Where to begin?
Where do I begin with the first post? I think sporadic topics rather than a rigid structure of chronological events is the way to do build this blog. Whatever my mind, heart and gut tell me will become the narrative compass. So here we go…..
In difficult situations, the most daunting task you have to face is where to begin. If confidence is not present then fear begins to set in, if that continues, then dread begins to make its home in your mind. Dread is the uptick or next level of fear, and it is the precursor to the darkest thoughts I have ever had. I have found myself filled with dread far too often when attempting to piece myself back together and I believed it to once be unconquerable. I know this sounds vague so let me elaborate.
When I first came out of the cloud of addiction, my thoughts and emotions became mine again. Both my thoughts and emotions were no longer under the influence of being under the influence. A healthy dose of realization was on the way and I knew it was coming. Coping with this is one of the hardest moments an individual will face in their personal recovery. I did not think I was going to make it out on the other side of this event. I don’t use the word lightly, but this was truly dreadful. My mind soon became flooded with a realization of what I had done over nearly eight years and I felt fear and its ugly friend anxiety; both are uncooperative to helping one gain peace.
In all honesty, as I look back and attempt to explain it, it plays out like one of those superhero movies. You know that scene and the cliche’ storyline when the hero first gets his or her superpower and doesn’t know what is going on with their new abilities? The hero is fearful and things seem out of control for them. I would imagine they do not feel like a hero in that moment.
Likewise, I too felt less than heroic as I began to make repairs to my life and salvage relationships, I felt more like the villain when I was met with a new level of dread. That new level of dread came to me when I realized that I had been the anti-architect of my life and a master demolitionist to every relationship around me. It is not easy to pick up fragmented pieces, admit self-faults or make the first step forward. It will always be easier (faster too) to destroy and demolish rather than build and polish. You don’t have to live long in this life to see how that concept works.
I never understood what an addict goes through when in recovery until I went through it on my own. A lot of people are ignorant to the pursuit of sobriety and its genesis within a person. It is nothing short of horrific, it was for me, when I began to take accountability and inventory of my own actions and figure out how to move on. I not only lacked the knowledge of how to move on, but where to move. This was my ground zero of self destruction and the future seemed bleak and weighted with uncertainty.
I tend to focus on negative aspects and it made my initial recovery difficult. Previously, the negativity resulted in several dry runs of sobriety. Even though I classify myself as a curmudgeon, I realized this and attempt to change my outlook. I have been working on developing that ant-curmudgeon trait more and more. So, instead of focusing on the fallout I decided to sift through the debris and make useful stepping stones for a new path.
The first step in my newly formed, curmudgeon-less outlook was to realize where I was and begin an assessment. The answer that came my way was “You Are Here.” The phrase “You Are Here” is an integral part of the traveler’s journey, especially when the traveler is outside of their element or far from home. Addiction takes you far from home, and it is the indulgence of addictive behaviors that will maroon you.
I know why I used and why I would want to “check out”. I did it to choke out and suppress emotional pain. To begin with, I have an emotional personality and my life got to a point where I felt that I either needed to stop feeling or stop living. My dysfunctional thinking landed on the first option and I began to use in order to get through without an emotional destination. In essence, I began a life of heavy substance abuse in order to “get through” rather than heal and “get to” a better state of being. Like I mentioned earlier, my brain began to work and see things again with a different beauty. I had seen the phrase “You Are Here” before, however, it was about to stake a positive claim in my life.
When traveling for work or leisure, shopping, viewing a landmark, touring a museum or playing video games, I have depended on the phrase “You Are Here” in order to know where I currently am located in connection with where I want to eventually be. One of the biggest problems I experienced upon my new found sobriety was this: I just found out where I was at and, in regards to my final destination, “eventually” was not in my vocabulary.
Wayfinding is the ancient art of figuring out where you are going when you don’t actually know your destination. For wayfinding, you need a compass and you need a direction. Not a map – a direction.Bill Burnett & Dave Evans, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life
“Eventually” meant that more work was needed than to just be sober; I hated that I realized that fact. I also despised that I couldn’t immediately fast forward time and have years of sobriety behind me. This is just one of many emotional melting-pot moments I initially went through. It isn’t fun or easy to have your mind start working as it should after a long absence.
