GRATEFUL TO CELEBRATE 27 YEARS OF SOBRIETY

You don’t have to be a lampshade-wearing drunk or fighting barroom drunk for drinking to be a potential problem. However, there was a time when I figured just backing off street drugs was the end of that forbidden road. I continued to drink alcohol—mainly a glass of champagne on birthdays or holidays.

Yes, well—abstaining from one drug and not another may work for some people, but I realized 27 years ago that it wouldn’t work for me. That’s when I decided I might as well stop drinking, too, and adhere to the twelve-step program.

It was only the beginning of my surrender.

In my first decade of sobriety, I didn’t fully understand why people said it’s “one day at a time” to infinity and beyond. If you’re not abusing alcohol or any other substance and haven’t even come close to relapsing in all these years, you’re good, right? You’ve got this. But that’s not how it works. Addiction, I learned, is a disease of the body, mind, and spirit, and emotional sobriety while abstaining is also ongoing one day at a time. 

On the emotional end, it’s been referred to as the “disease of the attitudes.” Still, I have to say most of us who’ve resorted to substance abuse come into recovery with fleas from narcissistic abuse, usually from people who were also living the aftermath of narcissistic abuse. On top of all that, many of us are trauma survivors who’ve dealt with physical, emotional, or sexual abuse—quite often all of those things.

Under these circumstances, we’ve co-opted the shame-based coping and survival skills of our abusers. They are skills that have kept us alive and emotionally intact while also putting us at significant risk over and over again. So, we’ve been wandering around doing things we weren’t aware of to block out the pain or create a pacifying illusion of safety. On some level of our consciousness, our needs seemed urgent, making us unusually vulnerable. We craved attention, validation, and praise, and that was another drug, a temporary fix whenever someone complied. It doesn’t work for long because, as with any other drug, the euphoria fades, and you remember the pain and torture of what you genuinely fear—that you’re not special or that no one loves or cares about you. Hence, we crave one fix after another.

We convince ourselves that certain relationships are about selflessness and love when they are more often tainted by our dysfunction. We may love people the best way we can, but it’s only as genuine as we are.

Whatever the deal is, addiction is an obsession. In its active state, it impairs our judgment and clouds our perception. It robs us of clarity which only returns and continues to improve with consistent physical and emotional sobriety. Meanwhile, the pressing urges of codependency will consistently override any willingness to be authentic. 

Addicts, for the most part, in our lifelong frenzy, attempting to survive the madness, may become con artists. Often, too, we lack empathy. We are self-obsessed and often unable to put ourselves in someone else’s place. We’ve lost the connection where we assimilate what others are experiencing. 

Without realizing it, we may become bullies with an eye out for any perceived threat, frequently compelled to do damage control. We’re fiercely determined to preserve our delusions and denials and protect our “secrets.” We attempt to control everything, including how others perceive us. So, drama is very much a part of our lives—waiting for the other shoe to drop, dreading it when the phone rings, an automatic response of, what now? And we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we make excuses.

Despite having developed a shaky trust in others, we still trust the wrong people at times because those types are familiar to us. We form toxic relationships that can put us or keep us in dangerous situations with severe consequences. People inclined to use our fragility against us instinctively take advantage, and we will unintentionally draw them to us. Sometimes, they suffer from the same affliction, and their desperation is so great that they can’t discern beyond it. Neither can we.

The point is, we can abstain and still be a hot mess. When we come to our moment of surrender, we are broken and, yes, quite fragile in our vulnerability. Our self-esteem has been gutted. We feel unworthy of anything good. We lack the tools or coping skills for dealing with life on life’s terms. There continues to be unrelenting self-sabotage and self-loathing.

It’s a long road for us, and guilt continued to assuage me for many, many years. I cringed, embarrassed, remembering things I said or did, and it was hard for me to find any empathy for the person I was. My dearest friend, whom I’ve known for decades, reminded me not to be so hard on myself. “That girl was just trying to survive,” she said.

It’s hard to believe that merely trying to survive can be so catastrophic, but we’re not perfect. We struggle, and if we continue to put in the effort to become the best people we can be, we never stop getting better. The most important thing to me is continual recovery in every regard. As long as we’re still here, we have a chance to fight for our lives. I’ll never stop fighting, and I’m always grateful for another day to awaken and thrive.

