze and their despair as they hit rock bottom – to what it took to get sober as they built a new life in recovery.

Alcohol is society’s great leveller – alcoholism doesn’t care about where we come from, where we live, or how successful we are. Far from obeying the stereotype we all imagine, the alcoholics we hear from include a professional cellist, too stressed to play on stage without a bottle of vodka disguised as water at her feet; the former Editor of the Sun, too anxious to run Britain’s biggest newspaper without being bolstered by booze; a single mother, drinking through her loneliness and her shame at her failed marriage; a criminal who became alcoholic aged 13, grieving the loss of his mother; a local GP drinking to escape the problems of her patients, and a student counsellor who relapsed just days before filming.

As much a story of the struggle as it is one of hope, this sensitive and resonant film takes us straight into the heart of one of society’s most prevalent and misunderstood addictions.

MY NAME IS… AND I’M AN ALCOHOLIC – promo from Knickerbockerglory TV on Vimeo.

 

The Final Destination Arrives At You

 

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One month ago I was hoping to start EMDR therapy for my PTSD.

Unfortunately it has not happened as yet. I spent the whole summer preparing myself to start therapy but it is yet to start.

Why?

My wife also suffers from PTSD and anxiety disorder. Due to this and that, I have been looking after her for the last few weeks, supporting her, and getting her back to work as she had been off with acute stress. This was exhausting given my current emotional state.

Then someone tried to kicked my front basement door in – unsuccessfully I am glad to say.

It was however a bit traumatic and upsetting, this invasion of our privacy, this violation of our home.

So I had to fix the door. Unfortunately it also rained and rained the night of the attempted break in and the basement room got flooded which cost nearly £2000 to fix.

Fortunately the Insurance will cover it but it is still distressing and stressful. I have spent days installing cctv and security lights.

So I had to get my wife back to work followed by this break in followed by having to work with builders for the last four-five weeks (a long story in itself!).

The basement door was replaced and then the laminate floor was taken up as it was ruined by the flood. Then we realised  we may have rising damp so we had to get that fixed.

The floor was treated and the walls painted with a tar. The basements steps are had to be re-cemented and the front windows and doors resealed to prevent further problems with damp.

We then laid tiles which took forever and re-plastered the ceiling which has been damaged, strangely by the flooding also as the roof is below ground level, i.e. in the basement.

It has been stressful and exhausting. I could lie down on the floor and sleep, if they weren’t full of dirt and plaster. I have done all this while in a stew of trauma which is like a puss capsule waiting to burst.

All my life I have been a person who fixes stuff, helps people out in an emergency. A go to guy.

As a child I tried to be a caregiver, caretaker to my Valium dependent mother. I parented her as she struggled to parent me. I also took all my father’ anxieties about his troubled wife and his general woes.

I grew up in role reversal.

I am primed to help in emergencies.

I never had anyone to share my concerns with.  My sisters would ask me how are you? Then not wait for the reply.

It was a prelude to me having to listen to how they were. I have been a receptacle for other’s to deposit their anxieties. Often without offering this service.

Who listened to me? I have always felt like a “poorly drawn boy” tiny, lacking definition in my mind’s eye when I look back at my childhood.

There is little substance to my self schema

I somehow need to get better drawn, coloured in, made more full, more me. Take back the pieces of me strewn across the wreckage of my past. Piece them together to see what I end up with, end up as.

At the moment I feel I am in danger of disappearing.

Is this a bad thing? This feeling of evaporating. Is the old me disappearing, am I shedding skin, a turtle-like replacing a shell with another?

Hopefully a lighter shell!

I do not fear emotions like before, however negative or troublesome. I think something is coming to the surface, like a vapour on my stew.

Impurities  being cleansed just by my decision to look at my trauma therapeutically, professionally.

This may have started a stampede of squashed emotions, trampling their way to the surface of my mind to get recognition, to finally be heard.

All I know is that if I don’t deal with my trauma it will deal with me. It is the most pressing concern for me not only in terms of general mental well being but in terms of relapse risk. It is by far the greatest risk to relapse.

I find AA meetings are good for sharing about certain things,   to a certain extent, for sharing what is going on with me but no longer fully. AA does not really deal with shame, trauma or the other issues that propelled my addictions to near death and psychosis.

It deals with shame of addiction for sure but The Big Book was written at a time when even psychotherapy did not consider shame, instead concentrating on guilt.

The steps deal effectively with guilt and the shame around what we have done to other people, sins of commission,  but they do little in my opinion for the sins of omission, the sins sinned against us. What do we do with this stuff?

The stuff that often propelled our addictions in the first place? Haven’t some of us been just dealing with the cart and not the horse?

Just some observations.

Roughly 65% of AAs have outside help, with what? The causes of their addictions?

Or certainly development childhood aspects which later contributed to the severity of their addictions?

This is where I am at, looking out for others while fit to burst myself. I am bottling up a primal yell, and request to be heard, at last.

As the youngest in my family I had no one in whom to deposit my anxiety and distress. To offload on.

AA has been instrumental in helping me share tonnes of stuff about my alcoholism. My trauma and neglect form childhood has often met with fairly closed ears. Some things people don’t want to talk about in depth. Some things they don’t want to touch for fear of making worse. I can relate to this. I have done this myself for years in recovery. But now it is inevitable that I deal with this stuff.

The damn is about to burst as I have said and will do…eventually.

I will hopefully keep you posted.

I am also very hopeful that it will have a chrysalis effect too.

I have  faith that God goes deep!

Knowing It Is Different To Showing It

 

 

I am not a very good sponsor!

There you have it!

I have come clean – I have nearly ten years recovery but still struggle to be a good sponsor.

So many  things get in the way of me being a good sponsor.

I am also an Al Anon, someone who grew up in a family consisting of an alcoholic father  (who didn’t drink but did not have a 12 step program of recovery) and a mother dependent on Valium after suffering nervous breakdowns, hence I was a Alateen too at one time.

