“Sober for Five Months, I Drank. Here’s What Happened”

 

An Exercise or Two

Time to get creative. Part of the creative process is the ability to go with the flow, to recognize where your energy is taking you, and to know when it’s time to stop and take a break. For me, especially as I see my online journal and website as a creative process, it’s understanding that if I don’t start asking for help, using the help of others, and allowing for revision, I’ll end up packing it all up in a moment of frustration and seeming failure.

Yes, I know what I want this to be about…I want it to be a creative process, creative thoughts, creative ideas, suggestions, tools, etc. But it IS the middle of our busy season at work, my partner is home for the summer, and I promised myself I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. So there’s nothing wrong with finding some tool elsewhere to share with you. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours:

CLIMB A MOUNTAIN from

Choices In RecoverySupport and Information for Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective, and Bipolar Disorder

crayons

 

Review: Amherst

Amherst
Amherst by William Nicholson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I’ve committed to finishing a book, I find it hard to give it less than 3 stars. It’s either a book I am going to finish because I want to (3 stars), need to (4 stars), or because it’s helped alter my perspective on life (5 stars). I wrote a blog yesterday that included a mention of Amherst for a rather small incidental character and something that happens to her which affected me profoundly. Then I finished the book later that day and experienced a moment of synchronicity which threw me for a loop, helped alter my perspective, and helped me heal a little. I want to give it 5 stars because of the affect it had on me, but that affect was strictly personal, not a big enough part of why this book exists or of its plot. If you happened to read my blog yesterday and found something to which you could relate in it, then this book might surprise you in how deeply its light can reach into your darker recesses.

View all my reviews

I do belong to my life….

I don’t ever remember feeling like I belonged.  To my family, to the 7am AA meeting, to the agency staff, to this theatrical production, to that group of friends.  To the porn world.  To the teaching profession.  To my disease.  To my addictions.  To my trauma.  After working through several therapists I finally sought out a specialist, a Harvard psychiatric nurse, who helped me onto the path of recognizing the hand I had been dealt was wrought with trauma.  Yet I continued to talk about my story as though it were just that, a story.  I never felt like I even belonged to my own story.  In my detachment from my life, from my story, came that uncanny ability to compartmentalize, to act like I belonged when necessary, to prove a point or for survival, but to also quickly tear away one mask in exchange for another when a situation, relationship, scenario required it.  How I could strut and fret my hours on the stage, the stage being every waking minute of my life. The first proscenium my bedroom where I was likely sent when in trouble but to which I ultimately sought refuge from a bully of a father and life I could not longer control with childish charm.  When the adventure of living in South Africa ended and Buffalo and parental marriage problems fell on us in blizzard proportions, I started living other lives because I could no longer bear to live my own.

Why does this matter all these decades later?  Because even after an additional psychiatrist and various treatments and psych-meds were added to my entourage of therapies, I still feel the same as that little kid.  I don’t want to live the life I am living.  Sometimes the only life I want to live is the one I am reading about in a book.  That’s where I have gotten to closest to belonging.  In books. The Hardy Boys created an adventure out of 3 years in South Africa.  At 6 I started and didn’t stop reading until we returned to the States; somehow the brothers lost their appeal when I was no longer exploring caves with my mother, finding scorpions under rocks or hunting pregnant Pit Vipers whose babies ended up in a jar offering to my  3rd grade science teacher (unappreciated).  Then came the grocery store horror books, Stephen King, The Amityville Horror, anything that proved there was a way of living and dying more gruesome than the one I felt I was experiencing.  Then came classics, Richard Bach, the Joseph Campbell collection, Jung, and eventually a game I played when going into book stores:  the next book I needed to read was already calling my name.  I just needed to find it.  My life became bearable because of books.  Those of you who know me might question how this could be:  I’m a happy sorta guy; give good energy, care deeply about people, am a go-getter, dream-maker, goal setter, etc. etc.  I learned how to become those things in the books I read, and not being willing to come to terms with my true self, I’ve worn these masks all my life.

