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I know a lot of people who are alcoholics or have had eating disorders like to say they are recovered when they no longer partake in the addictive behaviors. It’s nice to put the bad shit in the review. I certainly don’t want to be defined by my addictions.
But the problem with an addict’s brain is that it’s not normal. Somehow or another, our wiring got screwed up. And while the brain is a marvelous thing that can repair itself, our biology never is 100 percent repaired. We’re still susceptible to whatever triggers set us off to begin with, so vigilance over our emotional state is crucial.
I’m a pro at stuffing emotions. I wasn’t allowed to have any of them except to display happiness. Well, fear was ok too — it pleased my mother. But that wasn’t one I wanted to dwell in. I go back to my love of horror movies here; I transformed fear into something that entertained me. I used fear to plan ways out of danger.
Of course I still feel fear. I worry a ton about my child in college. I don’t believe in a god, but I was foxhole prayer-ing about him the other day, begging whatever power-that-be out there not take my fuckwittedness out on my child. Honestly, I’m feeling a lot of guilt with him, wondering what I should’ve done differently so that he wouldn’t be struggling with school and his priorities.
But I’ve also found myself able to “switch off” when I feel overwhelmed with fear for him. Which doesn’t mean the fear is gone. Instead, I’m just stuck with a weird feeling of restlessness and ennui. Running helps with this. But so does eating crap. And shopping. And basically overdoing anything to keep the discomfort at bay.
So you see, being aware of the behaviors I take on to avoid fear and discomfort is important to keep me from falling down a rabbit hole of addiction. I try (try being the operative word) to give myself a window to feel the bad feelings, accept them to some degree, then try to let it go. I need to understand, as we say in the recovery parlance, when I am powerless to change things and when I need the strength to make a change.
I was aware of my weaknesses yesterday while in the grocery store. I was getting ready to walk down the aisle to buy diet root beer when I saw an employee setting up a sample station for some new apple cider beer. I had the briefest thought of “oh, that is interesting” and I freaked out by my interest. Which propelled me right past my aisle, soda forgotten. I was flustered. I don’t like it when alcohol begins to sound appealing because that path ends badly for me.
I am a recovering alcoholic because these thoughts and feelings will never be completely gone. It will always be easier in the short term for me to bombard myself with distractions and poisons in order to avoid emotional pain.
But I’m ok. I usually pull my head out of the sand and figure out what is really troubling me. Progress not perfection.
PS: I went back and got my diet root beer. But I entered and exited the aisle from the other end. It took me years after rehab before I would even allow myself down the liquor aisles and I still avert my eyes if I do.