This writing is an unedited excerpt from my new memoir, Grateful to Be Alive. For more details about the book, please read on.

Book description: 

Grateful to Be Alive

My Road to Recovery from Addiction

by D.K. Sanz

Do unsettling truths bring harsh judgment? They do, but the price of denial is steep.

D.K. Sanz’s story begins in the drug-infested New York City streets of Woodside, Queens, during the tumultuous HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 80s and 90s. It offers a glimpse into how a now often-overlooked pandemic impacted Sanz’s nuclear family. 

From her earliest days, D.K. was the easily forgotten stranger, always a little out of sync with the rest of the world—a tough but naïve kid and aspiring writer. Her triumph over illness and addiction includes amusing anecdotes and nostalgic, heartwarming memories.

Grateful to be Alive delves deep into Sanz’s confessional self-sabotage, self-destruction, and the harrowing downward spiral she almost didn’t survive. Her never-before-told story ranges from recklessness and impudence to empathy, forgiveness, and love.

D.K. has since published several books, primarily poetry but also a novel, and she continues to work on sequels and an all-new fantasy series. You’ll find some of her poetry at the end of this book.

Whether struggling or not, you will find Grateful to Be Alive is a story of hope, defying insurmountable odds, finding joy, and a gradual transition toward authenticity and becoming the person D.K. always wanted to be.

ARC Copies

For those unfamiliar, an ARC is an advanced reader copy provided before publication. Each recipient of an ARC intends to read and review the book. Reviews can be anywhere from one sentence to three or four paragraphs. Ideally, they should appear on Amazon and Goodreads the day the book comes out, likely in February. (I will notify you of the release date.) If it’s posted after that date, the sooner, the better, of course, but days or months later is still good. In other words, there is no rush.

Once given an ARC, you are under no obligation to read or review the book, but, at the same time, you wouldn’t want to request an ARC copy if that’s not your initial intention. In other words, if reading the book causes you to change your mind for any reason, there are no consequences, legal or otherwise.

ARCs are free. Currently, I have them available in Word or PDF formats. Eventually, they will be available on Kindle.

Reviews by ARC readers are posted on Amazon and, hopefully, Goodreads if the recipient has a Goodreads account.

ARC readers, unlike beta readers, are not expected to provide feedback to the author besides the public review, but feedback is certainly welcome.

To apply for an ARC, please e-mail me at dksanz@yahoo.com and answer the following questions:

1) Are you familiar with the author’s work? (Just curious, it’s okay if you’re not.)

2) Have you ever reviewed a book by this author?

3) Please briefly explain why this particular book would interest you.

4) Have you reviewed books or products before this request?

5) Do you have an Amazon account?

6) Do you have a Goodreads account?

Unfortunately, I may not be able to accommodate every request, but I thank you in advance for your interest.

EXCERPT FROM MY NEW BOOK! 🥰

My memoir about recovery from addiction and illness is complete and in the final editing stage. Here’s an unedited excerpt to give you an idea of what’s coming:

The Atlantic Ocean seemed as vast and deep as the aching within me and represented the same somber foreboding. It was the sea of the titan after all—more than 41 million square miles. In those moments, it looked as foreign to me as everything else that was once familiar. One might see it as a green leviathan monster or the depths of God’s love. I saw the monster, noting it could simply devour you, but so could the earth, and life itself.
I was on the sandy shores of Rockaway Beach, somewhere about 108th street, sitting cross-legged, on my beach blanket, playing with a stick in the sand. Aggressive seagulls descended effortlessly from the clear blue sky—ravenous, and predatory, like some humans I knew. The calls of piping plovers and other shorebirds were ominous, too.
The warmth of the sun felt good though as I took in the ocean’s briny aroma mingled with the fragrances of cocoa butter, coconut oil, and glorious traces of jasmine. The ocean breeze provided a hypnotic tranquility, so much so that as the salty waves thrashed against the shore, I’d managed to believe that somehow, someday, it would all be okay. The music on my radio soothed me then, pretty much the way it always did, and I listened to the laughter of yesterday.
I was sixteen now, and when men approached my blanket, I immediately told them, “I’m leaving in two minutes.”
By this time, I didn’t want to meet any more people.