So I have  minor propensity towards being depressed.  See?  I’m already rewriting a story I am hoping will be closer to truth than it’s been.  I’m an addict and I’ve got some serious depression going on.  But luckily I have begun to find a balance somewhere between hanging from the nearest tree limb and knowing I can conquer the world, fulfill my destiny, and forever be happy. It’s a daily struggle to belong to my life.  There are so many patterns of behavior ingrained in my head that I am often at a loss as to how I end up where I end up at the end of the day.  When these patterns start to emerge, I typically try to pick up a book and just forget who I am.  It works for a little while.  Sometimes longer than a little while.  Unfortunately, somewhere along the line I have connected reading books to wanting to write books, wanting to give others the peace I find within pages, to offer an escape from their own lives into the comfort of a life not their own.  And wanting to do something desperately which one cannot find the strength, perseverance or determination to do, pretty much sums up this torturous life journey towards grandiosity that inevitably spills me onto the macadam scrapped, bruised, and bleeding.  A cycle of depression, balance, optimism, grandiosity, back to hopelessness.

I need to learn how to live my life.  When I turned the page of a seemingly innocuous novel I am reading, Amherst by William Nichloson, about the love affair between Emily Dickinson’s married brother and another married woman and about the 21 century writer desirous of capturing the story in a screenplay, I stumbled upon a minor character who, in her suicidal depressive state, is talked into walking through her death by an older mentor.  He tells her to describe it, to walk through it, and then to talk about all the issues and traumas of her life and what has happened to them now that she is dead.  A simple exercise.  With simple intention.  To prove that we can die anytime we want to, symbolically, and in doing so, we can eliminate all those haunting issues.  If they can disappear with one’s last breathe, why can’t they disappear with a breath that far precedes the last?

Before anyone gets up in arms, let me reassure you there have been years of therapists, professional medical doctors, medications, programs and therapies in my process.  I have worked through, starting at a very early age of introspection, why I am the way I am.  And I have been stuck in this life the entire time.  Haunted by my patterns, by issues, my every cell of memory.  This isn’t a “born-again” experience, an attempt to recreate myself in the image of someone else.  I want all the pieces of me, I want to BE ME and all the wonderful/fucked up things that means.  I want to live this life.  Somehow on p. 131 of the book I am reading I have been given a gift, a tool, a suggestion I’ve never heard before.  There are plenty of people who have suicidal ideations.  I am not the only one.  I happen to find a deep spiritual meaning in death, and don’t suggest anyone with thoughts of suicide to “play through” an act of self-destruction.  But what I am going to do is try this myself:  I might set aside some time to do a meditation (because that is what this is) using creative imagery (creative recovery, right?) to help me eliminate that which I no longer want to carry.  I have been defined by those moments, but I know longer want those moments to rule my life and prevent me from living my life.  I want to belong to my life; there is no longer room both that which is killing me and that which is begging for life.  Will it work?  I don’t know.  I’m going to give it a try.  And in the meantime, I’ll continue to live, heal, grow, and perhaps hide, in these pages before me.

DOWNSIZING

The days of upsizing whether to add an additional 500 calories of McDonald’s fries, to extended a warranty designed to make you feel good while destroying your budget,  to remove that natural sand dune because you need a better view:  gone.  You may not realize it, and that’s fine.  Everyone at their own pace.  I simply feel bad and have always felt badly for those who don’t understand the blessings of downsizing.  Of simplifying.  Of saving, of stretching out a bottle of lotion by cutting it open and realizing there is another week’s worth of moisturizer waiting to be used.  My mother taught my sister and I well.  We scrape, pinch, do-it-ourselves, and only buy bargains.  All a form of downsizing.  Fact is, I need all the feel good moments I can get, and if that means wearing a $5 pair of no-name shorts that make my ass look just as good as a $150 pair, then I’m on it.

