Tag Archives: addiction

Anxiety – learning to love it

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I never thought I was an anxious person. A few years ago when I experienced anxiety and depression together I thought my world was falling apart. The sick feeling, the inability to be still or settled, sleeplessness and constant horrible feeling felt like the worst thing ever. And I remember saying that I’d never know what anxiety was before. Now, of course there is a difference between anxiety in its extreme form which is an illness and day-to-day anxiety which many of us experience. But I realise that I never recognised that day-to-day feeling as anxiety because I never let it permeate through long enough for it to reach my consciousness. Instead I would find ways to numb it, usually with sweet stuff. Other addictive behaviours like shopping or creating some drama also figured fairly high on my ‘coping mechanisms’, I use the phrase lightly.

Over the last few months I have been on a new learning curve. As part of a support group for compulsive eating I been ‘abstinent’ from sugar and other trigger foods for several months. That has taken care of the physical craving for all that stuff. But the hardest part, as everyone knows, is the mental obsession and the feelings that drive us to want to make ourselves feel better in the first place. Not so easy! And one of the first things that came up for me was, you got it, anxiety. At first I have to say I wasn’t too good at recognising it. Sometimes I must have it pointed out to me by my nearest and oh so dearest, “You are anxious” she’ll say, “about x or y”. My usual first response is to deny this  vigorously. I didn’t get where I am today by admitting to having uncomfortable feelings! But I am trying to listen and not always be right ( That’s a Tough One). And 9 times out of 10 it’s true. ( It may be 10/10 but I have  to have room for growth here). And then I am confronted with realising I have a Feeling That I Don’t Know What To Do With. My previous ‘coping mechanism’ hs been consigned to the bin ( food) and I am working on the shopping/drama/distraction ones one day at a time ( Sweet Jesus).

Last night for instance. I was giving a talk at the support group. This was the first time at that group that I had given a talk. I wanted to ‘get it right’. I re-wrote what I was going to say 3 times, I changed it again when I got to the meeting. I was pretty anxious. And this is even with a) planning b) praying c) knowing I was with friends. And I realised that the only thing to do was to say, ‘Yes, I am anxious!”. It didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do,

it was Just A Feeling. It wasn’t going to kill me. And the fear was what? That I wouldn’t get it right? That I’d make a mistake or make a fool of myself or not be helpful to someone else? Well phooey. Isn’t it wonderful how ego gets in the way of just being present and doing the job in front of you?!

So this morning I am sitting here knowing I did my best and that was good enough. That is pretty damn good for me to say. And today I am just going to be grateful to that anxiety when it comes along because it lets me know that all I can do is my best. And that the feeling will pass and today is always a new day.

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Addiction- The Big Mouthed Sucky Monster

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I don’t know too much about other addictions but I do a helluva lot about sugar, some about alcohol although not from my direct experience and less about other drugs. I know there are a million addictions that we don’t even always think of as such. Gambling and shopping most people know of and many identify with even if just a little bit. Then there are ‘workaholics’, addiction to being busy, being the only one ‘who can do it’. Then what about video gaming? I’m pretty sure we all know someone who gets caught up in the X Box or Playstation and gets bad-tempered when they come off it. I expect that a lot of things can become addictive if we have the right sort of personality/ wrong sort of opportunity.

So how do we know? Well there are some standard indicators of addiction which are worth contemplating.

Let’s start with the formal definition of addiction. The American Psychiatric Association publishes a book called the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) which provides clinical diagnosis for mental illness and non-traditional behaviors. (They might refer to them as aberrant, 😉 ). One section of the manual provides a series of questions to determine addiction. These are typically used to measure whether a chemical is being used in an addictive way. Insert alcohol or drugs in any of these criteria to get a sense of how they work.

  • The substance is taken in greater amounts or for a longer time than intended 
  • There is a persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control use 
  • Major time is spent in seeking, using or recovering from the effects of use
  • Frequent intoxication or withdrawal interferes with responsibilities 
  • There is a decreased level of social, recreational activities due to use 
  • There is continued use despite adverse consequences 
  • There is a marked increase in tolerance 
  • There are withdrawal symptoms 
  • There is use to prevent withdrawal

These criteria are easy to use if you are a professional in the field of chemical dependency. When you are on the inside of your own addiction, it may be hard to recognize a “marked increase in tolerance.” You are likely to simply think you can hold your liquor well. One major marker for recovery is the ability to recognize how many of these criteria are applicable to your use.

For more on addiction in relation to sugar, alcohol and drugs take a look at this article by Kathleen DesMaisons Here

I was thinking today how easy it is to slip into addiction or back into it. I know. I’ve been there a million times. I’ve been out of it too, but it lurks and I don’t think you ever leave it behind. Like the ‘black dog’ of depression addiction seems to me like the Big Mouthed Toothless Sucky Monster ready to suck me back under. Of course every day away from that place makes the monster a bit smaller on my shoulder. But I know s/he can grow and grow given half a chance.

But here’s the thing, giving into that monster never ever fills up the empty place. And I’m sure that for any addiction there is an empty place, right? It’s the urge to make that better, take away or numb the pain that gets us on that slippery slope. But it doesn’t matter how much sugar I eat it’s not going to help. And I think I’m pretty much ok. Yes I’ve got my hurty bits and those empty spaces sometimes surface. Or I have a bad day and my insecurities creep up. Or I am just tired ( like now), and a bit sad and want a holiday but can’t quite afford one. That sort of crap.

So why would sugar help with that? Now if you are reading this and you don’t do addiction you are probably going “Well duh, J. of course it won’t help!”. And you, dear reader and wise one, would of course be right. But if you too have a little addictive brain cell or two, you KNOW this stuff.

So what can we do about it? Accept it. Live with it. Learn from the millions of brave and tenacious souls who have gone before us on this recovery journey. Give thanks. Be grateful for life and living it and not being afraid. Being prepared to make a slip or two along the way. Asking for help.  Going to AA, finding support, seeing a counsellor, whatever works for you. Stop expecting to be perfect and rejoice in being human!

Sometimes I just have to say what’s on my mind. It is part of my own process, my own journey and some days are better than others. If you’ve read this far thanks for being present with me. I am thinking of you too, whover you are as I write this. We are on the same path. Kudos