As my dad was effectively a dry drunk at times and my mother struggled to cope there were many traumatic domestic scenes to contend with as a small child.

My mother’s behaviour was emotionally, physically and mentally abusive at times and I grew with an insecure-anxious attachments towards her and a recurrent fear of abandonment/rejection.

There was a lack of appropriate supervision by my parents and my sisters and I often ran wild. Boundaries that define me and others were completely blurred.

I know enough about alcoholism to help a recovering alcoholic and I have enough love in my heart to help another alcoholic in recovery but something always gets in the way.

Me, I get in the way!

I have a need to fix people!

I grew up as a caretaker in my own family as my parents were often lacking in their parental direction. I thought their lives and how they acted were my responsibility that I could manage their lives too and then things would be okay. They wouldn’t have violent arguments and my mother would not try to force a dozen of two pills down her throat and terrorize her children.

I somehow thought her mock or real suicide attempts were to do with me, how I behaved, they were my fault, so I acted to make sure these things did not happen again.

I grew up too soon, never had the childhood others had.

Things around we were too volatile so I sought to control by any means available. I am a world expert in controlling others.

I have a severe case of Al Anon and Adult Child of an Alcoholic (and addict) that I am now only starting to address in my life and in my recovery.

I know exactly how you can recover from alcoholism but have difficulties letting people learn their own mistakes. I am too needy. Too eager for them to recover.

I rush sponsees, scare them off, demand too much from them.

I need to deal with my Al Anon issues before sponsoring anyone else.

The most alarming thing is that this childhood trauma sets you up to re-enact rejection situations throughout your life.

Your “inner child” has learnt that people reject you so you act in a manner, or pick people, to unconsciously ensure this will occur again, this re-enactment of childhood rejection.  You kinda control the rejection that will later occur!?

The acting out of trauma occurs repeatedly throughout ones’s life until the trauma is dealt with via some therapeutic means.

I was due to start EMDR therapy for my trauma but have had to postpone this until my wife is better, she suffers PTSD and anxiety disorder herself and is off work at the moment due to these mental health issues. I am supporting her at the moment. Times are tough at present for sure!

For now I have to stew in the painful emotional residues of my many traumas and hope to see a therapist in the near future.

I constantly have to talk through emotions I have no name for, they are so deep in my implicit memory. I no longer run away from these, at times, very unpleasant physical and emotional sensations but sit with them, and talk them out. This is a change in my approach, feelings do not kill, what we do with them sometimes does.

Sensations in our body from the past also propel our behaviours often without us consciously knowing so.

More on this in a later blog.

I cannot sponsor anyone for the foreseeable future. I even set myself up for failure with the very people I most want to help. This is trauma not alcoholism.

I will fill you in with other stressful events that are occurring in my life in the next blog.

So let’s end where we came in  – the simple fact that knowing it is different to showing it.

I have to get to recover the real me more before I help  anyone else. As I need help myself, I can’t fully help others at present.

Recovery is at times a process of finding out or discovering the other disorders and problems that we have other than alcoholism and addictive behaviours, it is also in finding out and discovering what issues and disorders fulled alcoholism in the first place. The trauma, the absue, the bereavements, etc

There are many layers of this metaphorical onion to peel and they all make you want to cry!

That is the way it is, acceptance of this is the key as always.

An old guy of over thirty years recovery told me that he sponsors by showing recovery not by preaching it.

I haven”t got there yet I am afraid. I know it but…

I also want them to succeed so much I scare them off, I become too intense!

I demand too much too soon, that is my default setting. Set myself up for failure as a sponsor.

I want them to “get it!” soon as possible to reduce the risk of relapse.

This is however flawed because it is fear based thinking.

I want them to get it before they relapse again, that is the truth. At some unconscious level I want them to “be saved” so that they do not try to kill themselves again with substances like my mother used to attempt to do. That terror drives my behaviour without me knowing it.

It is not borne out of Grace but fear.

The simple truth is that I do not trust God enough at times and try to fix hings myself. I have not fully forgiven God the many many things that I somehow believe happened on his watch, I guess?

In the end, I can only share my experiencence of recovery and let the rest be, let God take it from there. I know this in my head but my heart revolts.

My Al ateen/al Anon side takes over.

I want to make sure they get better, ASAP!

My motives seem good but they are warped. There is a bad motive in a sense under a good one.

I have to learn to increase my trust in the process.

Let others make their own mistakes and have patience when they do. Having love and tolerance of others is to let them be themselves, free to make there own conclusions, come to their own understandings.

I am  but the messenger, passing on  a message that has been passed on to me.

That is my role in this, not to fix but to allow someone else the space to make the same mistakes I did.

I can’t speed along someone’s recovery, they have to go at their own pace, otherwise it is frightening.

The good can be the enemy of the best.

I have this deep seated fear that whatever I do it is not enough so I make up for this by doing too much, too much….ending up manic and off-putting.

Ten years in and still a long way to go.

More, unfortunately, will be revealed…

God goes deep!

 

Taking Directions From A Madman

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“…on a good day my illness talks away to me and I don’t listen,
one a bad day, I listen,
one a very bad day, I talk back.”

A saying often heard in AA meetings in the UK.
This little saying as kept me sober so many times. Sober and sober, sane and sober.
Entering into a full blown conversation with one’s addicted mind is like asking a madman (or woman) for advice.

When one’s thinking is the product of an anxious amygdala it is no longer seems to benefit us but makes things worse! It seems deluded, overwrought, despairing. Thoughts no longer seem to be our friends.

I have practiced over the years to attempt to let my thoughts pass, or to identify the negative emotions at the roots of my thoughts and let them go.

I have found my thoughts are seldom my friend, often leading to a place of emotional pain, confusion and frustration.