Great blog from Power of Positivity:   5 Life Changing Things That Happen When You Downsize

Give Up the Guilt

I read a blog this morning written by a parent of an addict. It was a good read (I raised an addict – what could I have done differently?), and hard to read as an addict, one who spent many years racked by guilt from the pain I have inflicted on others including my parents. I will never raise children, so I don’t know and will never know the level of guilt a parent feels when a child succumbs to an addiction. Or an abusive relationship. Or the myriad other life issues facing a person in today’s society.

What I do know is that while a parents’ choices in life may or may not have an effect on their children, each subsequent generation is raised in unfamiliar territory. A parent isn’t raising a child in the same time/place/era/society in which he or she was raised. Context and experience are important factors in raising anything (from crops to kittens let alone children); it is utterly unfair to take on the responsibility of something as complex as addiction in a child who is living and growing in a totally different world than the parent.

When I spoke to my mother for the first time from that  Canadian rehab on New Year’s Day, I stopped her immediately when she fell into an all too familiar bent: ‘I’m such a bad mother.’ I told her she was never again allowed to say that to me. It was hard enough taking the steps I needed to take towards recovery while carrying that horrendous guilt. Having to carry her guilt was too much. It was always too much. And even that, the guilt I was made to feel because my mother felt badly about how she raised me, had its part in my behavior choices.

I say to all parents: you feel badly? Apologize and move on. Admit you didn’t make the best choices and then let it go. After that apology, it’s all up to us, the ones facing the issue head on. Do what you need to do to get over your own issues revolving around how you raised your children: go see a therapist, talk to someone, go to Al-anon. Just know that we as addicts feel badly enough already. Some of us may never show that or admit it, but all of us feel like shit deep down inside for having hurt the people we love. Yes, you may have had a part in how we turned out including all the fantastic pieces of who we are. Reality is: we all have a dark side. It just so happens that as time moves on, that dark side is more visible in society partly because of social media. We talk about it and are not ashamed of it. And because of that, we are helping the next generation. Perhaps my parents’ generation’s rose-colored glasses played a part; the silence, the hush. We don’t live in that time anymore, and that is a positive thing.

So drop the guilt, heal yourself however you can, and move forward. We are trying to do the same.

YOU

Artist? Musician? Writer? Explorer? Teacher? Giver?

Join me, Melissa, and others as we build something beautiful.  A place to share creativity, the creative process, our stories, our hearts, our potential.  If you’ve ever felt that you are in the process of re(dis)covering who you are through creative eyes, please read my open letter to YOU, and think about joining In Re(dis)covery and Encompass Art.  Your helping hand, your vision, and your strength can shift this world on its axis one person at a time.

On Open Letter to YOU

Connection? The Opposite of Addiction?

Johann Hari has been getting a lot of attention recently, a lot of traction out of a premise he hopes will help the world understand addiction a little better, namely:

‘The Opposite Of Addiction Is Not Sobriety. The Opposite Of Addiction Is Connection.’

This attention long overdue, desperately needed, and essential to the world of recovery.  It makes sense, is founded on a bit of research, and is likely welcome to so many who have struggled with conventional treatment programs.  He’s also a journalist, so he knows how to write, how to offer evidence, to logically explain his premise.  Whether he’s hit a bull’s eye or not isn’t really the issue; if he’s hit on THE truth or a partial truth, the continued discourse and need to look beyond what we currently have in place to help those suffering is the only way we can hope to help that one person who hasn’t been served by that current, somewhat sparse, menu of treatments.

Personally, I believe what he is saying makes sense in a very over simplified way. The evidence and research he offers regarding rats and Vietnam have been used to support his point, but it wouldn’t take much to throw a wrench in his argument.  If it was all so simple, AA and other 12-step programs would have a 100% success rate because they are founded on community and connection. Problem is, current data shows the success rate is about 10%.  Of course just writing that could spark the ire of 12-step supporters (and I again have to say I consider myself ‘in the program’ precisely because I get that connection from the rooms.)

I think the most important thing in watching and keeping an open mind here is that he’s onto something. Something, not everything. It just happens to be a small piece of the puzzle.  I am still more convinced that addiction is multifaceted, having different pieces which if you are unfortunate enough to have all of them makes treatment very difficult.  If I went back to Pleasure Unwoven, that documentary on addiction which points out 5 different levels of addiction

1. Genes
2. Reward
3. Memory
4. Stress
5. Choice

I could easily go through the various forms of treatment program and explain how each level either ‘fits’ into a specific treatment or not.