D.K. Sanz ~ from my upcoming memoir

Please Note: Before its anticipated release in February of 2023, I will provide readers with a certain number of ARCs. (February is a tentative release goal.)

For those unfamiliar, an ARC is an advanced reader copy provided before publication. Each recipient of an ARC intends to read and review the book. Once given an ARC, you are under no obligation to do either, but, at the same time, you wouldn’t want to request an ARC copy if that’s not your initial intention. In other words, if reading the book causes you to change your mind for any reason, there are no consequences, legal or otherwise.

ARCs are free. Currently, I have them available in Word or PDF formats. Eventually, they will be available on Kindle.

Reviews by ARC readers are posted on Amazon and, hopefully, Goodreads if the recipient has a Goodreads account.

ARC readers, unlike beta readers, are not expected to provide feedback to the author besides the public review, but feedback is certainly welcome.

To apply, please e-mail me at dksanz@yahoo.com and answer the following questions:

1) Are you familiar with the author’s work? (Just curious, it’s okay if you’re not.)

2) Have you ever reviewed a book by this author?

3) Please briefly explain why this particular book would interest you.

4) Have you reviewed books or products before this request?

5) Do you have an Amazon account?

6) Do you have a Goodreads account?

Unfortunately, I may not be able to accommodate every request, but I thank you in advance for your interest.

Feature photo at the top by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Woman Reading Book photo by Yuri Efremov on Unsplash

Happy Holidays image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay 

Happy New Year image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay Yellow Rose image by Ri Butov from Pixabay 

FIGHT FOR SANITY TO BE RESTORED & PEACE WITH SURRENDER

One day at a time? I used to wonder why people with thirty years of sobriety or more would say “recovery” was one day at a time. For a newbie, yes. I got that. But those of us with more than five years? I’d say, “Well, I’m committed to my recovery. I’m grounded, and I’m not going back, I promise you.”

So, I have twenty-four consecutive years of “abstaining.”

I often forget exactly how long it’s been because it truly is one day at a time.

A Disease of the Attitudes

It’s never been so much about the physical compulsion for me. I never had a hangover, let alone a blackout. I didn’t do rehab or detox or spend time in jail.

Addiction, however, is a disease of mind, body, and spirit. I came across that explanation on Hazeldon.org, the other day, and I wholeheartedly believe that.

Before his death in 2016, educator/counselor/motivational speaker John Bradshaw authored many books on what he believed to be the root of all addictions—codependency. Codependency, in his view, was toxic shame. I’d also heard it referred to as the “Disease of the Attitudes.”  It is trauma induced, but there is also a lot of learned behavior, as many people grow up in dysfunctional families.

The disease has many manifestations. In short, something or someone has control over us to the extent that it clouds our perception and impairs our judgment, making life on life’s terms unmanageable.

Under these circumstances, we begin to exhibit narcissistic behavior, something that is common in our society to varying degrees, and more common, it seems, in addicts/alcoholics. 12-steps programs seek to correct that very behavior, along with the self-centeredness and self-obsession. It is not to be confused with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, although there are people in recovery who have that affliction. More so, addicts are people who have been abused by narcissists, including those with NPD. How narcissistic we become likely depends on the amount of time we’ve spent putting up with our narcissistic abusers. We catch their “fleas,” so to speak.

Sadly, we emerge with feelings of unworthiness. Down deep, we feel inferior, so we tell ourselves whatever we need to say to ourselves to maintain the delusion that we’re not only worthy, we’re better. We don’t even realize we think we are better, and yet we communicate that to others. We act as if we are unique and more important than everyone else, and we’re oblivious to all of it because we take ourselves way more seriously than we should.

We don’t know who we are, so we choose a mask, and we wear it. Denial can be such a comfort.

On a subconscious level, we are fiercely determined to preserve our delusions and denials and protect all of our “secrets.” We may become bullies with an eye out for any perceived threat. There is a constant need for damage control.

We use people. They help provide the attention, admiration, and validation we need, and they help support and promote our altered perceptions of what’s real.

