Blog Archives

You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

The Power of Art

Mask of Domestic ViolenceThe Mask of Domestic Violence – By Artist, Christopher Eshenbaugh

 

Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world (our own), we see it multiplied.”  — Marcel Proust

 

I’ve been looking at the therapeutic nature of art to one’s recovery lately.  In our active addiction, we tended to have a single, narrow view of ourselves and the world we live in.  We thought that everyone was obsessed by using, fantasies and erotic images; we saw others perhaps as mere doubles of ourselves. 

One of the great joys I find in reading is the ability to enter other people’s lives.  We often come to know fictional characters even better than our friends because a novelist can give us the illusion of being all-powerful and all-knowing.  So we get a special “inside view,” and many people in books become familiar and very dear to us.

Reading can take us out of ourselves and expand our views of other people.  We learn that, indeed, “it takes all sorts to make up a community in this world of ours,” and our lives become less isolated through contact with others.  The power of art is to deepen and enrich this perception of ourselves in relationship to the world.  Through reading, watching plays and films, or exploring a painter’s world, we begin

Art is Meant to Disturb

Mask of Mental Illness 2

The Mask of Mental Illness – By Christopher Dale Eshenbaugh

I can see that my new life will be full of the unknown, but that is what can make it exciting and creative.

Many great artists were neglected or even abused during their lifetime because their work was considered too provocative.  Painters like Van Gogh, poets like Blake or Poe, and novelists like James Joyce were pushed out to the margins of society because their vision was too disturbing.

Most of us like a comfortable life, and those of us who are addicted to one high or another may not want to be troubled by new ways of seeing and imagining the world.  Yet, the day comes when our addiction no longer satisfies us and we begin to long for a new vision and version of our lives.  Art can help us in our recovery. 

Art allows us to change our way of looking and living, even if at first the change is disturbing.  Like artists, we can create new images and new patterns for our lives.  At first, it may be painful.  Old, comfortable habits die hard!  But, as we move forward, taking our little baby steps, by baby steps, we come to see that it’s exciting to be on the move and even at the frontier of new, creative endeavors.  Creativity, after all, comes from loving ourselves and others. 

Gemini ~ Naturally Bipolar and Anxious

 

I am bipolar and within the last year or so, have begun to experience severe anxiety and panic. In late December I had meltdown of incredible proportions. The extreme anxiety disorder is new for me; haunting me for a little more than a year now. Anxiety so strong, and triggered by the actions of my partner. For several years, he has promulgated a new behavior, “Babe, I’m just running up to the 7 Eleven to get some cigarettes; I’ll be back in twenty-five minutes.” As he walks out the door I always say, “Take your cell phone with you,” which he already has in hand.

That promised “twenty-five minutes” turns out to be days that he is away from home, not answering his cell phone or even calling. I refer to it as my partner “going missing.” My reaction begins with worry. Then I may happen upon something on the computer exposing the person he would be meeting and what they would be doing. A friend of mine has a husband who has nearly same behavior. She calls this type a “player” explaining that these types of men want to still run the streets, cheat on their partners or spouses. The “player” behavior is incongruent with the committed relationship my partner and I have. This friend’s advice to me was to be proud that it is me he eventually comes home to, giving me parts of himself his hookups never see. To this I say, “bullshit.”

Player my ass. My worry then turns to anger. I can’t sleep. I start calling my partner’s phone over and over. He calls it “psycho dialing.” The anger then turns to tears. I cry as I wander through the house, “What did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong.” My speech becomes so slurred and difficult to understand that it has been described as though I had a stroke. Lately, I noticed a pain in my chest along with a rapid and what I describe as “fluttering” heart. Irritability for me is a sign that I am swinging toward the maniacal part of bipolar. Then deep depression, laced with that wicked anxiety and panic. I began taking a prescribed anti-anxiety medication called Ativan. I was eating it like candy.

This most recent December meltdown grew so out of control I felt as though the only way to be free of it would come through ending my life. I have been in this cold place before and placed a call to the behavioral health crisis line associated with my health insurance. I was referred to the Maricopa County Hospital. There I was checked out and cleared medically and it was suggested I sign myself in to St. Luke’s Behavioral Health. I’ve been there before too. St. Luke’s worked for me before. Back in 2005 I nearly ended my life with a mantra in my head, “I hate my life, I hate my life.” After two months they helped me see the world differently and I left there with a new mantra, “I love my life, I love my life!” I felt safe returning there.

I worked hard over the next three weeks, finding that each time I told my story, I felt more at ease and could see the flaws in my relationship. I realize the degree of my co-dependency and made a commitment to attend CODA (a twelve step group for co-dependents). I was placed under the care of the psychiatrist who followed me last admission. He wanted to take my treatment further than I agreed to last time. In my first admission, he suggested ECT (Electro Convulsive Treatment.) I refused it then because of the loss of one’s short-term memory as a side effect of the treatment. But this time felt different to me and I agreed to begin the treatment.

Just for Today, Let Go of Anger and Resentment Toward Family and Focus on Taking Care of Yourself

“It is a true proverb, that if you live with a lame man, you will learn to halt.” — Plutarch

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     Working through the memories of childhood is a task each of us eventually faces.  Addiction in a family system contributes to addiction along the way and affects our own individual addiction(s) and creates drama in life as adults.  207469539_29026811bd  

     I have realized that we can decide whether it’s important for us to know if and how addiction has operated in our families.  We can gain that knowledge as we need it.  But isn’t it enough simply knowing the addiction is real, that it’s present in family systems, and that we didn’t cause it?  Knowing we didn’t cause it helps to stop blaming one’s self.  2364590873_337e203529_m

     The important thing I have found is to focus on my own recovery.  I cannot change a thing about my family or the past.  But, I have found I can change my attitude toward them.  When ever we feel caught up in the addiction or drama in a family members’s behavior, we can bring our attention back to ourselves.  That way, resentment and fruitless anger yield to honesty and humility. Detaching from the things we cannot change, forgiving the harm done to us, and letting go of the past are important parts of our healing. 