They are often counter to my happy well being and this is almost a definition of a mental disorder, which is what addictive behaviour is – a mental disorder. An affective disorder giving rise to a thought disorder.

A personality disorder!

It is not like having a mental disorder or having addictive behaviour plus the mental effects of  co-morbid disorder, it is a disorder in it’s own right. Co-morbidity makes this mental disorder more intense, more complicated.

If my thoughts are distorted as the result of dysregulated emotions (as they appear to be across all addictive behaviours) I only have behaviour left, as a tool in changing my life around for the better.

Recovery is for me then about taking action to change – e.g. doing the 12 steps, helping others, mending relationships from the past, building a relationship with a sponsor/mentor – this is all action based, changing our behaviours to change our thinking and emotional states.

Changing our behaviours changes how we act – so we act differently and find out ultimately not only that we act differently but that our thinking, self esteem, sense of self, motivation, etc improve to.

That is my experience.

Acting differently and seeing results in how we feel and think, immediately gives us a mental read out on a potential self, although this snapshot of possibility can often be a bit frightening. But it is all one step at a time, one day at a time, more will be revealed in it’sown time.

If we do not change how we act in this world, we take the same impaired decisions, end up having the same distorted, deluded thoughts have the same troubling negative emotions. If we have not done anything to change we will not change these.

A simple exercise is to help some one else worse than off than you. There are so many therapeutic benefits to this – empathy is increased for another human, and indirectly for oneself, motivation increases to repeat the behaviour, self esteem is increased, thoughts are more positive and emotions too, just from helping some one else.

This is all from action (don’t fix this person with your recovery genius and excellent ideas, or by over emoting, just act positively towards them, help them help themselves and help yourself at the same time).

When the emotions and related thoughts are faulty all we have felt in recovery is to change behaviour and in changing behaviour we eventually undo previous negative learnt behaviour.

This is why recovery takes time, a lot of time in some instances. As long as there are improvements and we are starting to feel better in ourselves and those around are feeling better then that is all good.

We do recover but it will take longer that our addicted minds want it to. We want recovery NOW!

We become someone new through simply changing our behaviours. Who would have thought?

I resisted this idea as being to simple and simplistic. I felt I would become a robot. But the opposite was true. I resisted it as being too “behaviourist”!

What happened was that I started to become more human rather than too robotic.

I acted in a way I did not normally act, I went against the grain of me. I approached people via by behaviours rather than hiding away from them in my normal behviour of isolating. I gradually became more part of the world, by acting in it.

Again, in many cases, I acted almost the opposite of how I normally acted.

Slowly but surely I’d say that changing my behaviours changed the outcome of situations, it reduced my fear of others and raised a sense of trust.

I found I could be useful just by acting differently.

The solution to my problem rested in what I do not in how I feel or think.

Change suggests action.

 

 

I know It All but I am Not Good Enough

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When I was in early recovery I have major problems around telephoning my sponsor when I needed his help.

I would leave it as long as possible before calling him.

I would be such emotional distress before I finally picked up the courage to phone him.  Why?

I kidded myself that he was busy, had his own life to live etc, which was partly true. I did not want to bother him.

Secondly I thought well he is just going to say this or that, I know what he will say so why bother, why bother then? I had a great gift of foretelling the future then!?

So on one hand I though why bother, I kinda know the answers all ready. So why was I in emotional pain then, if I new the answers?

This seems like arrogance on the surface but there is more to this than that.

They say in AA that we recovering alcoholics are egomaniacs with low self esteem, we are either the greatest or the worse, swinging between these two extremes with not much in between.

This is getting closer to the truth. However I do not think we are simply ego maniacs because this does not tally with the chronic low self esteem many of us have experienced.

There is certainly an emotional immaturity which goes with egomania which many of us have. In fact the low self esteem may reflect this too.

But for me, both thinking we know it all and having chronic low self esteem point to something else.

I have heard sponsors say their sponsees do not listen or do as suggested because “they know it all” or have all the answers, that they are in fact sponsoring themselves. There is some truth in this but I do not think it is based on arrogance.

If there is arrogance or a dismissiveness of a sponsor’s suggested actions it may be based on something else.

I think that there is a false pride here which is masking a deep seated sense of shame.

Sponsees, like me, often do not call on the phone sometimes because they do not think they are worthy of your time.

This is one of the main reasons I did not ring. I was not good enough, or deserving enough. Why would my sponsor want to help me!? The lowest of the low?

What appears as arrogance or dismmissiveness may actually be caused by the flip side of the false pride coin which is chronic shame.

Specifically a fear of rejection.

I and others fear the sponsor rejecting them in some way. They fear the sponsor saying “I am too busy now” “I can’t help you now” or “I’ve told you this before!” etc although in my experience this has rarely happened.

Looking back it is now clear that I was projecting my sense of worthlessness on to my sponsor. I was convinced that he will feel the same about me as I feel about myself in other words. I was rejecting me before he had the chance.

These are defense mechanisms guarding against the threat of rejection and have fears of abandonment issues at their core.

They say the alcoholic is scared of nothing more than rejection, this sense of abandonment.

It, for many, goes back to chronic insecure attachment to parents in childhood but for many it doesn’t, it is just there as a knawing hole in the soul.

The challenge is to coax a sponsee out of the dark shadow of rejection fears and fear based shame.

I had major issues with trust when I was in early recovery.

This was another reason for not calling my sponsor. I did not trust him enough.

On a couple of ocsasions I could not sleep and got into a panic attack, fearing that I would relapse. I rang him as he said ring whenever I needed to. I needed to, at 4.00am in the morning. He answered the phone and calmed me out of my panic and helped me return to my sleep. He got me through another night.

He was there whenever I needed, at whatever time, always, he was there to help. As a result I gradually grew to trust him. As a result I gradually grew to believe what he said was true to about recovery and life continuing to get better, which it has. He as telling the truth.