We become con artists who can convince anyone of anything, turn things on and off as needed, and find a million different ways to seduce people. We learn that sex is not the only way to do that.

Often, too, we lack empathy. We are self-obsessed and so unable to put ourselves in someone else’s place. We’ve lost the connection where we feel what others are feeling. Our agendas keep us busy, along with trying to control everything, including how we are perceived by others. Maintaining the delusions and denial is nothing short of exhausting.

And we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we make excuses. We get tangled in a web of lies we’ve created.

So, when we finally arrive at that place of surrender, we are broken. We’re needy and vulnerable.  We crave attention from others. It’s a drug, and whenever someone complies, it’s a temporary fix. It doesn’t work because, like any other drug, the euphoria fades, and you remember the pain and torture of what you truly fear. Hence, we need fix after fix.

Why There is More Danger Than We Realize

As an addicted person, we have, at least, some awareness of the danger we pose to ourselves. We may, at some point, realize the harm we cause others. We take risks we would not ordinarily take. However, there are some more insidious pitfalls that we never see coming.

Our “needs” will lead us to toxic codependent relationships that can put us or keep us in dangerous situations with severe consequences. People inclined to use our fragility against us will instinctively take advantage, and we will unintentionally draw them to us. Sometimes, they suffer from the same affliction, except they are true narcissists who will apply what they’ve learned to get what they want. Their desperation is so great, they can’t see past it, and neither can we.

These are predators who will love bomb the shit out of you and play to all your vulnerabilities by telling you precisely what you want to hear. They’ll idealize you, place you on a pedestal, and you’ll let them do it because what they offer is what you want. And the moment you’re not doing what they want you to do, they’ll begin to devalue you. It can be a frenemy, a lover, a co-worker, a family member, or even another person in recovery. When they can no longer control you, they’ll insult you in passive-aggressive ways, threaten to abandon you or lash out with cruel vindictiveness you’ve never seen the likes of throughout your wretched existence.

So, why is this important to mention?

It is unfortunately common. I’ve witnessed it. I’ve lived it and I’ve blogged about it,  It’s also madness. It will leave you traumatized and shocked, feeling emotionally raped. For the most fragile people, it’s caused mental breakdowns, even suicide. It’s hard to explain how this sort of bondage messes with your head, but all rational thinking goes right out the window.

The good news is, once you become aware of what’s going on inside of you, your needs will begin to change. You’ll get better and better at spotting the red flags, and your boundaries can protect you.

You Can Do It

It may take a bit of perilous soul-searching and coming face-to-face with the terrifying darkness lurking within, but we can fix this. Real narcissistic abusers (NPDs), however, cannot.

At the same time, not everyone is ready to plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths about ourselves and endure the grueling process of healing. We deliberately avoid it, or we scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until we feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper. Some people, sadly, will never be ready.

As for the rest of us, damn the lies! We got sick and tired of the drama and the feeling of dread whenever the phone rang. We were ready to love with our whole hearts, leaving the agendas behind. Hey, it’s not as easy as living in denial, but we knew we had to get better, that we had to do better. We can only be honest with others if we’re honest with ourselves. For that reason, we have to know what’s real, and, over time, we’ll peel off layer after layer of untruth.  We want to make life decisions as informed individuals with ever-increasing clarity.

Sooner, rather than later, we come to learn how to stop taking ourselves so seriously, which I’ve discussed at length in another blog. I talk about embracing your vulnerability, but, the truth is, we have to know what those vulnerabilities are, so we can protect ourselves when it really is necessary. When we fully accept that we are all just struggling humans, equal in importance, the shame that drove us to desperation will begin to dissipate.

I’ve come to notice that most people don’t like it when I say we are equal in importance and that no one is superior to anyone else. For sure, it’s not a popular thing to go babbling on about, but I do it because it’s part of a huge problem in this world — the less who contribute to it, the better.

We’ll get rid of that all or nothing mentality, too—winner takes all. We must have flexibility and balance in our lives.

In this process of recovery, we come to understand the importance of examining our motives and expectations in every situation. We may find they are not reasonable or realistic, and that we can’t trust our egos. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.

