Thursday, 30 April 2015

Base levels. Recovery is a process.

I'm here slightly out of a sense of duty. Partly. It's good though, it means I'm meeting my new base-level tasks for the day. But don't expect anything particularly useful or enlightening here today.

They're not amazing goals, but they're a good start. They are: 

1 - Meditate
2 - Leave the house at least twice. One of which must be for something more substantial than just going to the shop
3 - Talk to someone 
4 - Exercise every evening
5 - Post something here 

So here I am. Today has been a pretty good day. I went to the office. That immediately hits two of my targets for the day, and I enjoy it and feel more worthwhile, more part of the real world when I'm working properly. 

I still suffered with my anxiety. Sorry to say this out loud, but three trips to the toilet is the standard and that didn't improve today. However, out in the world things were a little easier. I took my headphones and listened to an audio book while I walked and maybe that helped. I'm also having a little bit more success with mindfulness techniques. 

I've read up and listened to lots on urge surfing (I posted a couple of things under the Recovery Resources tab on this), but it's now starting to work. Something seems to have clicked in there. I do now feel more able to separate myself from my thoughts and to observe them. I think this is most likely to be a fruit of my meditation, which has continued on in sporadic fits and starts of late. 

Slowly, slowly, slowly, I start to feel like I'm making progress. I'm in the process. Taking small positive actions whenever I can has been useful, it's starting to build a little momentum. When I say small, I mean small. Anything at all will do, anything other than just sitting there, which almost always leads to some sort of negative, and given enough time will lead to relapsing on porn. 

I'm tired now. It's been a long day. And I want to read. That's another positive, I've really got stuck into a couple of books lately. 

If you spent it, thank you for your time. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

An honest assessment is important. And empowering. Emotion and reaching out.

I am a 44-year-old man who still takes money from his family to stay solvent. 

I am a 44-year-old man who sometimes cannot leave the house without spending an hour running back and forth to the toilet. 

I haven't had a job for nearly 10 years. 

I work freelance but earn very little. I often spend whole days starring at a screen paralysed by fear and doing very little but clicking on social forums desperate for some connection. 

I have unrealistic dreams of making money blogging like this because I feel it might be all I'm able to cope with doing. 

I can take days to complete the simplest of tasks. For example, since Monday I have needed to make a doctor's appointment. I haven't felt able to do it for all that time. 

I often don't wash properly or change my clothes enough. I can drift into nothingness, self-hatred and trembling fear. I sometimes need reminding to wash my hands after going to the toilet and to clean my teeth every day. 

I can go for days without seeing anyone when Mag is away. I'm deeply, deeply lonely and use the Internet as a replacement for real social interaction. 

I sometimes plan suicide. There are days when the "plan for my future" is outliving my parents in order not to put them through the pain of their child killing himself. Then I'll drink as long as the money lasts and end it all when it runs out. 

Sometimes I have no real idea who I am. I'm not sure what I like to do. I try to think of things to usefully or productively do, of something that will make me happy and I have no idea where to turn. 

I often think that the smallest conflict or upset will destroy me. I'm desperate for praise and love and will so almost anything to find it. I don't know what I think or what I believe - tell me what you'd like me to think and believe and I'll almost certainly do it for you. 

Some days I regret waking up. My chief aim for the day is for the hours to pass so that I can return to the sanctuary of my bed. 

I often wish I could cry but I'm scared of emotion and expressing it. 

This week I can't recall having laughed genuinely. 

These things are all true. To a greater or lesser extent they are. You'll notice many of these assumptions begin with "sometimes" or "often" and that's true. Things aren't like this all the time. Rather more than I would like, yes, but certainly not all the time. 

It's felt good to write that. It's honest and honesty is good. It's also completely subjective and - as someone with my problems is wont to do - it puts almost the worst possible slant on this. 

I could do much worse. I've been addicted to alcohol, drugs and bad behaviours for a long long time, I have plenty of horror stories of disgusting behaviour, desperate lows and so on. I don't think sharing those will do anything useful, they are in the past - though some of them are probably quite entertaining. 