He is the the main reason I am alive today.

His love and tolerance was not conditional, it was there on tap whenever I needed it. it was not like my mother’s at times conditional love, dependent on this or that. It was simply there when I needed it.

Through that I came to trust in a Higher Power, in God.

Encouraging a sponsee, full of shame and rejection issues, with insecure attachment issues to trust and believe that what you are suggesting he does in order to recover as you have recovered is in his interests and is done via your sense of love and care is one of the toughest tests as a sponsor I have found personally.

I have been sponsoring a couple of people again recently – one has a comorbid condition of paranoid psychosis and the other is an alcoholic of my type.

The answer may lay in convincing the sponsee that it is we who recover not him or I individually but we together.

I would have not recovered without the help of other people in recovery, without God’s Help.

We learn a sense of trust, attachment and belonging via community groups like AA and others.

We are deserving of recovery, God believes so, and so do I and we of AA.

We are good enough is His eyes, we are special enough, we are deserving of the unconditional love that many of never fully received as children.

There is a person on the other end of the phone waiting to help you.

Helping you helps him too, helping your recovery helps him recover too. We are in this together. We are no longer alone.

 

The Roots of All Our Troubles!?

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Most of my distress and emotional pain in recovery comes from wanting stuff, and not getting my way or not accepting things as they are.

As Bill Wilson noted, we seem to get distressed when we don’t get what we want or feel people or trying to take away what we have.

This was his observation after a decade of psycho analysis with the psycho analyst Harry Tiebout.

A decade of therapy also showed Bill Wilson he has two default settings in his relationship to other human beings – he either tried to dominate them or he became dependent on them for his sense of self and emotional well being. In other words, he became dependent on others, on external means for approval and elevating his self esteem.

This is similar to relying on external means, i.e. alcohol, drugs, addictive behaviours to regulate our emotions and bolster our low self esteem.

We are in a sense co-dependent on other people for our sense of esteem.  We rely on others in terms of how we feel about ourselves.

As a result we are guarded against those that we perceive will reject us or be negative to us, harm us in some way and we seek to dominate these folk or we are dependent on those who are kind to us, help us and care for us. We swing at times between these extremes.

Some of us are “people pleasers”, some of us are dismissive towards others. I can be a dismissive person more than a people pleaser. It is all manipulating our interaction with others to our selfish ends.

Some of these tendencies are the result of our childhoods and how closely attached we were to our parents.

Some of us have this knawing feeling of not being good enough, have a hole in the soul which we are/were kinda always unconsciously trying to protect, shield from the world.

It is a strange feeling of not wanting to be found out of being less than, not good enough. “If people realise what the real me is like, they will reject me!” type thinking although a lot of this is unconscious and does not pop in to our minds as thoughts but is an unconscious self schema that shapes our behaviours.

In simple terms we manipulate via people pleasing or we push people away via being dismissive and putting others down, we guard against any threat of perceived rejection or threats to the self via defense mechanisms such as projecting what we do not like about ourselves on to others.

We often do not like traits in others because they somehow mirror traits in ourselves although we are not always conscious of this.

We have difficulties in our relationships with others, these relationships are often unhealthy and ill.

Some of this is touched on in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, but much of it comes from later observations by Bill Wilson after the publication of the Big Book and my and others’ observations since.

I have seen in myself how fear and shame seem to drive most of my maladaptive behaviour.

My illness of addictive behaviours.

I have an illness of chronic malcontent, things are rarely good enough and I am rarely good enough, according to my “out of kilter”  thinking which  I usually try to ignore, turn over to God or on occasion challenge via reasoning and sharing with other people.

My thoughts are often not my friends, they are often not in the service of my ongoing well being, quite the opposite in fact.

This is how a mental health disorder manifests itself as distorted fear based thinking which appear, if acted upon, to make one’s situation a whole lot worse.

We can not rely on our thoughts and feelings or, in other words, our Self Will. Our self will has become impaired and is no longer in the service of our successful survival.

I have found over the last decade in recovery that when I turn my Will over to the care of the God of my understanding that I am restored to sanity and my thoughts are sound, they are on a higher plane as the Big Book tells me.

I can become the fullest expression of me in the God, not the ill, deluded version while running under my own self will. That has been my experience.

It is only with God’s help that I get restored to sanity or reasonableness.

When I have a fear of not getting stuff and this is linked to insecurity, as mentioned in the Big Book, it is usually in relation to my pocket book, financial insecurity, personal relationships, self esteem etc.

I will now look at this fear based reaction to my security which is mainly to do with stuff out  there (external) such as work, people and how they affect my sense of self before looking at how my internal sense of self, based on the fear based emotion of shame seems to play a pivotal role in my relationship with others and the world around me.

I am assailed externally by fear of what other’s think about me and internally about what I think of me – when these two line up it can have a powerful and damaging effect on my psyche.

Desiring stuff seems at the root of my fear based stuff – the exquisite torture of desire which soon loses it’s so-called relish and just becomes torturous.

Alcoholics do not seem want stuff like normal folk, but have a pathological wanting, an all consuming need to get stuff regardless of it’s worth or value.

We seem to compulsively seek to relieve an inherent distress of not having what we set out to get. Our decision making seems fueled at times by this need to relieve distress rather than the intrinsic value of what we are seeking.

We seem to become manic in our pursuit of things and end up overdoing whatever we are doing via this stress-based manic activity.

This seems compounded by not always being able to read our emotions or somatic states.

One of my own difficulties is realising I am hungry or tired and I can often end up exhausted by over-doing stuff especially manual work around my house. My stop button broke a long time a ago and probably did not work very well to begin with.

So we have  stress-based compulsive need to do something and very limited brakes in the brain stopping us and very little emotional feedback going on, a limited consideration of  “aren’t we overdoing this a bit?”

Desire obviously runs contrary to the idea of being in God’s will, in fact it is being in Self Will that seems to create distress in many people with addictive behaviours.