We’ll be able to put ourselves in someone else’s place and take care with our words. For example, I’m always wary of leading anyone in the wrong direction, so I’m very direct. Sometimes because we’re kind to people, they think a romance is possible. In the past, that wouldn’t have bothered me because, hell, I had another fan to add to my collection. It fed my ego. Today, I am sincere in not wanting to hurt anyone. I’ve become interested in people for who they are and not for how they validate me.

I’ve also found that the maturity and wisdom we gain in “doing the work” allows us to resolve conflicts like adults because we are open, and we genuinely care about others. I don’t mean engaging with those that have no concern or regard for us and who will only do us harm. Nope, we’ll be avoiding people like that. In the past, it was too easy to lead us, to fool us, to enslave us, and that’s just not happening anymore. It’s essential to continue strengthening our boundaries and to pay attention! Know how to differentiate between genuine compliments and someone who is love bombing you because they have a fast-lane agenda. Shut down the love bombing. It’s a trap. We must hold on to our serenity and our peace. Newsflash: Love bombing doesn’t only happen in romance.

Anyway, we won’t be wasting time and energy on damage control. Instead, we’ll be acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them, not making excuses.

Of course, we don’t always have it down to the point where we’re invincible. It’s a constant effort that gets more automatic with time, but we never stop being vulnerable. We have to be patient with ourselves and our healing process and also with the healing journeys of others. (That’s a lot harder than it sounds. 😉 )

Avoiding Obstacles

So, what’s in the way of our surrender?

I’ve often heard, “But I can’t go to those 12-step meetings. I’m not comfortable.” Another deterrent for some is what they’ve referred to as “the God thing.” Someone in recovery suggested they are egotistical if they don’t subscribe to the most popular concept of God. Others seemed to invalidate a person’s sobriety and solid footing, claiming he or she was on the wrong path.

Let’s talk about the religious part first. Those who have other perceptions of God are fully aware that greatness surrounds and exceeds us all. We are in awe. Aside from that, I personally believe all the good around us and within us is God, and that God can also be conceived as “Good Orderly Direction.”

As so eloquently stated by Louisa Peck in her blog, A Spiritual Evolution, “Good Orderly Direction is more than the antithesis of fuck it; it’s the antithesis of ego. It is a form of caring, of knowing that your choices matter and seeking those that will feel right in the long run.”

Regardless of where that “good orderly direction” comes from, it keeps you on the right path. It’s there if you want it to be, and it’s where I direct my infinite gratitude. We can’t fall into the trap of trying to impress the masses. Let them do what works for them. You do you.

As for the social anxiety. I have it, too. We don’t like it when we’re not comfortable. That’s why we’ve turned to other methods of coping with reality—using drugs, alcohol, and other things to the point where we know something’s not right with us. It’s good to push through; yes, we won’t ever get comfortable by avoiding the problem. But if you can’t do it, you can still get with the program or benefit from its wisdom.

You can read the literature, work the steps, and learn a better design for living, and you can do it in the way that is best for you. What we don’t want moving forward are obstacles to our healing. Nothing and no one should prevent us from taking back our lives and restoring our sanity.

Conclusion

Recovery is an ongoing, permanent pursuit requiring a day-by-day commitment to better choices, requiring continuous reminders of, that’s not the way we do things anymore. We are never beyond reproach or incapable of making mistakes or bad judgments and reverting to old patterns. You can be physically sober for decades and still be an ass.

The learning, growing, and healing never ends. I love that we know better than we did in the past.

What I believe is; we should be consistently evolving. And every person we know has something to teach us whether they have no time in recovery or fifty years.

Appreciating who and where you are while also understanding who and what you’ve been is a good thing. We deserve the truth, don’t you think? And we’re worthy of it. We don’t have to be who others taught us to be when we came into this world. The people we looked to for guidance did what they could with the best of intentions and whatever awareness they had. It simply wasn’t enough.

Recommended Link:

How to Make Your Ego Your Bitch by Gary Z. McGee

Feature photo by bessie @ https://pixabay.com/users/bessi-909086/

ANNOUNCEMENT! NEW MAGAZINE!

Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.

