It’s been 24 years since I used vodka like aspirin–to numb my pain. In fact, I’ve been sober 22 years more than I drank, since I quit before I was old enough to buy the stuff. So my brain should be used to ordering Perrier with lime and shaking my head politely as the merlot bottle comes my way. I should be so used to drinking non-alcoholic beverages at cocktail hours that I don’t give alcohol a second thought.
But the truth is that ex-drunks need to stay in recovery their whole lives. Like cancer survivors, they live in a state of remission, where they humbly acknowledge that their illness is impatiently waiting for a moment of vulnerability to make a surprise visit.
And that surprise visit may not even involve alcohol.
The face of addiction morphs into different beasts. Mine does so with the election of every new US president. Just when I think I’ve learned how to fill my jiggly center with prayer and meditation, with the love of my family and friends, I get that undeniable ache and reach once more for something to “complete me” as Jerry Maguire would say.
Addicts do that.
Craig Nakken, author of “The Addictive Personality” explains:
Addiction is a process of buying into false and empty promises: the false promise of relief, the false promise of emotional security, the false sense of fulfillment, and the false sense of intimacy with the world….Like any other major illness, addiction is an experience that changes people in permanent ways. That is why it’s so important that people in recovery attend Twelve Step and other self-help meetings on a regular basis; the addictive logic remains deep inside of them and looks for an opportunity to reassert itself in the same or in a different form.
That means that even though I only drank for three years, I will forever have a “thinking problem” that, if I’m not careful, could dump a bunch of unwanted pain unto my lap. It means that as I form important relationships, that I need always remember my propensity to mix up intensity with intimacy–that the rush I feel from scoring 100 followers on Twitter can in no way replace the intimacy I share with my husband and kids–that even though it feels like a high profile career can provide a world of glitter that won’t bore or disappoint me, that any accolade that I win is going to be a fleeting and unreliable high, and should not be depended on.
Intensity is not the same thing as intimacy.
Nakken repeats that logic several times in his book. “The addict has an intense experience and believes it is a moment of intimacy,” he writes.
It’s only been in the last two years of my recovery from, well, just about everything, that I’ve come to appreciate that mistake. I suppose part of my brain is programmed to pursue the thrill, no matter how many people I hurt (myself included) to get it. I chase the adrenaline rush, the dopamine high, that is akin to the buzz I get from smoking an entire cigarette in three puffs after staying away from lung rockets for a year or more. It treats my bruised insides the same way Kids’ Tylenol does my son’s leg cramps. The addictive object dulls the blunt emotions with which I experience most of life.
I crave drama, even as I know it’s not good for me. And I create turmoil although I recognize that it obstructs the serenity I’m after.
Last week a friend sent me a piece called “Dispelling Drama” that she found on DailyOm. I recognized the wisdom in this paragraph:
“Drama, however, disastrous, can be exciting and stimulating. But the trill of pandemonium eventually begins to frustrate the soul and rain the energy of all who embrace it. To halt this process, we must understand the root of our drama addiction, be aware of our reactions, and be willing to accept that a serene, joyful life need not be a boring one.”
How do we treat addiction and break the cycle of madness so that we’re not mired in drama our entire lives?
Recognizing it, for starters. I’ve begun to do that countless times a day when my mind turns to numbing agents—persons, places, and things that inspire intensity of thought or emotion, that physiologically give me that dopamine boost for a minute just as my shot of vodka would or a long inhale of weed or an extra long puff on a Marlboro.
“Self,” I will say some days, “Let’s take this thought a step further… Imagine you get your thrill … there you are … your body getting the buzz … now sit there a second longer … and ask yourself … are you happy? No, I didn’t think so.”
I will remind myself that I have everything I need to be happy.
Sometimes I will jot down my priorities again. For like the 349th time, just so my brain can make that connection between thought and pad and pen. “Did Oprah make the top ten this time? Didn’t think so.” And so on and so forth.
And I heed the advice on DailyOm:
“When you confront your emotional response to drama and the purpose it serves in your life, you can reject it. Each time you consciously chose not to take part in dramatic situations or associate with dramatic people, you create space in your inner being that is filled with a calm and tranquil stillness and becomes an asset in your quest to lead a more centered life.”
I reject it over and over again. Sometimes it’s merlot. But often it’s not. It just feels like the same to me.
Originally published on www.drinkingdiaries.com.
It’s been years since we’ve connected, Therese. It was back in the day when we were both intense. I remember when you needed to step back. I knew it was right, but I’ve missed you. I have a major chronic illness in addition to the ones I had back then, so life has changed drastically. My sons are now wonderful, amazing grown men. I can’t believe the younger one is 25 and my older one will be 28 at the end of March. I see some pictures of your children, and remember how much you worked at finding a balance of juggling motherhood and work and your running. How much you love your running. I can barely walk, but when I can, I love it. Just wanted to reach out and congratulate you on 25 years of a quality life.
Thank you, Nancy! So great to hear from you, although I’m sorry to hear of your struggles. You will be in my prayers. Thanks for connecting!
You have been writing for about 20 years if I’m not mistaken. I just stumbled onto this post not remembering how. It feels there is a fundamental shift in your awareness and quality of your writing. Nakken ought be quoting you as often as you quote him. It appears you have found your “Voice”. This will be known as a classic in writings on addictions. More, the author disarms readers with rare candor and wins them over via communication of being genuine, real, good woman with a rare sense of humor.
Congratulations on a Confirmation of a sort. Now is good.
Thank you, Kevin! What a compliment. I am honored and flattered. Thanks. And welcome to this new site that I am building!
Odd though not. I just saw your interview with Patrick Tracey. He contacted me about 2 weeks back about his new project, wanting input, and so on. We have history going back to his first book. The world and the circles of people seem to be getting smaller. Things are happening. There is a quickening. I am glad you are still standing…..very much in the trenches. And beyond. I am happy for you. May all good things be coming your way.
On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 7:37 PM, Therese J. Borchard wrote:
> ** > Therese Borchard commented: “Thank you, Kevin! What a compliment. I am > honored and flattered. Thanks. And welcome to this new site that I am > building!”
Thank you, Kevin. Very much appreciated.
Hi Therese, I am passing this on. Seems your email or site is having a glitch. Don’t Know. Still funny about Tracey. Kevin
On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 8:18 PM, Therese J. Borchard wrote:
> ** > Therese Borchard commented: “Thank you, Kevin. Very much appreciated.” >
I am curious to understand what altered your response from one to the other on your new site—looks and feels great. More subdued and conservative vs spontaneous and seemingly genuine. I am interested in “social marketing” driven thinking. Nothing personal. You have assembled a good team. So I pay attention. Nice move to have Patrick Tracey on today. His new project appears to have legs. All for now. Kevin
Therese, so good to see this post in particular, and your new blog. One of the reasons I remain on Facebook
Thanks, Peg. You’ve always been so supportive. I appreciate that!
Love this! Never would have come across it had you not created your new blog. yay you.
Reblogged this on Catholic Alcoholic and commented:
Love this post by Therese Borchard.
I love how God doesn’t keep score of our sins and so proud of us when we face our sins like mature adults. We are heroes in God’s eyes for being so noble – God overlooks the mistakes, but is SO overjoyed when we correct them! Congratulations on your success!