Addiction · Mental Health · Personal Development

Hover

Hummingbird” © AnnCam, 2010. CC BY 2.0.
“You’re running to stand still,” he said as he mimed the motion. “The way you describe it is like the way a junkie describes shooting up just to stay level, you know. You know. Just to keep from getting sick. It sounds exhausting.”

I glanced out the window, then back to him, and pulled one foot underneath me. “I guess I hadn’t thought about it like that. I mean, I guess I just figured I kind of have to do this stuff because…” I trailed off in a light giggle. “This sounds so fucking ridiculous.”

“It sounds dangerous, is what it sounds like. It sounds unachievable. It’s just another way your perfectionism is coming into play.”

He doesn’t usually get preachy. Usually he lets me get there on my own, so I can tell it’s important when he doesn’t. My religious avoidance of things that might be addictive or may cause unhealthy habitual behavior has become just that.

Taking care of myself is getting closer and closer to becoming just another avoidance tactic. Just another thing I do to not deal with what is happening. Focusing on my health slips from being a good idea to a dangerous obsession with just a few additions.

There’s got to be balance somewhere. An understanding of the things I need to do to take care of myself and the way I need to do them. Room for the just sitting, space for doing things just because I like them. There’s has to be a way to have a cup of coffee without thinking, “This is addictive. Caffeine is addictive. Everything is going straight to shit. I’m going to start drinking again.”

Flexibility has never been my strong suit. But I like to think I can learn to stretch. Learn to believe I have the capacity to live somewhere between the perfection that doesn’t exist and passed out drunk in a ditch.

Addiction · Mental Health · Personal Development

Living in the gradient

Looking back” © Brandon, 2014. CC BY 2.0.

Rivers cut new channels into valleys. Minerals in drops of water pile on the ground to create stalagmites taller than I am. The sun pulls itself slowly over the horizon line and a new day creeps into existence. Then back out again.

We know everything takes process. One small thing connected to another, pushing us gradually in the corresponding direction. But I still find myself struggling to give credit to each little piece.

There’s point A and there’s point B. The line between? AB. Defined by its end points. Always. And if I can’t make it–guaranteed–from one point the other, I have a tendency to abandon mission.

What a toxic way of thinking.

There is no “finish” anyway, right? Not in earnest. Most important things will never be “complete”. Nothing is only accessible by following one specific path.

Come on, kid. You know this.

Nothing is certain. Nothing guaranteed. You could do everything right and still fail. You could do everything wrong and still accomplish everything you set out to do. The only thing I have any control over is the little things.

And I’ve been ignoring them. Acting as if they don’t count.

As if every day of sobriety will be worthless if I ever slip up. Every word ever written wasted if I never publish a book. Every weight I lift won’t count for shit if I never deadlift over 300 pounds. Every day I feel good about will never have existed if I fall asleep sobbing on the bathroom floor again. Every moment of peace, of beauty, of love is meaningless the next time I find myself feeling like I just can’t fucking do this.

A painfully effective way of creating an environment you cannot grow in. You feel trapped in. Where nothing matters for as much as you want it to. Where nothing matters at all.

It gets stuck in your throat. Coils itself around your head, whispering soft in your ear. Non-stop explanations of why you can’t do this, why it doesn’t matter, how pointless the fight has become. It forces you into the extremes.

But I want to live in the gradient. Those small and gentle spaces in between. Where everything counts for credit. Where as long as you’re still conscious in your movements you’re doing everything you should be doing.

Where as long as you’ve picked a direction and you’re taking steps you are successful. Where distance traveled is measured in something other than, “Are you there? Yes or no?”

Because we never will be. But we are still moving.

Addiction

Reflecting on my first year sober

"The Bottom of the Bottle" © Nathan Stang, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
The Bottom of the Bottle” © Nathan Stang, 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
As of today, I’ve been sober for exactly one year. My previous personal record was about three months, I think. And even then I can’t remember if it was complete sobriety or if I was on a “it’s okay if I only have one or two drinks a night” stint.

I started drinking when I was thirteen years old. That’s crazy to think about, isn’t it? I’m twenty-six now. So I spent half my life getting hammered. It came in waves, of course. Some times I drank more and at others I drank less. Getting sloshed every day or a couple times a month. But, for my entire adult life, I tied drinking tight to my identity. Continue reading →