Some of the topics we will cover:

Adversity, anxiety, artist(s), authors, books, writing (editing tips and experiences), childhood, classic literature, codependency, compassion, creativity, depression, dreams, ego, evolving, feeling unworthy, fiction pieces and excerpts, fun, giving back, gratitude, grief, growing, healing, hope, humanity, humility, humor, inspiration, interviews, judgment, learning, letting go, life, loss, love, mental health, narcissism, oppression, panic attacks, parenting, passion, poetry, politics, prejudice, reading and reviews, recovery from addiction and trauma, relationships, religion, romance, sadness, self-sabotage, self-care and self-love, shame, stigma, stress, and tolerance.

For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.

For creativity, we may be interested in photos, handmade products, something that showcases your talent.

Content for submission will include blogs, videos, audios, slideshows, and photographs. Please see the submissions page for instructions on how to submit!

We will not pay for submissions at this time. However, we will always share your work on our social media sites, and we encourage all contributors to share magazine contents submitted by others on their social media sites. Helping one another with exposure is what will make this site work.

In addition, we will provide the following for all contributors to the magazine:

A listing in the contributor section, where more information (links, etc.) will be added with each contribution. The most frequent contributors may also have a few of their books, products, or recommendations in the listing.

The opportunity by contributors to submit news that provides opportunities for artistic communities, as well as their own business events and significant personal news, all of which we will share on our social media sites.

Access to the chat room (as a moderator, if they prefer), and the ability to hold monitored topic meetings to promote their talent/business.

For those privileges, you must be a regulator contributor. There are no deadlines. However, you must have contributed at least twice with acceptance and publication.

We do intend to have a community that includes a discussion forum and chat room where we can present topics hosted by contributors.

Our Announcement page will provide news of available opportunities within the artistic communities, including contests and contributor events.

We will post book reviews that are submitted by contributors, but we don’t assign books for review.

We will post interviews by our contributors if they are relative to our platform. If you feel you are a good candidate for an interview, contact us at submissions@bravewingsmag.com.

If this venture is a success, we may eventually monetize and pay for content.

For those interested in getting involved, we may also need editors, site moderators, group moderators, page moderators, etc. who will have contributor status. Those most involved will be given domain e-mail addresses for the magazine. We have four more available, so if you love this idea, the opportunity is there to get as involved as you’d like.

Another thing I’m tossing around is whether we’ll have a group or newsletter for interested parties, so please, please, weigh in with your thoughts about everything! All suggestions are welcome!

Please visit our site at Bravewings.mag.com, and feel free to follow or subscribe.

Please like us on Facebook and connect with us on Twitter!

Photo by KH Koehler Design

WINNING THE SELF-SABOTAGE BATTLE WITH SELF-LOVE

Photo cred: LisaBPhoto

We all become conscious, at some point in our lives, of ways we can sabotage our physical well-beings. When it comes to sabotaging our emotional well-beings, and even our financial security and stability, things seem to become more complicated.

Brilliant individuals are sometimes incapable of motivating themselves enough to change their lives or gravitate toward the ideal. They tend to become problem-oriented rather than solution oriented, boxing themselves in with an almost unwillingness to compromise. They may set impossible goals instead of practical ones.

Maybe someone convinced them they didn’t deserve success, or they convinced themselves based on how someone made them feel about their competency or their judgment. Either way, these old tapes keep playing in their heads, telling them they can’t accomplish anything, can’t succeed, can’t win, and there’s not enough to go around. In this predicament, we fear success as much as we fear failure, because they are two sides of the same coin. We keep that coin as a reminder that we don’t trust ourselves with the dreams we cherish or the plans we’ve made.

We tell ourselves we don’t deserve success any more than we deserve money. Perhaps once we get our hands on the latter, we don’t manage it well. I’ve been there. I can attest to the fact that when you finally realize you do deserve these things, you’ll likely find yourself working your tail off, accomplishing one goal after another. We have to be rid of whatever that little voice is in our head that says we can’t do it, and we’re not good enough, and that all this is impossible. We can, we are, and it’s not.