Our First Priority Must Be Our Individual Recovery

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“Our first priority must be our individual recovery; only when we have succeeded in improving our self-esteem will we be able to be in a relationship truly by choice and not our of dependency.”  – Jennifer and Burt Schneider

Sex is not glue. It doesn’t keep people with us. We’ve often misunderstood sexuality and intimacy when we were active in our addictive process, because our addiction distorted our experiences.

Finding the way to real intimacy with ourselves, friends, a significant other, or our family is difficult. But we know that real intimacy is a connection that is natural.

It takes self-esteem to know that someone loves us for ourselves and wants to be with us just because we are who we are. There’s no way we can control our relationships, especially a relationship intimate enough to be sexual. We just have to let go, and trust. That’s true freedom.

 I am always a sexual being, whether I choose to express my sexuality or not. The energy and goodness of my sexuality are my unique gifts from God.

There is Enough Time to Live One Day at a Time

“Now, let the weeping cease; let no one mourn again.  For the love of God will bring you peace.  There is no end.”   — Sophocles

When I look back on my life, I sometimes feel again the pain of how things used to be; the pain of a life once led.  But I know that my life doesn’t ever have to be as difficult and “dramastic” (my word for “fantastically dramatic”) as it once was.  My life never has to be as out of control, as unmanageable or as terrifying.  It simply isn’t necessary for my addictions to haunt me at every turn.  Time has in fact moved on, as it must.  The past is over, I accept my relationships as they are and I’ve begun to know real safety.

Maybe I’d have to completely bale altogether from my recovery plan and path toward personal growth for quite some time before I’d go back completely to the way I acted and lived before.  I may slip today, or some future date; I make no promises of perfection.  I can never let myself forget however, that as an addict; I am one decision – one bad choice, away from using or acting out.  But that is very different from going back to the beginning, before my new life.  Each day I choose not to stray from the path I am now on, my heart is strengthened so that I no longer want to go back.

Through this blog, I wish to share with my readers to live life “one day at a time” whether you’re in a 12 step program of recovery or not.  If you read my earlier blogs, you’ll come to know that I’m not, though I am part of a recovery group (SMART Recovery).  Finally, trust, as I do, that you have all the time you need.

Beware of What Lurks in the Shadows

As an addict and when I have been actively using, I grasp only at the shadow of things.  I neither relate to people as if they are real, nor do I communicate as a mature, loving person.  Instead, I have pursued phantoms and a few dragons, and in the end, have found only dissatisfaction.

Addictions diminish and demean us as much as they allow us to see things only as extensions of ourselves.  We become afraid of individuality and differences.  We allow ourselves to see other people only as reflections of ourselves.

Through my efforts to grow personally and in my recovery, I have come to need substance in my life.  It is when I am working at real problems, connecting with people as they are that I truly feel alive.  In my relationships, if I am to see growth, I need to give and receive genuine and authentic love and affection.

In my healthy relationships with family and friends, and in my recovery groups and network, I find substance and particularity. I find authentic people who are learning not to be afraid to extend themselves and who come to meet and greet me in life.  Together, we can all learn to live and to love as vital, whole individuals in a real world.

I am learning to get out of the shadows and darkness of my addictions and wanted to share my experience with my readers so that we can all live in a world of substance, reality and love.

“Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.”  — Aesop

Become What You Are Capable of Becoming

 

“The great law of culture; let each become what he is capable of becoming.” – Thomas Carlyle

Each of us is unique, precious and human.  We need to join in the movements of life and culture that encourage us all to grow and change and live out the fullest of our potential.

By remaining immersed in addiction, we are simply joining the ranks of the dead in life, those who deny the possibility of growth and becoming.  Addiction is a stunting illness that holds back the healthy forward movement of life.

In recovery, there will be moments of hesitation and even relapse.  Relapse is part of recovery.  When this happens, do not lose faith in yourself because we are constantly strengthened through our personal growth and recovery work.  Insight will be gained and the support we need will be found in our groups and through our connection to our Higher Power. And so we continue to reconnect with our own rhythm and pattern of growth. Try making this affirmation to yourself: “I am part of a living culture and I am capable of change and growth.”

Who is it? Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

 

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” — Shakespeare

Only recently, have I begun the long, slow process of reconnecting with family and friends whom I abandoned when I chose a life of addiction and lies.  Are they running toward me with outstretched arms, embracing this new and improved me?  No.  I didn’t expect them to either.

You see, I spent much of my life living a lie.  I was split into two people, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and one of the two could never speak out, tell the truth or own up. Mr. Hyde gradually took over until everything was fraud, deception and betrayal.  And finally, I came to see my life in ruins.

So began my path toward sobriety, clean living and personal growth.  This meant Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – the two sides of me, had to find a way to work together.  I knew I had to win the trust and confidence of both fellows before one tore the other to pieces.

There is one way in: honesty.  I came to know that Mr. Hyde works in the darkness of deceit and opens up to the light that steams in when I speak openly and honestly.  And this light endures: honesty doesn’t only give momentary insight; it leaves a legacy that lasts a lifetime.