For example:  someone who has suffered trauma as a child is not going to be saved by the 12-step program.  Period.  Those who think that are doing severe damage to those people who have trauma and who come into the program as their sole treatment plan.  Without professional therapeutic help, trauma simply gets locked away to emerge later.

Another example: there are some people who don’t believe in psycho-pharmacology as a legitimate form of treatment.  Perhaps psych-meds are over prescribed by too many general practitioners who don’t hold an expertise in the field.  I personally have spent decades fighting an issue with my brain chemistry which until recently wasn’t successfully dealt with until I saw a professional psychiatrist. Because I self-medicated heavily on an over-the-counter cold medicine (DXM) for 15 years, monthly for a week at a time, nearly 1/4 of those 15 years I spent tripping….yeah, like LSD tripping.  I learned how to curb my behavior to mask being high, and successful taught my brain that it no longer needed to create happy chemicals.  Just like in the researched effects of long-term ecstasy use, there can be irreparable damage.  ‘Connection’ isn’t going to cut it for me.  Considering the early age at which kids are starting to use heavy drugs, there will be significant damage done to brain chemistry.  All the connection in the world, all the meetings in the world are not going to fix that sort of neurological damage.

I happen to have all 5 levels listed above making me a quintuple threat.  Treating all five of these levels is the best form of treatment so a one-size-fit-all philosophy, approach, program, belief is likely to fall short.

Again, the more information out there the better.  What I am so happy about is that these sorts of articles are being offered via social media—making that connection which tells us we are not alone and it’s actually okay to step away from the pack and to create our own program of recovery.  That’s what I am calling, “Re(DIS)covery!”

The Disease of Being Busy

BY OMID SAFI (@OSTADJAAN) ON BEING COLUMNIST

This summer I promised I wouldn’t commit to any theater projects.  I need a chance at a summer without the additional stress of line-learning and production development.  I live in a season town, so while every year our enclave goes from its charming 3000 off-season population to upwards of 40, 50 , to 80K visitors in a 3 mile long, 1/4 mile wide stretch, I’m never quite prepared for the transition from low to high, slow to busy, quiet to crowded.  The past two summers I had the opportunity to do two amazing productions.  The Normal Heart and Venus in Fur.  Intense emotional and demanding roles.  All the time I spent during those two summers getting reading for the productions is now my own.  I am not filling it.  I am leaving it to simply exist.

Just like any dis-ease, the disease of being busy can be chronic.  This society breeds multitasking and places value in the competition for “Who is the Busiest” Award.  While I believe it’s probably harder for families with children, I think we’re all under an unfair pressure to fill every waking second with activity.  Gone are the days of porch sitting, watching clouds roll by while we lay on our backs in the tall grass, visiting neighbors simply because we enjoy their company and not because we need something from them.  So my project this summer was to see if I could manage not to start showing the symptoms of the disease of business.  Don’t get me wrong, I can pack a lot into a day.  Being woken by the cats at 5am and having a whole stretch of day until I start working at 2pm means I have a lot of my time on my hands.  There are the regular things which fill the time:  eating, exercising, cleaning.  I read about a book a week.  But there are a lot of minutes where I feel myself falling into the need to be busy.  I always have project or two going; my websites are definitely taking a lot more time than I thought.

There are all these little signs, those symptoms of discomfort which come not from being too busy but from having time on my hands.  Old voices pop into my head, “DO SOMETHING!” “Don’t be Lazy,” “You don’t deserve this much free time.” Those are the voices which will take me right back to my old patterns, right back into the disease of busyness.  Before I know it, I’ll start a few paintings thinking I could sell them over the summer, I’ll sit at the piano and make plans for that musical I have in my head, there’s the collection of short stories in draft form just sitting here, there’s my play that I haven’t sent out, there’s a bookcase to be built (when all else fails, I build bookcases.) All these things become tasks to accomplish rather than being acts of creation inspired by authenticity.  Too often they are inspired by the fact I haven’t gotten enough attention recently on Facebook.