395815_356373707707585_222198517791772_1451165_1425068374_n

We get into this pattern of self-pitying victimhood. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that we’ve been a victim of something or someone, or expressing anger about it, and shedding tears. We have a right to our grieving process. But sometimes we get use to the payoff—attention, pity, praise, the temporary ego fix. So instead of becoming solution oriented, we become more and more problem oriented, more and more likely to want an audience of sympathizers. And we get stuck there because solving problems would take that attention away and whatever else we get from being constantly burdened. It’s not that we don’t deserve to be comforted. It’s that we don’t move forward. We don’t get better.

This pattern normally goes hand in hand with excessive worry about people and things. Social media is a perfect example, because it mirrors life. I have seen people in a pattern of deactivating accounts only to resurface in a matter of days. Sometimes it may be that they legitimately need a break, but very often it’s because expectations are not being met. People are not responding to them in a way they could perceive as favorable. They’ve made assumptions about what people think or what someone meant, and after a considerable amount of time wasted on obsessive worrying, they take a drastic action to disengage. When they come back, it’s because they need to try it all again. They have too much riding on acceptance. It’s all self-defeating because we create unrealistic expectations, and we tend to assume wrong. Comparing and assuming tends to cause more mental anguish than is warranted or bearable. All we can do is be who we are, our ever-improving version of that.

Many stress about their looks, their bodies. Perfect is boring, and there is beauty beyond someone else’s chosen ideal. Beauty does, indeed, come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and people will have all sorts of opinions on what looks good.  In fact, I realized at one point, that I never cared if someone didn’t like the hair color I chose. I knew how I wanted to look. I would never consult anyone about it, not even my significant other. So if we are trying to satisfy ourselves rather than appeal to every single person on the planet, we should set the standards for ourselves not appease clothing designers, the model industry, or the men who rate women on AskMen.com. Because when we’re finally okay with how we look, imperfections and all, we exude the confidence we need to get oh just about anything. And if that’s not enough, we get to focus more on being the best human we can be. When we finally love who we are, we learn to respect ourselves and treat ourselves better.

While it’s normal to want attention and approval, it’s the excessive, almost desperate need for it that can destroy us if we let it. People take unnecessary risks for the fix without realizing. They may trust the wrong people, throw caution to the wind, make excuses for bad behavior, cling to people who have repeatedly demonstrated the harm they’re capable of inflicting upon others. We don’t even realize that the payoff is attention we craved, validation we needed, admiration we couldn’t resist. Because it comes at just the right time, and creates such a bondage that we continue to crave it from a dangerous source.

Sometimes it’s less extreme. We try to be generous with people regarding our time, our attention, our praise, but we do this with relationships we don’t honestly want to nurture because we want to be nice. I find that when people want to be nice or perceived as nice, they immediately have expectations and create obligations. Then, on top of the resentment about doing something they don’t want to do, and the expectations or obligation that likely won’t be met, they go from ‘nice’ person to fire-breathing dragon in a matter of seconds. So what happens next is far from what they initially intended. People get hurt.

Well, it’s okay not to want to be friends with everyone. It’s okay to feel emotionally exhausted and want to have only genuine relationships. It’s okay to walk away when you’re not feeling it, not trusting it. It’s okay to save that overflowing generosity of spirit for those who matter to you. You can still do nice things for others along the way if you want. Quite simply, it doesn’t have to be like wearing a thorny crown while carrying a cross over your back.

I’ll say this. The more I become aware of how people think (thanks to social media), I tend not to want to meet any more people or reconnect with people from the past. I’m happy to avoid everyone outside my window… even while loving to hear them all out there—the comforting humdrum. Isolating can be a peaceful, healing thing, but it can also be another way of self-sabotaging if we don’t check it. I’ll admit, I have to push myself to get out there and deal with the world as it is, on its terms. Whether I like it or not, it’s necessary. I’ve had to accept that I’m not always going to be comfortable, and I’m not always going to be safe.

I still believe, though, we have to take our time getting to know people, especially when we are very empathetic. Because while we can recognize serious issues people have, our compassion for what they’re dealing with can override any need to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, we have to because these people can hurt you and will do so again and again. We need to pay attention. We need to be careful. We have to stop tolerating disrespect under the guise of being noble and humble. That only creates a perception of some superior self that is false. Yeah, we want to be the nice guy, but if we are real with others, we become something better than ‘nice’. We are kind.