The fact is that I can also write a list of positive things and things that I am going to use to change all those things. 

Briefly. Mag, my partner, loves me so much and is such a support to me. I am to her too. My love and support for her has made some of the amazing things she's done professionally recently possible. 

I'm not "evil" or a "psychopath" as I've previously told partners. Inside all this mess is a person who has struggles but who wants to be useful and helpful. I have compassion and empathy and kindness and sensitivity. 

People like me. I am polite and good company and can be very funny. At the moment I'm not exactly at the centre of a thriving social circle but there's nothing fundamental to stop that happening.

I do have skills. I can write. I am a very good listener. I do have a mind packed with - sometimes deeply trivial and irrelevant - knowledge that I can share entertainingly. I am a good listener and a good communicator. 

I did feel pleasure this week. I sat and played the guitar and sang for a couple of hours, just for the joy of it.

Despite dealing with addiction and anxiety and depression I do find work and when I do I usually get more of it. 

I live when I do. The internet has already put me in touch with amazing support to help me overcome my addictions. It also gives me many more opportunities to work and earn online. I am learning all the time.


I AM SOBER AND HAVE BEEN SOBER FOR NEARLY 11 MONTHS. 

I AM CANNABIS FREE AND HAVE BEEN FOR SEVERAL MONTHS. 

I HAVE NOT USED PORN FOR 16 DAYS. 

Those last three are the big ones. The ones that are and will giving me the chance, the hope to make changes. I also need to remember that not using these things - my big three medications and coping mechanisms for anxiety and unhappiness that I have used together and individually for decades - is a massive massive achievement. Like really massive. No, honestly, huge. 

I've cried today. That's felt good. I've had a few days, post Sertraline, of feeling very little. I hope there will be more emotion to come and I know that a lot of it will be difficult. I've stomped on difficult emotions for years, the fact that they're rising up is part of the healing process. 

I've also decided to ask for help. I'm going to phone the doctor and make an appointment. It seems the only treatment option left to me is counselling, so I'm going to take that option if it's still available. 

I'm also aware that I haven't connected with a number of self-help groups in Thin City - AA and Smart Recovery for starters, a local addiction charity runs groups too. I can make steps to look at those. 

I have opportunity. The fact that I have very few life skills gives me a fantastic opportunity to learn some. I feel low because I'm a scruffy, messy bastard - think how amazing it'll feel to start to take control of my life properly, to become an adult. 

I am still trying and I am proud of that and that is what I shall continue to do.

This has been a big post for me. It's not been easy and I'm a little upset again. 

In a good way. 

If you spent it, thank you for your time.    





 

 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Recovery resources - urge surfing and mindfulness techniques for resisting cravings

Mindfulness is all the rage these days. I'm trying to meditate and I think it's helping me in my recovery. 

Urge surfing is a different way of dealing with cravings and it comes from a mindfulness background. 

This short audio clip (8:33) is a guide through dealing with a craving. Perhaps you can download it to a personal player and carry it with you. It's been useful to me. 

Urge surfing clip  

And this article is a popular guide to urge surfing in more depth, including a short practical guide to putting it into action. 

Urge surfing guide 

I hope these help. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Recovery resource - the willpower instinct

cThis talk by Kelly McGonigal is about her book on willpower and has some useful science on how you can develop willpower, something all addicts will want to know about. 


It's a great talk. I recommend having a nose through the Google talks series if you have a few minutes, there's lots of super-interesting stuff on all sorts of subjects, lots of which can be useful in addiction recovery - mindfulness, meditation and self-help of all sorts. 

This talk is nearly an hour long and I recommend you give it a look if you have time - it's entertaining and backed by real science. 

Here are the five points Ms McGonigal sums up with:

1 - Train your willpower physiology. So exercise, meditate, eat in a way that will give you sustained energy. This will help build your mental strength. 

2 - Forgive yourself. This is a cliche of recovery, but apparently science backs it up. Don't beat yourself up if you fail and you're more likely to be succeed. 

