Play Misty for Me (2)

July 29, 2020

Continued from previous…

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This too shall pass your mother liked to say, even if she didn’t believe it. But she was right. Mist or fog, it evaporates. At times you embrace sadness, its depth and gravitas. But like an old friend he can overstay his welcome. Then you have to wait him out. Drag him along on your errands. Enduring his sourpuss and cynicism. Sometimes, you might ditch him on a hike. He couldn’t keep up in the gym either. If those things failed, you brought him to a meeting, tossing him center circle with everyone else’s shit.

Relief comes. And when it does you embrace it. Sing its song for as long as you can, feel your body electrified by it. Such joy is a blessing. And fleeting. A feminine spirit, she does as she pleases. An ephemeral pink cloud, you keep the window open for her.

You do miss the excitability of grandiosity. But ridding this was a fair price to pay for the leveling of valleys. Roller coasters are thrilling but no way to live. Soberly, you tread flat terrain.

But still…

There is the matter of your lesser addictions. Gluttony. Lust. It’s paradoxical, leaning in to them while turning away. You cannot resist the siren’s song.

More content coming soon!

Play Misty for Me

July 27, 2020

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Everyone experiences situational depression. Conflict. Unresolved resentments. Sometimes it really is just the humidity. Having a bad day. You either accept the situation or change it. Regardless, it always ends. It is not clinical. Professional help and medicine are seldom required. What you are experiencing is neither clinical nor situational. Sadness descends upon you like mist. By no means pleasant it isn’t debilitating either. You can see through it. You can operate heavy machinery. You probably won’t drink over it.

Many people insist on finding a culprit for their misery: someone or something to blame. The world is filled with people making this mistake. One feels like shit because of a spouse, a boss, a relative, a neighbor, the President of the United States. You know better than to assign blame for melancholy. Yes. You’d like to make the blues situational. Then you could rectify the situation or be its victim. For years, you were the blindfolded child swinging madly for a target. Creating situations to meet your depression was understandable… and also idiotic.

You now have healthy ways to mitigate woe. AA taught. Others you picked up all by yourself. Be of service. Go for a run. Pray. Basically, do anything but wallow in it. You cannot think your way out of depression. If anything, thinking caused it. In the wild, animals do not get depressed because they do not sit around thinking. Food and shelter is their constant priority, their only priority. Put a bear in a zoo and it becomes depressed, anxiously pacing back and forth, sullen and surly. Domesticated, it turns neurotic.

Your mother was (and maybe still) clinically depressed. She has spent her whole life (and so yours) dealing with this problem. You read somewhere that far more women are clinically depressed than men. Maybe that’s because historically women have been domesticated more than men, anxiously pacing back and forth in their kitchens, sullen and surly in equal measures.

To be Continued.

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More truth.

“So, me not crying is steeling myself against future pain?” You phrase it as a question but it comes out an answer.

Mia confirms it. “You developed a way to cope with pain, to numb yourself. Which is why you don’t cry in AA meetings and you close your eyes when others do.”

Eyes Wide Shut is the name of the last film Stanley Kubrick directed before he died, a strange story about a couple confronting their sexual fantasies. You don’t remember the movie very well, or having liked it, but the title resonates with you now. The logline: Sometimes a man can see more clearly with his Eyes Wide Shut.

You look at the clock. Your fifty minutes have evaporated. Mia let the session go long. The courtesy embarrasses you. You violated the contract. You rise, quickly.

“Sit down,” she says. “I know what time it is.” Mia knew how you felt regarding this relationship and your desire never to take advantage of it. She was also aware of your propensity for flight when things got real.

You sit.

“I have a cushion between appointments.” Mia explains. “Normally I use the time to reset, to go the bathroom, whatever. But in this case I’m making an exception. Because I feel this is important…” She looks at you, directly. “Are you okay?”

At first you don’t answer. Then, softly: “Is this intimacy?”

Mia continues looking right at you, with compassion, with the eyes of a caregiver. “You are not a sociopath.”

To be continued…

Sheldon

March 31, 2020

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Sheldon raised his hand as a newcomer but you’ve seen him before. Fresh out of a treatment center, he was back from another bender. “I know where this ends,” he said, sobbing. “Dead in some motel on the 101.” Sheldon was scared but not enough to stop drinking. The alcoholic drinks to oblivion knowing he might not wake up; or because he just might. Here he was, head in hands, crying in a meeting.