I’ve come to believe that one of the best things we can do in life is heal the vulnerabilities that make us susceptible to all this self-sabotage. Once we find the courage to seek answers, then acknowledge, accept, feel, cry and release anger, we heal, we learn, and then we grow and evolve. It’s an ongoing thing that just keeps getting better. We deserve that.

11151042_891296534245764_6270830913012034813_n

Of course, life would be so much easier if we could make a habit of staying in the moment and being fully present in that moment. We wouldn’t be worrying about what happened yesterday or an hour ago, or what’s going to happen tomorrow. I have to remind myself constantly, but it works particularly well in moments of crisis and panic. A wise friend taught me to stay in the solution. Think about what you can do at that moment, not what you can’t do. Control what you can. Amazing how that helps. tiny-smileys-yesemoticons-032

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Healing Shame by Robert D. Caldwell, M.Div.

DISTORTED PERCEPTIONS OF ILLNESS & ADDICTION IN A FEARFUL WORLD

photo-1438798284436-4dfb2332982c

Obviously, there is a stigma when it comes to narcotic addiction. So when a drug addict gets sick or overdoses, it’s easy for some to distance themselves or conclude that it happens to specific groups comprised of losers. I’ve often heard the line that it’s a lifestyle choice, or God punishes the “bad” people. Those who believe that tell an entirely different story when they are the victims of some tragic fate.

What a holier-than-thou world it’s become.

As far as I’m concerned, the only bad people are those who deliberately and repeatedly harm and destroy others.

Seriously, I wish people without any addictions and those who claim “other” addictions would stop acting so smug and being so callous. How about gratitude when we’re not afflicted with something or another?

Everyone has weaknesses.

Some who readily toss others in the “loser” category tend to forget the long list of known addictions. They may be familiar with the most obvious ones—alcohol, over the counter medications, gambling, work, food, smoking, caffeine, internet, etc. I remember the sanctimonious politicians who never thought much about their sex, fetishes, and porn addictions until caught with their pants down. Many people readily accept codependency and its’ related addictions to ego, attention, approval, people pleasing, perfection, and drama. Then there are the adrenaline junkies, the exercise fanatics. People become obsessed with plastic surgery, crime, sugar, television, video games, greed, lying, even isolation. The list goes on and on, which means most of us are addicted to something or another at some point in time. It is all about the obsessions that cause dysfunction in our lives because obsessions impair judgment and distort perception.

One might say, well I don’t hurt anyone doing what I do, and drug addicts hurt “innocent” people. First, you may not even realize that your addiction has hurt others. And yes, there are drug addicts who endanger lives. There are also non-drug addicts who do that, and there are drug addicts who don’t intentionally seek to harm anyone.

For the most part, people with addictions are innocent, too.

Why look down on anyone who is suffering?

And, yes, they are suffering. Those of us who have fought to save a loved one or have lost a loved one know this heartrending struggle too well. Whether it is physical or emotional, they are in pain—quite often agonizing pain.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” Many people still reject this theory while others see it as more of a personality disease. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is not only a complex disease but also a mental illness.

I believe it is all of these things.

But even if someone can dismiss the facts and theories, there is one thing that’s difficult to dispute if you’ve had any involvement with addicts or addiction. They have a common denominator. They’re often trauma survivors.

I’m sure the whole mental illness aspect makes some people uncomfortable, too, even though it is a broad spectrum with different degrees of functioning levels. It’s easy to shun and deny, and that only creates more problems.

The Kim Foundation cites that “an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older or about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people.”

I’ve heard someone say, God’s perfect love casts out fear and almost in the next breath go on to condemn another person out of fear.

Well, I say this. Whatever is behind addiction, people die intentionally, accidentally, and from related diseases, and they are often denied in death the acceptance, understanding, and unconditional love they may have also been denied in life.

Among that group of individuals, we’ve lost some of the kindest people who ever lived. I know I have.

998129_734503283232662_934913907_n

Links:

DrugFacts: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction

The Disease Model of Addiction

Is Drug Abuse a Mental Illness?

Psychology Today: A Brain’s Eye View of Addiction as a Disease

Featured image by Roya Ann Miller

© Copyright May 9, 2016 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without permission.