I would add to this that I also get distress via fears of rejection from others, I suffer from fear based shame to a chronic extent.

Shame, also the consequence of being in Self Will, was not really mentioned in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, mainly because it was not really known about as a psychological or psycho-therapeutic concept then.

Much of the Big Book was influenced by  psycho-analysis which did not consider shame, but rather guilt, in psychological disturbance.

In fact, it has only started considering the role of shame in the last few decades.

So I would add fear of not getting what we want or having something taken away is also complemented by shame-based fears of being rejected.

For example there is an undercurrent in fear of things being taken away, of it being because we are not good enough, deserving enough, have failed in some way, which are shame based reactions.

In fact the Big Book gives me a good idea of the “sins” or “defects of character” I have when I have a resentment but does not explain why I have resentments in the first place.

It explains this as selfishness, self centredness… the root of all our troubles.

It does not, for me, clearly explain why we resort to these selfish, immature, emotional reactions or why we persist with resentments?

It does not explain the emotional immaturity at the heart of alcoholism,  this spiritual malady of inappropriate emotional response to the world around us?

Bill Wilson was struck himself, when he started working with other alcoholics, how much they were plagued constantly by various resentments. How they were haunted by memories of situations in the past, how they swirl around and pollute their minds in the present. How they could not let go of events in their past?

For me he was seeing the root of this spiritual malady, this emotional disease.

For me we engage futilely and distressingly in resentment because we have an inability to process and control our emotions, they overwhelm us and we often react by people pleasing (shame) or react via various defense mechanisms (also shame based).

Defense mechanisms are central to psycho-analytic thought – such as projection etc, the idea that we  expel “out of ourselves what we do not like about ourselves onto others.

Sometimes others expel the same negative emotions on to us. I have found this a fairly common trait among male alcoholics in recovery settings and meetings.

I was discussing this with a newcomer last week, how people who seek to “put us down”  do so out of shame and induce in us all the negative emotions they are experiencing themselves!

The newcomer gave me an example of a resentment he was experiencing after this guy at a meeting said “get off your pink cloud” a phrase that refers to the sometimes  mildly ecstatic feelings of early recovery.

This made the newcomer ashamed that he could have been so stupid for being on this pink cloud, as if this was a selfish indulgence!?

I explained to him that his pride had been hurt, he was in shame and his “apparent” depression every since was simply prolonged self pity.

If we leave self pity to fester long enough it becomes depression, that is my experience anyway.

I said the other guy was probably “hurt” to see a newcomer having such a good period of recovery (God does want us to be happy, joyous and free after all) – I said his false pride was hurt too, that he was not having the recovery experience at present of the newcomer (possibly because he wasn’t putting the effort in) and was in shame (not good enough) and self pity. This mesh of negative emotions can link up fairly instantaneously I find.  It is the web my spiritual malady seeks to ensnare me in.

The guy was probably in guilt too as he could been working on his recovery more.

As a result this guy put the newcomer down to alleviate his own sense of self, his low self esteem.

He “had to” react with arrogance, dismissiveness, impatience and intolerance, because his shame, which is a fear based emotion, made him fearful of his own recovery and fear makes one strangely dishonest (at times deluded), This is my experience.

All because a newcomer had the temerity to be enjoying his recovery?

Not completely, this is half the answer.

The other part is that this guy, if an alcoholic like me, has real difficulties accessing in his heart and mind how he actually “feels” at any particular time. Or rather what emotions he is experiencing at any particular time.

This guy could have been experiencing guilt or shame for example.

Instead of saying to himself I am feeling guilt that my recovery is flabby  compared to this newcomer or that I am being an arrogant “know it all”, putting this newcomer in his place because  he had been in recovery longer – although being in recovery and being sober are different things I have found.

Either way, if he could perhaps of had the ability to say this is how exactly I am feeling he could have acted on this emotional information rather than reacted to it.

What do I mean by this?

Well, if I was feeling guilty about this newcomer it would cause a disturbance in me because I have difficulties processing my emotions.

It would have turned up therefore as a resentment of someone having something I do not have and as them taking away the illusion that my recovery was going OK?

I would have found this threatening to my sense of self so I would have reacted via defense mechanisms. I would have strangely blamed this person for making me feel the way I did! Even if this person had no such intention of hurting my feelings I would blame him nonetheless via my defensive reactions.

It is as if my emotional well being is dependent on other people and their behaviours, this is my spiritual malady, my emotional disease.

As I would have had a resentment, it would have had a wolf pack of negative emotions attached.

In this instance I might have have acted differently.

If I had been in God I would have been more sane for a start and had more loving tolerance for a newcomer.

I would have been acting not reacting. I would have had empathy for where the newcomer  “was at in his recovery” as I had been there once too.

This love and tolerance for the newcomer evolves the displaying of virtues (the opposite of defects are virtues).

What virtues? Well as the newcomer was relatively new I would attempted to be patient, empathetic, kind, gentle, tolerant, considerate  etc. These prevent the defects occurring I find.

If we practice virtues instead of defects then the brain changes for the better and we recover quicker. Our positive loving, healthy behaviours change us and our brains via neuroplasticity for the better.

Attempting to live according to God’s Will (which is a state of Love) also helps me not react but to act with Grace.

In Grace we can still experience negative emotions but God allows us to see them for what they are and not react. His Grace takes the distress out of thee negative emotions. This is my experience.

This allows me to do a quick inventory of my negative emotions and a prayer to God to have them removed. My experience is that they are always removed and that we are immediately restored to sanity.

I do not necessarily have to react to my feelings of negativity about myself, someone else does not need to experience the consequence of my resentments.

I can manage my spiritual malady or emotional dysfunction, I have the tools to do so.

I also impressed upon the newcomer that what the other guy was experiencing and was reacting is also how he, the newcomer, reacts and how I react too.