This you fear. That what befell Sheldon could happen to you. It already had. A year into not drinking you finally owned up to an opioid addiction. Ha! How you had wanted to believe otherwise, that you could have sobriety but get high too. But then came the obsession, the stealing of pills, the lying and reckless behavior. Falling into the abyss all over again. The chickens had come home to roost and a ravenous fox was awaiting them. In some ways, withdrawing from pills eviscerated you more than quitting the drink. Those first days even death seemed a pleasant alternative. When the withdrawals finally subsided, you became awash in humiliation, bearing witness to the bewildering fear in your family’s eyes.

You are often accused of not caring about right things. About doing wrong things. Especially regarding your family. An argument can be made. And has been, over and over again.

 

How to save a life.

February 23, 2020

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My philosophy as it relates to recovery has evolved since I first became clean and sober in 2003. While I began (and continue) my path to recovery as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have never completely accepted a number of its foundational tenants. For example, I remain uncomfortable ascribing to the disease model espoused by AA (and elsewhere). I believe each person with a substance use disorder has played as major a role in their problem (routinizing bad decisions), as they will in their recovery (changing the behavior). However, I recognize the usefulness in calling alcoholism a disease in terms of framing the therapeutic aspects of 12-step recovery models and in determining healthcare policies, qualifying for insurance, etc. Like with any disease, I also believe that alcoholism and drug addiction are progressive in nature.

What I most cherish about the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and what I will carry with me into counseling is the knowledge (contrary to some medical opinion) that nothing aids in the recovery of an addict or an alcoholic like another addict or alcoholic. (It’s why I want to be a counselor.) I know there are other modalities and practitioners capable of accomplishing the task. But one is hard-pressed to find a better ally than experience, strength and hope. I am a big believer of therapeutic self-disclosure. As a drug and alcohol counselor, I will establish empathy with my clients while establishing reasonable boundaries.

What I will leave behind from 12-Step recovery vocabulary is the utter reliance on a Higher Power to achieve sobriety. For one thing it would be hypocritical! Additionally, I will be open-minded to harm reduction as an option for certain patients as opposed to total abstinence. And so on. The point is I intend to be a therapist in the modern world… not a book-thumping old timer.

Having been clean and sober for nearly twenty years, I am deeply familiar with the 12-step model for recovery (I actively participate in Alcoholics Anonymous and am grateful for the program) but I also recognize that AA and NA are not treatment programs and that there are other modalities and therapies for helping patients achieve long-term sobriety.

Though I am middle-aged, I feel my message resonates with young people and I am interested in helping them in particular. Part of this reasoning has to do with my own recovery journey and how I have always endeavored to tailor my message to those still raw in their recovery, or even still using. I feel a kinship with individuals who struggle accepting AA’s first step: that of being powerless over drugs and alcohol and accepting that their lives have become unmanageable. Powerlessness is a cop out. We do have power to change the things we can. I did. And I can help others to do so as well. Part of my message will be about healthy replacement strategies for drugs and alcohol, of which there are many.

Additionally, I have always had a tenuous belief in the concept of a Higher Power, let alone one being necessary to achieve sobriety. I have seen too many addicts and alcoholics (and those still not sure) simply turn away from 12-step programs because of the “God thing.” I was and am able to “work around” my own agnosticism and I do not necessarily believe that a spiritual component is critical to recovery. Redefining spirituality for every patient is the start of a discussion not the end of one. Along those lines, I can help patients see the wisdom of 12-Step programs, despite their ambivalence. Statements like this: AA helped me despite my qualms; it might be able to do the same for you. Not this: Without a Higher Power, your chances for sobriety are nil.

As a counselor, I will adhere to the five ethical principles: Autonomy, Beneficence, Fidelity, Justice and Nonmaleficence. Realizing that while each has specificities all are beholden to the other. Indeed, one may be in conflict with another, such as confidentiality and the potential for imminent harm. Untangling a sticky ball requires a measured hand. In a given situation, if right and wrong are not crystal clear, my intent will be to discuss options and scenarios with my peers before acting. I look forward to that collaboration.

In college, I studied journalism. The first thing I learned was that there is always two sides two a story. Likewise there are multiple stories for every individual who suffers from alcohol or chemical dependency. A person’s drug narrative is often shaped by their genealogy as well as environment. Things like family structure (or lack thereof), social groups, ethnic and cultural norms and other issues almost always play a role in the formation of a substance use disorder. How could they not? Therefore, a counselor worth his or her salt must be culturally competent beyond what passes for acceptable in today’s divisive political climate. As I ready myself for work in the field I know this is an area I must continue to develop, letting go preconceived notions I may still harbor and would be harmful to providing exemplary care and therapy.