This is a piece of Homework I was set by S. Its something I wanted to do, because the three weeks or so I have been looking at the Step One inventories & questions have been interesting, revealing and have, I feel, helped me toward a greater understanding of my addiction(s).
As I wrote before, I really wasn’t expecting a lot from this step. When I deconstructed the wording, ‘We’ in respect to the admission of powerlessness seemed vaguely inclusive and comforting, BUT I wasn’t about to give up my thought that, whilst I’m happy to admit to being powerless over alcohol after the first drink, I retain my power to decide whether or not to take that first drink. So far so good.
I’ve done some reading around the whole twelve step philosophy, about the meaning and purpose of the twelve steps themselves, and about the science and research behind addiction. This has all been to the good, I’ve learned a lot that fits with my ‘lived reality’, and supports the total abstinence path. I have gained comfort from the stories of others in meetings, and several new friends met via AA who’s support I value so much.
BUT, In some ways I am in a worse mess (mentally) than I was before I decided to start the steps. I WAS in (quite) a good place; I have put my ex-partner out of my mind, and genuinely don’t think of him much now. I had started sharing and communicating with all the people around me, I felt quite secure in my sobriety (but definitely not complacent) , and life was looking up.
Now I have had to face a few unpleasant truths, and a few things I just don’t know how to change. Because whilst my life is significantly less chaotic and unmanageable since I stopped drinking, it’s still more tumultuous and disordered and unmanageable than I would like.
Or is it ? I have lived in chaos all my adult life with one drama after another – some good (marriage, births of my children, moving house) some not so (divorce, toxic relationship, financial stresses) and some just ongoing ‘normal’ stresses which I perhaps feel more acutely than others? I really don’t know but I’m beginning to agree with Angela’s assessment that I am ‘a highly sensitive’ person.
Since I completely accept responsibility for the way my life has been, is now and will be in the future, I’m forced to look at why – what is it about me that creates these situations and have I learned only to “thrive” in high stress environments ?
And what IS IT that I want from my life if its NOT this?
I’ve looked at the other two major ‘addictions’ in my life and I can SEE that often a huge food binge and a shopping spree is /are triggered by stress. In one way or another I have learned these responses to feeling anxious / afraid/ overwhelmed/ angry/ frustrated/ pretty much ANY emotion.
I’m holding these thoughts and connections tenuously in my brain right now, and Im writing this very early in the morning – because I feel If i don’t catch it, the connection will be washed away in the stress of the day.
The ‘problem’ is this … my life is just too busy.
Other people might be able to manage with this amount of pressure, but I cannot thrive and build the life I (THINK I )want with the current set up.
Currently I work full time, on average 40 hours a week, in a very stressful job with a lot of responsibility. Not just for my own actions, but for the running of a medium sized business (turn over about 4 million pounds a year) and the decisions of the 30 other clinical staff. I am a single parent three teenaged children who have a father who loves them but is not able to be an effective co-parent. I have a dog. I have an elderly mother who I love but with whom I have a fairly dysfunctional relationship. That’s the practical side.
I’m beginning to recognise that I find this all just overwhelming, I’m in a state of constant anxiety and tension, and i find it virtually impossible to relax (unless I’m actually AWAY on holiday) The result of this constant background tension – say the emotional ‘tank’ is running at only about 20% availability (because 80% is taken up with stress about permanent fixtures) , is that there is not much left for the inevitable day to day stuff – son 2 and his GCSE’s, etc.
As I look at my new yellow handbag, bought on-line earlier this week (it’s a copy of an extremely lovely Burberry tote bag – which was too expensive even for my fevered spending spree) I’m wondering how I can better manage my whole life.
If I accept the twelve step theory for all my addictive type behaviour (and my logical brain tells me I must if I accept for my alcohol addiction) then the ‘answer’ is abstinence. And key to peace, tranquility and ultimately abstinence (given that I cannot stop eating) in ALL the ‘stuff’ I have been reading, from Brene Brown to Stephanie Covington and Kristin Neff and the AA big book , is “spirituality”.
And to develop spirituality (and Im sure I don’t need to add that this is not confined to organised religious belief) you need TIME.
Time to practice meditation or prayer or reflection. Time to develop the creativity that lives in all of us. Time to nurture friendships, time to give back to the Community, time to just BE.
And I have NO TIME.
Yesterday I went to church. I was raised in the Church of England, not in an evangelical way, but church going was part of my childhood and many of my mothers friends in the local Community were also families with children who attended the local Church. Although I have considered both Catholicism and Buddhism (for very different reasons) I realise now that I feel most at home in the comforting familiarity of the English Church. I know the words for want of a better explanation.
I was in Cambridge, and I attended the choral evensong at Kings College chapel, and I realised that although I spend a large part of that service on my knees trying to meditate, my head is just too full of ‘stuff’. One of those things was a realisation that I cannot take Communion any longer – because of the Communion wine so I went to the alter for a blessing.
I have no answers to this. Perhaps my reflections on Step One are not exactly what I or S was expecting. But there it is.
If Im going to do this. If Im going to get there, to serenity and peace, something pretty massive is going to have to change. And only I can do that, only I can make these decisions.
And I will have to live with the consequences. Good or Bad.
And THAT is SCARY.
So for now, I will mutter the serenity prayer several times a day, try hard to keep it ‘in the day’, and try to trust that it will be ok.