It is what our spiritual malady looks like I believe, it is the map of my impaired emotional responding.

I also impressed upon him that mostly I can manage this emotional dysfunction but often I fail to and get into a resentful anger.

This is why I have to forgive the other guy as I have been forgiven but also to forgive myself (or ask God to forgive me my shortcomings) for my reactions.

We are not perfect, far from it. We are far from being Saints but have a solution Saints would approve and achieve a kind of transient sanctity in this 12 step solution of letting go and letting God.

We have to show love and tolerance for each other as we suffer the same illness/malady. Dismissing others like us for having what we have and acting as we do is like a form of self loathing. We have to forgive ourselves and each other for being ill. Self compassion allows us to be compassionate  towards others.

Also we need to be aware what we project on to other alcoholics is the same thing as they project on to use and sometimes we project if back.

So we have two main ailments, distressed based wanting which results in the same negative emotions as being in a shame- based fear of rejection.

I can get out of the distress of wanting/needing stuff by asking God to remove those negative emotions which block me off from Him.

For example, if I really want something and feel someone is preventing me getting that thing or that they are taking this thing away from me I have a hunting pack of negative emotions running through by heart and pulsating through my veins, propelling me to want that thing even more! As if my very life depended on it?

These feelings are translated as “how dare you take that thing/stop me getting that thing” – False Pride – followed by fear of being rejected – Shame (this is because I am not good enough)  and possible Guilt (for something I must have done wrong as usual) – then leading to “poor me” and feelings of Self pity, all because I am in Self, so I am being Self Centred and not considering someone else’s view so I am Selfish.

I retaliate via by “I”ll show you/I’ll get you” emotions of Dismissiveness, Intolerance, Arrogance and Impatience – my “I’ll put you down to make me feel better!”

All because I am fearful that you are taking away something from me or rejecting  me –  Fear and Fear is always accompanied by dishonesty.

I will act out on these somethings, if I do now use my spiritual tools and let Go and Let God, usually by eating too much, Gluttony, having a shopping spree, Greed, engaging  sexual fantasy/activity Lust of “freezing” through fear in the subltle sin of Sloth (procrastination).

A perceived slight or a rejection can have an incredible emotional effect on me

This is all emotion dysfunction and immaturity. I have resentments because they are a true sign of emotion dysfunction.

The mature way to to access, identfiy and label how one is feeling and use this information to reasonably express how one is feeling. This way we do not retaliate, fight, flee or freeze. Instead our emotions do what they are supposed to do. They are suppose the tell the fronts of our brains to find words for our feelings. Not to tell the bottom of our brains to fight back or run or freeze.

Let me use an example.

I had an argument with a guy once who suddenly proclaimed he was upset by what I had said. I was amazed as this guy was reading his emotions, identifying verbalising/expressing them to me in a way I have never been able to do.

My alcoholism is rooted in an impaired ability to read, identify, label and express my emotions (otherwise called emotion processing) – as a result my emotions have always troubled me and been so troubling in their undifferentiated state that I have always either avoided them or ran away from them.

I have sought refuge from my negative emotions in alcohol, drugs and other addictive behaviours. It is this that propelled my addictions, this inability to deal with my negative emotions. I dealt with them externally via addictive behaviours, not internally via emotion processing.

My emotions became wedded in time to being undifferentiated arousal states that prompted me to seek an external way to deal with these troubling emotional/arousal states.

Today when I engage in the above emotion dysfunction, engage in the above web of defense mechanisms it is because I have not been able to locate in me what feeling is disturbing me ?

On occasion it is, as the guy above said, because I am upset. I have not learnt the ability to say that I am upset etc. The words for these feeling states somehow can continue to elude me unless I am in God’s Grace.

God does for us what we can not do for ourselves!

Finding out what is really going on with us emotionally is at the heart of recovery. That is why we have to constantly share how we are feeling with others so that we can find out what we are feeling.

Unless, we let Go and Let God and ask God to remove these negative emotions/sins/defects of character we end up in a futile increasingly distressed spiral of negative emotions.

We end up cultivating much greater misery.

As soon as you can, let Go and Let God.

 

This Fleshy Hunger

In our sister blog Inside the Alcoholic Brain –  http://insidethealcoholicbrain.com/

I had a comment posted on one of the blogs about the pain and heartache that one person had faced as the result of her partner’s addictive behaviour.

The person who posted mentioned her ex partner who is a sex addict as well as alcoholic/addict. It really moved me what the person, who posted anonymously, said in her comment.

I identified with the breaking of her trust and her heart by the unacceptable behaviour of her ex.

Addicts can leave a wake of destruction, lies and deceit, broken promises and broken hearts. In the Big Book of AA it looks at the effects of the life with an alcoholic as akin to having had a tornado wreck havoc in  your life, with the alcoholic often causing so much wreckage  without fully realising it.

This comes across strongly in this post, which I use below, as it was posted publicly and the person was also anonymous.   I use this post to help me and help others understand more fully the damage addiction, especially sex addiction can cause others.

I failed to mention something in my reply, below, which I will now add.

I know where her ex partner is coming from because I too am a sex addict.

I have never admitted that to anyone other than my wife. I have been in recovery ten years but have only realised in the last 15 months or so that I too suffer from sex addiction, in addition to alcoholism, substance addiction, chronic attachment disorder and PTSD.

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Even now I find it difficult to be honest about my sex addiction. It seems to me much more shameful than saying I am a chronic alcoholic or addict.

Maybe that is irrational but I am just trying to be honest.

If any addiction could embody and illustrate the conditional love I was reared with it is my sex addiction.

As I mention in my reply to the post below, in sex addiction somewhere in one’s personal development the brain gets fused in a manner so profound that close intimate human affection can often be just about the most terrifying experience because we don’t really know what the hell it is.

