Mental Wellness Challenge – 2022, October 27

Mental Wellness Challenge

2022, October 27

Hey there…

Last week I challenged you to:

  1. Perform an act of service. Do something unexpected for someone else.
  2. Reflect a little on someone in your life that maybe deserves a “Thank you for being there.” And then tell that person that you appreciate them…
  3. Remember someone from your life that isn’t there any more. Give that person a little of your time and reflect on the impact that person has had on your life…  Maybe even share what that person in your life meant to you, with someone who didn’t have the benefit of others presence.

How did you do with that?

I made sure to do some acts of service.  I gave my wellness presentation to some students, I helped a colleague with a task or two and I tried to be of service to some folks I didn’t even know… The acts of service are/were they own rewards…

I’ve been blessed with a bunch of people who make my life a better place.  I’ve been working at making sure that I tell those people that they matter in my life – that my life IS better because they are in it.  One person in particular is there for me every day.  My spouse (Karen) helps me keep getting along and makes my journey more wonderful.  I try to make sure she knows I love her like crazy.  My life would not be the same without her presence in it.

I’ve also been blessed with folks in my life that have made BIG marks on my life.  Some good – some maybe not so good, but there are marks there none the less.  Just looking at the sunnier side of things – there are people like my father-in-law – I used to call him Sir… His name was Gerald.  He was one of the most kind, caring, compassionate, funny… people I have ever known.  He gave me so many pointers on being a good man… just by and through the way he lived his own life.  He wasn’t perfect – and he knew it.  I don’t remember him to ever be unkind… he could be an ass – but he was never a mean ass… I miss him so very much.  I’ve been so lucky to have so very many folk’s lives touch mine – to have the threads of their lives color my own…   Thinking about them helps me remember how loved I am.

This week my thoughts have come round and round to my continuing recovery from my addiction to alcohol.  The thoughts are stronger, more at the fore – likely because the start of October is the anniversary of my not drinking and the serendipitous interactions with other folks who shared with me, that they too had/have had/or continue to have struggles with alcohol or other substance abuse.

I think its fair to say that my Karen saved my life 9 years ago when she’d finally had enough of my drinking and said “Stop drinking or leave” or “Stop drinking or I’m leaving”.

I was self medicating with alcohol.  The liquor wasn’t making anything any better – at all… I was to a point in my “existence” where I would drink enough that it didn’t matter what I felt.  I was a mess.

For a long while I’ve thought about that day – that morning… How ashamed I felt for being so irresponsible.  How “bad” I felt for the mess I was making…  I’ve thought about how low I was sinking…  but that day was definitely different.

As I was sinking and sinking – I knew that I had a problem, but I disregarded it.  I knew from the sick (hungover) feelings in the morning – those times where I’d say to the guy in the mirror… “This sucks man, you’ve gotta stop doing this…”… but then later that day I would continue right along with pouring another stiff drink because the day had been so “hard”.

I think about all that lying to myself now and I pretty much shake my own head with disgust.  Yup, that’s a good word for it.  What I was doing to my family and myself was disgusting.  The toll that my drinking was having on my relationship with my wife and my kids was – terrible.

I didn’t set out to be a drunk.  I don’t think that most folks that get addicted to any substance really do set out to abuse the substance.  In fact – as a young person, I was dead set against drinking to excess because my father was an alcoholic and “I was never going to let that happen”.  I remember the day – not the date – but the day that liquor changed from something that I used socially, recreationally – to something that I started using to escape from where I was in my life.

Booze started to take up a larger and larger pieces of my life.  Thinking back on this now – I’m embarrassed with myself – but it’s the truth.  The greater the space alcohol took, the less space there was for relationships.  The greater the space alcohol took, the less space there was for pretty much everything else.

I’m going to state here – I AM proud of myself for the work I have done in maintaining my sobriety for the last 9 years.  There have been moments, hours sometimes even days where sobriety was SO HARD to maintain.  I am also going to state that I HAVE sincerely apologized to the people in my life that I damaged with my drinking and I am grateful for their forgiveness.

I still have very real feelings of remorse for the shit that I caused while I was drinking.  Some of that remorse motivates me towards continued sobriety.  At this point in my experience I can’t really imagine going back to drink – primarily because I recognize and accept that I caused an incredible amount of hurt to people I sincerely love.

Maybe I’m fortunate… there are times when I get cravings for drink – usually during really stressful times – and it doesn’t take long to process through the damage that I inflicted on my family and myself and I kinda get a sick feeling in my gut… kinda like a “dry hangover”… I don’t know if that’s a game my mind plays on me or if there’s some other physiological reason – but that’s one of the things I can experience when I am “challenged” or “tested”… and feeling that little bit of sick to gut feeling really does help…

My stopping drinking was the direct result of the ultimatum that my Karen gave to me.  I’m very certain that had she not offered that ultimatum when she did… that my life would be terrible or non-existent now.

I acknowledge that the way I stopped drinking wasn’t the most intelligent way… the safest way…  but it was the only way I could imagine.  In the first days, weeks and months of my search for sobriety  – I read the AA Manual, the Big Book… I studied the 12 traditions… and along the way – I knew that AA wasn’t for me.  I had to come up with my own path to being sober – to not drinking… and along the way I have developed my own tools.  I won’t go into all the reasons why AA wouldn’t work for me – but I know that I personally couldn’t rely on the support of a meeting or a sponsor for my journey.  For me, I had to do this my way…

I still have addictions… so I’m not absolutely certain that I’m absolutely sober… I still struggle with all sorts of self control issues… I battle back and forth with eating issues (I am an anxious eater… to be honest – growing up eating was a problem… Happy?  Good eat… Sad?  Eat – you’ll feel better… That said, I get it – NOTHING OUT THERE CHANGES… I’m responsible for what I stuff in my mouth…  I’m a stuffer… when I am anxious I buy stuff…  Again – its my responsibility to control my spending…

I don’t want to sound like a cop-out… truth is – there are times when I selfishly “stuff”.  When I eat that bowl of chips when I know I’m not snacking because I am hungry, but because I am bored or stressed… I AM a work in progress…

I am grateful that my Karen told me to clean up or clear out.  I believe she literally scared me sober.

My challenge for you is:

  1. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself some space to accept that you don’t have to be perfect… that you’re just fine the way you are.
  2. Try to take 10 minutes each day to just be. To practice being… not thinking, not evaluating, not weighing facts… just being.  (You can look online for a simple guided mindfulness exercise if you like.)
  3. Try to get to bed a little bit earlier for the next week… maybe just 20 or 30 minutes… give yourself just that little bit extra rest… Maybe swap twenty minutes from your morning to pillow time – that will give you 20 minutes more in the morning to enjoy the start of your day.

That’s it – I challenge you.