I’m not really saying anything very profound here other to say that I am experimenting this summer.  Can I get through it, work my regular job, doing my regular activities without getting infected by the busyness bug?  So far so good, but I did check to see if I have any pine boards laying around in my basement yesterday.

The Fireworks of a New Perspective: Reading and Recovery

A Facebook friend posted the following article yesterday, These Stereotypes Are A Far Greater Threat To Veterans Than Any Fireworks, regarding the use of fireworks as a celebratory practice and the effect those fireworks could actually have on our veterans, the very people we often attempt to celebrate on national holidays like the 4th of July.  The interesting thing is, I didn’t give it a very thorough read and walked away believing it said one thing when in fact it said the very opposite.  This read comes after having finished a book, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a recent finalist for the National Book Award, and having been dumbfounded by its intense portrayal of our country’s cluelessness when it comes to understanding our veterans.

You know that concept of a paradigm shift?  Of a sudden earthquake-size refocusing of your perspective which throws you off keel and then back onto a steady, more knowledgeable and sympathetic footing?  I’m using ‘sympathetic,’ not ’empathetic,’ here because it’s the precise difference between those two words and perhaps the over use of both which seem to be the issue in both the book above and in the article.  And perhaps in the whole realm of recovery.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about war.  I went directly from “Billy Lynn” to the recent winner of the Booker Man Prize, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan, at times an utterly disturbing journey into a Japanese POW camp with its accompany horrors, horrors we only got a small taste of in the movie version of Unbroken.  With a generation of veterans who fought in WWII getting smaller and smaller, the visualizations (the root of empathy and sympathy) we will make out of the actual events of World War II will become more and more stylized, Hollywood-ized, and we, as an audience will become further and further disconnected to the reality of the actual experience.  Through the news media coverage of live warfare and because of Hollywood movies and TV shows, many of us think we understand war.  We think we know what it was like or is like, and then presume to empathize with our fellow citizens who have actually fought in or are fighting in wars.  The problems is:  it’s a BIG PRESUMPTION.   We know nothing.  Nothing.  So what we think is empathy, often displayed in flag-waving, firework-shooting, support, is often just a masquerade that makes us feel good because we imagine what it must be like or have been like, to be in a war.

What we’re feeling, unless we’ve actually been there, is sympathy.  You likely know the difference between empathy and sympathy.  Here’s a great chart differentiation and description of the difference below:

Empathy is the ability to experience the feelings of another person. It goes beyond sympathy, which is caring and understanding for the suffering of others. Both words are used similarly and often interchangeably (incorrectly so) but differ subtly in their emotional meaning.

Ok, so what does reading about war, criticizing non-veteran’s desire to honor veterans, noting the difference between empathy and sympathy have to do with reading and recovery?  One of the biggest reasons I often find more recovery growth coming out of reading than I do out of meetings is because often, as is true with our obsession to “comment”on EVERYTHING we read from Facebook posts to blog posts to news articles, and to collect ‘comments’ and ‘likes’ as a gauge of our worth,  is that as soon as we comment, often we stop thinking.  We draw a line in the sand.  We agree or disagree.  We ‘relate’ or sympathize.  In the rooms we listen, hug people after they share, offer nuggets of program wisdom in an attempt to reassure the sharer or storyteller he or she is not alone, perhaps hand a suggestion or two over, welcome the newcomer, say, “we’re all just bozos on the bus,” “I’ve been there,” “I know what you’re feeling,” and on and on. In the rooms, a “conspiracy of experience” exists which is, if one is looking to feel better through a shared experience, exactly what you’ll get.