If one has not experienced unconditional love in their primary attachment relationships to a primary care giver, e.g. one’s mother, then the brain may not develop in the same way as with unconditional love – it will be a brain that has distress and a excess of stress chemicals and a deficit in oxytocin,  the “love/cuddle” chemical of human bonding.

Intimacy can be frightening in the extreme.

The human heart is born to beat a beat of love and to have an automatic approach to the love of other humans. In fact we are not singular – we are born into the world as “I and one other”, as we would die otherwise, we need to be reared as we are helpless alone.

So when the heart is naturally moved towards a love attachment which is inconsistent, ambivalent, alternatively available then dismissive and distant, then the most basic survival instinct is impaired, warped, and love of the most basic fundamental type can be mixed with fear and stress chemicals with distress.

Love is the most  fundamental “glue” in the  brain and human development so when it is not consistently given it can have profound effect on the developing infant brain.

Some would say that being conditional it is  not real love but it is as close as some got. “Love” for some often had love mixed with or outweighed by fear, or oxytocin by stress chemicals in the brain.

While a child is looking to receive their love and “cuddle” chemical, that of oxytocin but it is not always available, in that it is shrunk away in the brain by stress chemicals. This reduces oxytocin and the heightened stress chemicals reduce this oxytocin even more.

I grew up then looking for “love” – this oxytocin but unfortunately it is not straight forward. This search is for a conditional loves as it is all I knew, it is not for a fullsome healthy unconditional love but for a “love” that will alleviate our distress and increase our oxytocin. I searched for this thing, this “love” in  sexual acts.

Sex, and reproduction, are fundamental to the human species so it is another “survival instinct” that gets impaired in the addiction cycle – in fact all addictions involve the usurping of systems essential for survival – eating, sex, money, motivation etc and all addictions take over the reward/motivational region of the brain.

Sex addiction does the same – this is also why we see cross addictions as different addictions all activate this same reward/motivational part of the brain.

Back to sex addiction, I grew up through puberty to adulthood with this  now constant battle in my heart between two chemicals that interact to help us survive via our human relationships and communities. Now they interact in the way most opposite to healthy survival. The compete and fight and are conditional on the behaviour of the other.

The are two partners in a dance of destruction. Their neuro-chemical offspring is dopamine – the chemical of wanting (needing). The battle between stress and oxytocin results in a pathological wanting (needing), peaks of dopamine when distressed with dopamine increase reflect the need to take action to relive distress. .

Distress is the result of never finding relief in human relationships, in human bonding, in healthy relationships, so healthy human love and bonding is replaced by the need relieve the inherent distress in an activity which guarantees a reduction in stress. In an activity guaranteed to increase in oxytocin. Sex with another human being, a fleeting physical intimacy.

That is a role oxytocin has, to reduce stress/distress (and control dopamine)  via human contact. If that contact was never there fully it never played a role in our survival. Instead we have to find this oxytocin elsewhere, like alchemists, outside healthy human bonding.

I found it via a different  type of “love”. A so-called love making when it was really an approximate transient glimpse of intimacy, or the opposite of intimacy in fact, a refuting of intimacy, instead simply a transient increase in our love making chemical. It feels like a yearning for something always beyond one’s reach but something that feels somehow essential and has to be got.

A fleshy hunger.

But these fleeting “intimacies” didn’t work, it wasn’t enough to still our hearts and reassure us, it was a temporary harbour in a storm of distress.

When it calms, I was left with the receding tides of shame, shame and more shame. It wasn’t enough, I wasn’t enough. And the distress cycle begins again.

Every time I searched for this love I ended with less than before.

Anyway here are the comments.

“I discovered that he had been seeing a secret drinking/ sex partner the entire time, one 5 years older that his daughter who, by cultural standards, was not attractive. The phone I finally looked at showed that, in addition to worshiping him as a senior co-worker, she was a great devotee of 50 Shades and all night activity. I had noted only a lack of interest in me – which I attributed to his passing age 50. The crafty extremes he went to to hide this affair from me while cutting as close as possible the encounters he had with the two of us was completely out of character in terms of the persona he showed me. Still, I have felt stupid for the extent of my trust.

Reading this and Part 1 have offered me great comfort. He was definitely denied affection in his youth, and is definitely a late stage alcoholic, but is tested for drugs frequently by work. Sex does not show up in lab work, I guess. Thanks for this very helpful post.”

Part of my Reply –

“thank you Anonymous for your honest post – can I also suggest this post Looking for love in all the wrong places –http://insidethealcoholicbrain.com/2015/07/02/looking-for-love-in-all-the-wrong-places/ – which looks at how lack of attachment in childhood to a primary care giver has dire consequences in terms of later adult relationships – where sex is used instead of intimacy – it is also probably more common than mentioned, the cross addiction of sex and other addictive behaviours like alcoholism – anecdotally I know it to be an issue in recovery for many. There is often a migration from one addiction to another mainly because we generally use and have used external means to regulate negative emotions and negative self schema. We probably have done so one way or the other since childhood. Emotional relationships for some are terrifying, full of angst, conflict etc and have not been straightforward, unconditional love relationships like many people have experienced. In fact relationships with sex addicts often have an element of conditional love about them as this is generally how addicts have grown up to understand relationships, as being conditional, if you do this I will do that, type thinking. I give you this and you give me that etc etc Sex addiction runs very deep as it is linked to an impaired ability to form loving, healthy relationships throughout one’s life and the relationships in a sex addict sense are often abusive, often in a dominant/domineering sense. The sex addict brain can often fuse what should be affection with arousal. Often “good looks” are not that much of an issue, it is often what the person “can do” sexually that is the main consideration. What sort of “fix” that they can offer. Sex does show up in labs in the sense that sex addiction activates the same brain areas as any other addictions and similar neurotransmitters like dopamine. A fascinating thing however is that sex gives one a “shot” of oxytocin which is the “love/cuddle” brain chemical and which is there in major amounts during caring for a child and in human bonding, in attachment to another human being. In sex addicts this might actually be the so-called “hole in the soul” the “love” drug we have all been looking for. So the sex addict brain has been fused to confuse human affection with arousal as oxytocin is activated and prompts the addict to want more of what he/she does not have in great supply namely oxytocin. Sometimes addiction seems like it is a compulsion to “replenish” chemicals one is deficient in, e.g. natural opioids and heroin abuse. I hope you continue to have the compassion you seem to have through your understandable hurt and upset – it sounds like a real rollercoaster you have been through. He is a very very sick (mentally) sick person like all addicts of one hue or the other. The problem also is that we sometimes are the last to see how sick our behaviours can be. Forgiveness is maybe a long way off, but in the end this heals the pain of the past more than anything else. It helps you just as much if not more than the person who has really hurt you. Hope this comment helps you too. Paul

