A Happy Medium.

April 25, 2011

Riding a bike. It's just like ...riding a bike.

I’ve promised part II of A Sad Truth, and you will get it. But tonight there’s something more important for me to talk about. I believe that there are people who visit my blog to find inspiration for their own struggle – I’ll concede that there’s a chance this is just vanity talking. But with the number of daily readers I have, there’s a percentage that I believe are reading because they hope to find something that is relevant to their own struggle. This is an important post for those people to read, and it’s an important one for me to write.

Let me note one important detail about my relationship with drugs and alcohol. I am at the greatest risk of relapse when I am on either end of the emotional spectrum. Too up or too down: those are the places I need to avoid. Both roads lead to using. I don’t think this is unique to me; it’s almost axiomatic: people either drink to remember or drink to forget.

Right now, I’m definitely up. I’m excited to be here at the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch in an undisclosed location with undisclosed people. I’m excited to be around people who understand. I’m excited about the possibility of pursuing a passion for a living. And most importantly, I’m excited to be getting on with this new phase of my life. I feel like I’ve kept 15 years of creativity bottled up and it all wants to come out at once. Before I left home to come here, there were nights when I stayed up until three of four in the morning working on the blog. I feel this incredible pressure to make up for lost time. And it’s not just writing, I feel the desire to get back to art, music, reading…everything.

And I am savvy enough to know that this emotion will be a danger once I’m back at home. Mania is not my friend, and this feeling of wanting to get it all out at once is dangerous. I need to content myself with the eat the elephant approach to re-assembling my life. Same goes for carving out a new profession. Staying up until three or four in the morning, for example, isn’t healthy, even when I’m doing good things.

Incrementalism, ancient Arabic proverb style.

I need to be smart enough to know that relapse is series of decisions, of which only the final step involves actually using (or as the caption above suggests, using is only the final straw that broke the camel’s back). The using is just the tipping point of a pile of incremental bad decisions which, taken alone, don’t look all that unhealthy. But even though they don’t look unhealthy per se, they are irrational. It isn’t rational for a very recently recovering addict to be staying up until three in the morning, even if that person is engaging in an otherwise healthy activity. Why? Because it still represents excess. Excess is excess, whether the object is sugar, sweet tea, or cocaine. A mindset that embraces excess in one context has a hard time rejecting it in another. Why raise the degree of difficulty?

I am not a normal person. I am exceptional, like all addicts are. It’s not a bad thing in every context. But I do have to keep a wide buffer between me and danger. Wider than people in the general population. The “-isms” and “-ancy’s” (e.g., workaholism, co-dependency) the rest of the world labors under with little ill effect are fatal to us, because the road to relapse is paved with -isms. Working 80 hours a week isn’t good for anyone. But it can be fatal for me. Same with indulging an unhealthy relationship, indulging an obsession, doing anything to excess.

So the thing I am seeking is balance. A happy medium. The discipline required to stay sober is not nearly as simple as the uninitiated think. Avoid using, avoid people who use, and avoid places people use. That sounds simple. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.

It may be counterintuitive, but the recovering addict’s real enemy is excess in any form. And right now, the things that are tempting me are not the bad things. It’s the good things. I want to work on my blog and write and play music and create art and read and exercise and go to meetings and pray and go to church. And I want to do it all TODAY.

It is almost as important as not using for me to understand that I’m not going to make up for 15 years in a day, or a week, or a month. Rather, I need to content myself with doing the next right thing, string together some of those next-right-things into a good day. Then I’m hopefully stringing some good days together, and days become weeks become months become years.

The good news is that good happens the same way bad does: incrementally. It is overwhelming for me to consider having a good week or a good month. But I can make it from breakfast to lunch tomorrow. And probably do the next right thing after that. With that approach, I can accomplish a lot of good, almost without trying that hard.

That’s the plan. Tomorrow I’m going to give you A Sad Truth Part Deux, and I’m going to discuss how I’m weaning off of Suboxone, the only remaining chemical crutch I have. I’m currently taking 24 milligrams a day (which is a lot), so we’re going to do it over a period of weeks. Until then…

2 Responses to “A Happy Medium.”

  1. Elle said

    What sort of art do you like? What mediums do you prefer? It’s great to hear you so excited about so many different things!

    • rabe76 said

      Mostly pencils. Graphite, charcoal and colored pencils. I love to do stylized representations of photographs. I dabble in paint, mostly acrylics. I’d love to learn oils…

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