There is nothing wrong with any of that except the notion that a person’s personal experience, her personal journey, her life is a unique and utterly un-sharable experience that cannot create empathy in another person unless the other person truly has experienced exactly the same life.  It might create sympathy, and it is in that sympathy we wish to swim.  Sharing in a public realm with an expectation of timely reaction from others provide something:  a reaction.  We are a society of reactors.  We react.  We don’t process or allow ourselves time to process and instead jump into the sympathy pool hoping to splash around with the others swimming in that same pool.

Reading on the other hand is an utterly solitary moment of individuation, it is the basis for the creation of empathy for yourself. Yes, we react to a book, and then we live with that reaction.  We might write review or share a  reading experience with another, but we are not in this attempt to empathize with the actual writer.  We don’t attempt to disprove the writer’s experience by tracking down the writer through their publishing house (well, maybe you do), by logging onto a blog and blasting them for their perspective (well, maybe you do), or publicly reacting to a passage read from a book like we do in the rooms (planning the whole time before your share what you are going to share.)

Being forced to sit with ones reaction is the process of evolution. It’s a process of empathizing with yourself as you connect to who you are through the words of others. It’s a process of rediscovery.  Finding out who you are without allowing your automatic gut reaction to get the best of you, without severing the thought process with your emotional reaction, without drawing that line in the sand, without coating someone else’s experience with program platitudes, without arguing a point in a comment section because you’re uncomfortable with how an experience made you feel, is allowing growth and healing to occur at exponential levels.  It’s creating empathy for your own life experience.

I am having a hard time finishing “The Narrow Road….” because I am reading thoughts that are my own. I’m in shock over what the words are helping me rediscover about myself. About who I am. I’m looking in a mirror I never expected to find in a book about World War II.  And I sure as hell have not been to war.  I am not empathizing or even sympathizing with the POW experience–I am changing as I read because the words are forcing me to think, and think, and think some more about who I am. About the choices I have made, the lies I have told, the relationships I have had. I can’t stop the process by writing a comment, or writing this blog, or comforting the nearest veteran because my reaction will not receive it’s own reaction.  It’s why there is no comment section on this website.  I cannot react and subsequently in that process of reacting, comfort myself into a false sense of security and identity via other people’s reactions to my reactions.  My reaction just is.  I am creating identity in this process.  By not reacting externally with the expectation of a response, I am rediscovering myself internally.

I offer this not to further disparage programs or meetings, but to simply say that for me they cannot be the end all, be all of recovery.  They are beautiful, but they are, a conspiracy of experience.  The conspiracy is in sharing a language handed down by others;  words have meaning, intention, and can help or harm.  Each of us carry our lives into every word that exists in order to help us create identity.  Words like “rigorous honesty” and “character defect” are loaded with personal baggage and can do more harm than good if the language in this conspiracy of experience is touted as “The Word,” repeated as “The Word,” and offered as “The Word.”

Personally speaking, I must use my own language of experience to process my life, and in that process I will lead to discovery, to rediscovery.  It’s an individual process, just like the act of reading a book, that cannot be done solely relying on the help of others.  If I am not reading, I am not evolving.  If I am not reading, I am not recovering.  If I am not reading, I am not rediscovering.  Pow!  Fireworks.

Meth Theater

Creative Re(dis)covery?  Tools for creative recovery?  What the hell is he talking about?

One of the most influential courses in my Master’s of the Arts in Teaching program at Pitt was something the instructor called, “Creative Dramatics.”  It has stuck with me for these some 23 years.  It was designed to create lesson plans for English classes which would help students create content to help them solve issues they were facing in life.  It was tied to the concept of Conflict Resolution, but often the conflicts students were dealing with were as much internal as they were external.  The idea that theater, or drama, could help untangle the drama of a child’s life was powerful.  In so many ways this concept has come back again and again throughout my various careers (role playing in an HIV harm reduction setting, for example, or role playing as a Recovery coach).