Out of the Asylum Years!

 

An interview here with one of my music idols Tom Waits, about his alcoholism, his fear that the muse was the drink and his relief it wasn’t and also his subsequent recovery via AA.

Alcohol it seems from this interview and from my own extensive collection of Tom Waits’ music was drowning his talent and not fueling it. 

“For years, Tom Waits was the booze-soaked bard of the barstool, the keeper of ‘a bad liver and a broken heart’. But Tom was saved by his wife Kathleen. He hasn’t had a drink for more than 20 years and, at 65, is making the best music of his life.

In the early ’70s, every Tom Waits song seemed to be about drinking and losing your way in the fog. His first record was even calledClosing Time, but it sounded more like a lock-in at the loneliest bar in the world. Just Tom in the corner slumped over the piano serenading the last few nighthawks with his slurred songs about heartaches and hangovers, and the girl that got away.

His persona had already been perfected by the time he started living in the Tropicana Motel in Los Angeles in 1975, a faded establishment that also housed a couple of aristocratic junkies and several call girls who worked Sunset Strip. For six albums on Asylum Records, from his aforementioned debut in 1973 to 1980’sHeartattack and Vine, Waits was the gravel-voiced, beer-stained bard of the barstool, a latter-day beatnik with a bad liver and a broken heart.

Tom Waits's origins - Addicaid

As wonderful as many of those early albums are, the act was wearing thin. So, too, was his ambition, and his spirit.  In 1977, he fell for the singer Rickie Lee Jones, whose wayward life echoed his own, and whose most famous song, ‘Chuck E’s in Love’, paid homage to their mutual friend Chuck E Weiss. Waits and Weiss were arrested that same year for disturbing the peace in Duke’s Tropicana Coffee Shop. His life was unraveling. ‘I had a problem,’ he says, matter-of-factly. ‘An alcohol problem, which a lot of people consider an occupational hazard. My wife saved my life.’

In 1978, when Waits met Kathleen Brennan, everything changed. Kathleen was the catalyst for the dramatic sea-change in Waits’s music that occurred with the release ofSwordfishtrombones in 1983. ‘I didn’t just marry a beautiful woman,’ he says, ‘I married a record collection.’

She has been his songwriting collaborator for almost 35 years now. When Waits was once asked what his wife brought to the table, he replied, ‘Blood and liquor and guilt.’ Which is handy, because Waits himself hasn’t had a drink for 23 years. When he says that Kathleen saved his life, he means it literally.

‘Oh yeah, for sure,’ he continues, ‘But I had something in me, too. I knew I would not go down the drain, I would not light my hair on fire, I would not put a gun in my mouth. I had something abiding in me that was moving me forward. I was probably drawn to her because I saw that there was a lot of hope there.’

Given that his early songs, his voice and his persona, were so drenched in drink, how hard was it for him to give up? ‘Oh, you know, it was tough. I went to AA. I’m in the program. I’m clean and sober. Hooray. But, it was a struggle.’

Does he miss the odd night-cap? ‘Miss drinking?’ he says, sounding genuinely surprised. ‘Nah. Not the way I was drinking. No, I’m happy to be sober. Happy to be alive. I found myself in some places I can’t believe I made it out of alive. Oh yeah. People with guns. People with gunshot wounds. People with heavy drug problems. People who carried guns everywhere they went, always had a gun. You live like that,’ he says, without a trace of irony, ‘you attract lower company.’

Did he write a different kind of song when he was drinking? Tom thinks about this for an instant, ‘No. I don’t think so. I mean, one is never completely certain when you drink and do drugs whether the spirits that are moving through you are the spirits from the bottle or your own. And, at a certain point, you become afraid of the answer. That’s one of the biggest things that keeps people from getting sober, they’re afraid to find out that it was the liquor talking all along.’

For a while, Waits had that fear himself, the fear that when he finally dried out, the songs would dry up too. He worked through it, though. ‘I was trying to prove something to myself, too,’ he says, revealingly. ‘It was like, “Am I genuinely eccentric? Or am I just wearing a funny hat?” All the big questions come up when you get sober. “What am I made of? What’s left when you drain the pool?”‘

When asked about his ‘First sober album’ he says, ‘Well, if it matters to anybody other than me …I don’t know if I want to answer that. That’s a kind of personal thing.’

When he talks about songs and songwriting, the essential mystery of it all. You can tell he respects his gift, nurtures it, and doesn’t ever take it for granted; that he has a faith in the song that is almost spiritual.

‘Leadbelly died the day after I was born – 8 December 1949,’ says Waits. ‘I always felt like I connected with him somehow. He was going out and I was coming in. And, maybe we passed in the hall. I would love to have seen Leadbelly play, but that’s the great thing about records, you put them on and those guys are right there in the room. They’re back.’

‘I think about that sometimes. Some day I’m gonna be gone and people will be listening to my songs and conjuring me up…”

Reference

http://score.addicaid.com/tom-waits-the-booze-soaked-bard-of-the-barstool-is-sober/

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