3 - Think about your future self in a way that feels real. Look at what you're going to be in the future and have a real sense of what you'd like to become. 

4 - Plan for failure. This isn't saying prepare to relapse, but it's asking you to think about what might stop you from going to the gym or might contribute to you drinking or eating chocolate or whatever your positive or negative goal is. Have a plan for how you're going to cope with these barriers. 

5 - Surfing the urge. Urge surfing is a mindfulness technique. There is a good explanation here.

I haven't read the book myself, but you may want to take a look. Here it is on Amazon: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It



 

A dark place. Knowledge is power. A long process.

I'm sorry to say I've found myself in a really dark place. This morning I was making vague suicide plans. All very distant and nothing that will be acted upon, but they're not thoughts that I want to be dealing with at the moment.

The thing that is keeping me going is that I know that these thoughts will pass. Starting and then stopping the Sertraline so quickly will no doubt have had an impact on this. The challenge of staying off porn is no doubt having an impact - my addict brain is trying to make me feel bad so that I'll give in and give it the dopamine it craves. The fact that I am just short of 11 months sober is no doubt having an impact on this. The immediate cause is anxiety, which is making me feel trapped and hopeless (which in itself may relate to my two addictions, who knows?). 

This is hard. Perhaps I didn't realise how hard it would be. Stopping drinking has taken me years. The breakthrough came in 2009 (I think) when I had an in-patient detox. I never wanted to get back into the state where I needed that again. 

I had various drinking adventures after that. I tried to control it. I tried to drink at weekends and took Antabuse on Mondays. I tried to have the occasional weekend of drinking. Nothing worked, though I was able to keep it together well enough that I didn't spiral down and need to go to hospital again. In the end, I think I finally accepted that I couldn't drink. At least not for a very long time. 

I hope stopping porn isn't going to take a similar amount of time. I certainly didn't anticipate it being this difficult. I thought I'd just make a decision and stop. I've never been comfortable with using porn, I always thought it was wrong and always hid it, I just needed to act in a way that reflected that. I didn't anticipate actual physical withdrawals; I didn't anticipate these terrible moods and mood swings. 

I thought it would all be positive, the losing of the negatives that came with my compulsive porn use - the guilt, the shame, the stress of dealing with delayed work piling up, the lying. I thought I'd start to feel alert and alive and calm. I have felt those things, particularly at the first attempt, when I did feel genuinely great for a while. 

Since then it's been much harder and the benefits have been much less apparent. They will come, I'm sure. I just need to stick with it. 

I am finding it very useful to watch and read a lot of resources around this. The people who have gone through this and come out of the other side are a great inspiration, particularly Gabe - he's easy to find online if you're looking, try Reboot Nation on YouTube. I'm incredibly grateful to these people for their bravery and honesty.

I've been watching these videos right now. They give me strength. They've inspired me to do more about sharing resources myself. So I'm going to post a couple of those. 

Take care. If you spent it, thank you for your time. 



     

Monday, 20 April 2015

Step away from the Sertraline. Talking. Always hope.

I've stopped taking Sertraline. It just didn't work out between us. It wasn't me, it wasn't her... blah blah blah. Actually, it was her. Sertraline made me feel awful. Physically jittery with a bad taste in my mouth. This is not good in a medicine you're taking to reduce your anxiety. 

I'm glad I have now, though - as with everything - I've um-d and ah-d about this. I've wondered if I'm giving up to easily on this. I took it for four days, so not really enough time for any early-use symptoms to ease up. Sorry, but that really felt necessary, I was worried about what was going to happen to my moods. I was worried about suicidal thoughts. 

So that feels like a positive. 

There aren't many of these at the moment. The big ones remain that I'm sober (and full of Antabuse) and I'm getting more and more porn-free days under my belt. 

All good. 

My parents came over on Sunday and I told them I'd been struggling with anxiety. They were very supportive in their way. I felt guilty about doing it. My parents are elderly now, they shouldn't have to be worrying about their mess-up son. The shoe should be moving onto the other foot now and I'm not in a state where I'm of much use to anyone. 