Here’s a perfect example of how recovery can be a creative process, not just one dictated by programs or people with degrees to the exclusion of everything else:


 

meth

t is ForumWhat is Forum Theatre? And the evolution of THEATRE FOR LIVING 

Forum Theatre is an opportunity for creative, community-based dialogue. The theatre is created and performed by community members who are living the issues under investigation.  Over the course of a six day THEATRE FOR LIVING  workshop, participants engage in very specific games and exercises that help them investigate issues at a deep level. Then, they create plays. Each play is performed once, all the way through, so the audience can see the situation and the problems presented. The story builds to a crisis and stops there, offering no solutions. Each play is then run again, with audience members able to “freeze” the action at any point where they see a character engaged in a struggle. An audience member yells “stop!”, comes into the playing area, replaces the character s/he sees struggling with the problem, and tries out his/her idea. We call this an ‘intervention’. The process is fun, profound, entertaining and full of surprises and learning.


 

So here you have a theater company asking people “living with the issues under investigation” creating content to help not only themselves but their audience who then also becomes a participant in the process.  What could be more creative than that?

Some 5 years or so ago, I went to a Harm Reduction Conference while working at our local ASO; one of the sessions I attended was called, “METH LAB.”  It was a program for both active addicts and those in recovery which brought them together for a silent art class.  Prompts were used to help the participants explore their addiction while in a safe, silent place.  At the end of the session, time was reserved to allow participants to share the work they produced, to tell the story behind it, the motivation, anything they felt compelled to share.

THIS IS CREATIVE RE(DIS)COVERY!

I recognize a resistance to anything ‘other’ when it comes to recovery, especially when people feel that what is working for them might be under attack.  I am hoping that with time and with your patience and your open-mind, you’ll understand that my goal is simply to provide alternatives to ENHANCE your experience in recovery.

In upcoming posts, I will be presenting exercises you may choose to do that could help you tap into your creative nature and along the way help you rediscover pieces of yourself you have forgotten or simply allow you to be a kid again.  Or to give you permission to be creative.  Stick with me.

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Link Melissa Resch, Encompass Art Artist

Time for you to get know Melissa Resch

I met Melissa about 7 years ago in Provincetown.  She was working as support staff at our local resident home for those living with HIV/AIDS.  I was also working for the local ASO, the AIDS SUPPORT GROUP OF CAPE COD, as the Men’s Health Project Manager.  I’d occasionally bump into her while transporting the tens of thousands of safer sex kits we stored in the basement of the resident home.  I knew she was also an artist as so many of Provincetown residents are.  Provincetown is, after all, the longest continuous arts colony in the country……..continue reading  here

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Quote “Wild” Is So Much More

Watched Wild last night and was blown away at how I related.  Addiction, trauma, rediscovery.  An amazing film.

“It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That is was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was, like all those lines from The Dream of a Common Language that had run through my nights and days. To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me.
How wild it was, to let it be.”
― Cheryl Strayed

What started out as a simple conversation within just a few days turned into a passion project.  And while these sorts of things are never quite ready for the world, if you don’t put it out there, they will never been seen.  I’ve been working on EncompassArt.com and InReDIScovery.com for over 6 months now.  Planning, building, deleting, revamping, dreaming, deleting, rebuilding, revamping, and so on.  6 months is a lot of planning for me.  Fact is, these sites are just the beginning of a much bigger story, but without allowing you to see the beginning, you won’t possibly understand the journey. My journey. Maybe it’s your journey too.  Come along along for the ride.

 

The Art of Aggression

Whether I like Brad and Angelina and everything their professional lives represent, I have nothing but respect for Angelina’s decision to be aggressive when it comes to her health.  We are seeing it time and time again, mother’s, wives, women doing what they need to do to eliminate risk so that they might possibility eek out more time in this life.  Rita Wilson just come out with the same news.  I have an artist friend in town who knew she was at risk because of genetics and who decided, plainly and simply, she would undergo the knife to try to eliminate that risk.

Of course I make it sound so easy.  I can’t possibly relate.  But sometimes I wonder if the decisions I’ve made on my path of recovery are similar.  When it comes to finally realizing that without help I would die, I’ve been aggressive.  Twice into rehab, the first a 90-day treatment program in Canada where I decided to bail on my last two week commitment of a 3 month run off-Broadway in Naked Boys Singing because I knew if I returned to NYC, I would die.  I knew I needed 90 days away or I wouldn’t have a chance.  The second time sending myself to Minnesota to the PRIDE INSTITUTE, the only LGBT rehab in the country because I knew that unless I dealt with all those underlying issues around my sexuality, I would fall into that patterns and die.