Despite feeling pestered with a working brain and instead of “checking out”, I decided to take a long drive home from work. It was on this short adventure that I would discover a deep and personalized message with the phrase: “You Are Here”
I was in the proximity of the Golden Spike historical site, and decided to follow a whim and absorb what others took the time to landmark. On any other day, I would have continued driving, but I stopped to read the signs and take in the history. I viewed the maps and signs and began to take pictures. Again, my mind was fresh and, to an extent, liberated from all substances; and I was finding a greater beauty in learning about history more than ever before. While my brain processed the excitement of learning I began focusing the lens on my Canon camera. As the auto-focus took over and focused the lens, I noticed the phrase “You Are Here” on the posted map in front of me; that phrase stayed with me as I packed things into my truck and began to drive.
Even though I was still coming to grips with knowing that I would need to work harder than ever before for sobriety, I decided lean into the excitement of learning. My brain, heart and gut said to look for inspiration again; this time in the form of a book. I never owned a copy of, or really even flipped through in great detail, the Big Book used for Alcoholics Anonymous. Surely there was some wisdom inside of the Big Book that I could use that evening. My drive home included one more stop.
I soon walked into Barnes and Noble and found the Big Book. Now, I am not sure about anyone else but, when I am in a bookstore there is little doubt that I will only walk out with one book. I continued to survey and sift through other books and found ‘Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. The title pretty much captured what I was feeling, more so than the Big Book. I know the age old saying to not judge a book by its cover…..but I did anyway and it paid off healthy dividends.
As I read randomly throughout Designing Your Life, it seemed all encompassing and perfect for my situation and mood. I decided to turn over the book and check the price but immediately started fumbling with the two books. I did not recover from the uncoordinated war and the cover of Designing Your Life slipped off and the book fell to the floor. I knelt down to pick it up and on the teal cover was an embossed arrow. Between the raised areas and reliefs was also the saying “You Are Here”.
I didn’t feel that seeing “You Are Here” on the sign and on the book was a coincidence, so I purchased the books immediately. Designing Your Life helped me through the deep dread I was facing, a dread which carried the weight of an intense emotional deficit. Despite what I was learning in my outpatient program, I was hoping that abstinence of substance was all I needed to do. I was wrong. I needed more knowledge to craft tools, and those tools would coincide with time to bring about sober understanding (soberstanding).
The discovery of the phrase “You are here”, and its use in Designing Your Life, helped me to understand the art of wayfinding. As it is described in the book, with wayfinding you need a direction and you need a compass; you do not, however, need a map. Dora the Explorer gets map, a singing one too! But you and I aren’t Dora and we don’t get a well plotted route for our difficult moments. Oh yeah, and there is also no GPS to plug in and get you directly to your final destination.
The Wayfinding article on Wikipedia ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayfinding ) helps break the word down into its specific stages:
- Route Decision
- Route Monitoring
- Destination Recognition
It is a solid read and worth delving into on your own time and in greater detail.
The combination of “You Are Here” and Wayfinding helped break me of getting instant satisfaction and added “eventually” into my vocabulary. By adopting the skills of wayfinding, I had to lean into the discomfort of the unknown and, by doing so, began to wax strong in confidences without becoming cocky. In the end, this began a trend of placating the angry emotions and feelings that I wasn’t getting anywhere. This is easier said than done, but it can be done.
In my opinion, there is not a single ingredient to fix what years of reckless addiction brings about. The Big Book explains the steps and it has helped millions of individuals and families. There are also many programs and treatment centers (In and Outpatient) that offer unique blends to addiction recovery. The above experience was the ingredient I needed at that exact moment, and it was specifically for me. I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I may have been sober, but I was not sure what else to do. The short answer I would repeat in my mind was “bristle the broom.” This basically meant I had a lot of things to sweep up and repair.
Overcoming fear, anxiety and dread can be accomplished. Realize where you are. “You Are Here.” Start where you are and begin your program. If your program or life is already working good for you, keep it tuned up and well maintained.
#soberstanding #youarehere #designingyourlife #thebigbook
Book: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
Music (Ambient): Slytherin Common Room Music & Ambience, Ambient Worlds ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aadskAxEEw )