We went out, which was brilliant. Just what I needed. Went out to a crowded place too and did something kind of enjoyable. I was subdued all day, as was Mag, but we did it, and felt better for it. 

I've felt more positive today in a small way. I've done sod all work, which is not good, of course. BUT I'M STILL SOBER AND PORN-FREE. In place of all that work I've been reading about addiction and recovery and self-improvement. Not the best perhaps, but better than things might have been. 

I've been trying to keep positive. The one thing I've picked up in the last couple of days and I'm really trying to do is just to do something, anything, to make things better. Pick something up. Put something away. Start on some work project. I'm here now because I was doing nothing and thought I should do something. 

There's always hope, I suppose. Even from the deepest depths there is hope and I'm a long way up from the depths I've plumbed along the way and that's cause for celebration. I feel like a big pile of rubbish loser, but I've got another day in my sobrieties and I've got another day tomorrow to try to do better. 

A struggle, but I'm still struggling and that's a positive. 

If you spent it, thank you for your time. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

Sertraline. Dark places. Still fighting.

I'm on my third day of taking Sertraline (Zoloft) and it's a very mixed bag so far. I think I've seen some improvement in my mood but the side-effects aren't very nice. 

I feel simultaneously tired and very alert and feel like I'm full of something - it's hard to go beyond saying I feel "odd". I've decided I'm going to give this two weeks and see what happens; this is a long journey and I don't need to be thrashing around from one action to another too quickly. 

Sometimes that's hard to take on board. I can be panicky and reactive. It's natural. I'm making small steps forward in my life, but I come from a very bad place - in terms of my work, my prospects, my position in society, my ability to look after myself and so on and so on. 

This can feel very bad. It's easy to feel hopeless and lost. I need to guard against that. I've been in some rather dark places over the last day or so. A terrible bout of anxiety on the way to the office yesterday morning and a slightly disappointing day at work made me question and doubt everything. At the moment that's not to the extent where I want to return to drinking, but it makes staying porn-free a little harder. 

Porn has become a complicating factor in this. It's been suggested to me by friends on No Fap that at least some of this anxiety and depression is self-inflicted. We like to talk about our addict-brain or the lizard brain even (sounds great!) when we think of the drives to use. We see this as in conflict with a "higher brain", the logical part of us that knows what damage we'll do to our lives if we do. 

I think like this too. I'm not sure how scientifically valid it is, but it seems (to whichever brain level is in charge right now) to make some sort of sense. The idea is that that part of the brain is trying to trick us into giving it the dopamine or endorphins it craves. In time, the more we follow the smarter promptings of our higher brain, the stronger it will get, defeating the addicted brain and quietening its urgings. 

So, as ever, I'm left wondering about causes. To what extent is my battle with porn use (and it is a battle, I believe it to be a serious addiction) causing or contributing to this anxiety and low mood? To what extent is this down to the removal of alcohol and cannabis from my life - my chief coping mechanisms? 

I'm still fighting though. Today started badly, I'll admit that. So I need to say that it's a good thing that I've managed to get up and get here. That it's a good thing that I won't drink today. That it's a good thing that I'm very determined not to use porn today. That I'll attempt to be a decent partner to Mag and welcome her home with a nice meal and as much support as she needs. That meditation and exercise are still on the agenda.

Things will start moving soon I hope. I'm not very strong - not yet. I need to build that strength as I go. Giving in now will only mean more weakness, more pain (in the long term, no doubt getting drunk or bingeing on porn would make me feel briefly very good), and possibly even the disaster in my life I so fear. 

That struck me this morning. I have a chance. Mag is a huge part of this. Her love for me astounds and amazes me. Without her I don't know where I would be. I feel that without her, without my parents, without other supporters, I could very easily be on the streets. Sometimes - and you may believe this or not, I know it sounds crazy - that even seems an attractive proposition. No more worry about work, about responsibilities, just the worry of where the next drink comes from. 

A stupid and passing thought. I need to get stronger. I am getting stronger. I am in recovery and it's a bumpy road but it's a road that leads in the right direction. 

If you spent it, thank you for your time.