We make these decision, we commit to a program, to a 90-in-90, to a new anti-depressant, to therapy, to telling our truths and not giving a damn who hear.  We integrate all those pieces of ourselves in the hopes of becoming whole.  How have you done so?  Regardless of how, don’t underestimate your power of aggression.  My recovery needs aggression.  It is an art form.  It has led me to rediscovery.  I wish you the same.

photo credit: i will bite you (petting zoo menace) via photopin (license)

I Had A Dream About You Last Night

I left my therapist last week in a Travolta-esque bubble of safety. Not the virtual wall the public feels he’s surrounded himself within to protect from rumors. I’m talking ‘Boy in a Bubble’ type safety. I felt like I had finally gotten to a point where upon leaving my session I had a protective wall around me, a protection from the outside world which I had been constructing the past three years. Not with brink, not with stone, cement, wood or drywall but with some sort of flexible cloth and glass. A cloak of armor. Or better yet, a space suit. A Bud Lightyear sort of space suit.

I’ve come to accept a lot of things about myself during my time in recovery, in therapy, in treatment and in rediscovery. One of the hardest parts to understand and to come to terms with was my inability to create healthy boundaries. I have allowed others to dictate the terms of what should have been my personal wall of protection ever since I was too young to know I had the right to say, “No.” Once I felt forced, as in the realm of molestation, and subsequently gained an ounce of power through that feeling of being wanted, my ability to create structurally sound boundaries was destroyed. The walls I have tried to construct around me since I was a child have been walls of cement built with too much water in the mix subject to crumble, decay, and collapse under any sort of pressure. In those moments I’d feel the cracks starting and would be helpless. I’d feel the full spectrum of feelings from self-hatred to resignation to the little blimp of satisfaction that I was giving someone what they wanted. I’d then gather that debris and tell myself the wall would be thicker next time. In the meantime I’d wrap myself with barbed wire, bloody myself in the effort to keep out others until I found time enough to rebuilt, to renovate.

Healthy walls somehow let the sun in. They are solidly built but with windows to provide warmth, encourage growth, and allow us to shine, to reflect back the light into the darkest recesses of our world and allow us to see where we are going. In so many ways I have lived years of my life with walls without windows relying too heavily on my imagination and memories to provide my only glimpses of the world. I’ve relied on living through others, vicariously hoping their growth would somehow affect me. I’ve been hiding out, peeking through the keyholes, watching and shouting encouragement to those living in the sun. Eventually, something would happen and my walls would crumble exposing me to the world, an utterly vulnerable person, naked, bruised by needle marks, self-inflicted hatred, with a dying glimmer of flame in my eyes.

I suppose the argument from others would be that one shouldn’t live in a protective bubble, that we shouldn’t live with walls or suits of armor or space suits. But for this addict, this empathic, INFJ, life without a wall or suit of safety is dangerous if not deadly. It’s taken years to understand that I am not like everyone else. In some programs of recovery the notion that we are unique is criticized as being egomania. We are meant to crush the ego in order for our spiritual side to come forth. But for some, for me, I have always been so focused on my spiritual side that my human side has been left utterly exposed and in danger. Humans can’t exist without protection around them. If we have the desire to go forth into the world, we have to do so with boundaries, self-designed protection unique to our very specific needs. Ideally those walls allow us to live, to grow, to use the sun to help us see as we gaze out from behind the safety of our windowed world.

I left my therapist last week and crossed the open-air balcony to say hello to one of my favorite people in town as she was getting ready to create a work of art in glass. It was a quick hug, and then she immediately lit up and said, “I had a dream about you last night! You were an astronaut and you were about to take off. Just take off!” I laughed, thanked her for the hug, and took off. This is how life is supposed to work, I thought. “To infinity and beyond!”