Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Helplessness

Lovely Sunday morning out there, a little milder than normal and very sunny. And I'm not hung over! Yayyyy!! ;)

I changed my cleanse days this week so we could go out for dinner with some old friends on Tuesday. I usually take Tuesday and Thursday as my non-drinking days. Just to make sure I could have wine with dinner, I switched my off-days to Monday and Wednesday.

Usually I avoid taking Monday as a cleanse day. I like the idea of softly parachuting down into the week. ;) But you know what? It was great to start Monday, like a Monday. I felt I had a better handle on the week. It was nice to go out on a Tuesday and enjoy wine with dinner & catching up.  Plus I just loved the idea that the weekend unofficially began on Thursday. The way every weekend used to for me as a kid. Of course, that turned into weekends beginning on Wednesday, then Tuesday ... then, well. It was eventually just one long weekend.

More than anything, I really loved the change. I think that's one of the biggest benefits to this system. Being able to change things up. It gives you a feeling of - for lack of a better word - control.

Control. That's a big thing to enjoy after thrashing around without it for so many years. It's funny - it's been almost twelve years since I started cleansing, but I still remember the way things were so clearly. Anyway, in The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind Twelve Step Programs and the Rehab Industry, Dr. Lance Dodes makes reference to that. He's now debunked 12-steps and rehab quite thoroughly. Including making light fun of 'equine therapy' at expensive rehab facilities. I sort of get his point. I love horses as much as the next person - even more - but am not sure how equipped they are to treat addiction. I'd love it if they could. It would be fun - if I wasn't allergic to them, that is.

Dr. Dodes is a Harvard professor and psychologist with 25 years experience treating addiction. Full disclosure here, he'd probably think I was bananas with this 'system.' It's pretty clear from this book that he feels the only way to really treat addiction properly is through individualized counseling with a registered therapist. Go figure. ;)

If you can afford therapy, or if it's covered by your insurance, I'd totally recommend it. Not necessarily for working through addiction problems, though I'm sure a good therapist could help tremendously. But professional counseling can help with many challenges in life. I think I've mentioned before that seeing a clinical psychologist in my late twenties was one of the most important things I've ever done. To tell yourself that you deserve to be happy and to go out and take a concrete step toward it is a really liberating thing for people with ... ahem, issues. ;) (i.e. most of us!)

But I can also tell you that I haven't undergone any kind of professional treatment these last eleven years (for better or worse!), so it's possible for at least some people to get control of their drinking without it.

There's that word again. Control. The word A.A. doesn't like to use when it comes to alcohol. The opposite of control - I think in general - is helplessness, isn't it? Well, that came up again and again in Dode's book. When he's counseling addicts - alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, whatever - the issue that seems to be at the heart of most of their problems is a feeling of 'helplessness.' Helplessness overcomes them for one reason or another and they reach for a fix to deal with it.

I completely agree with that. I've never heard it put quite that way before, but when I've tried to think what I was really feeling emotionally back then it was utter helplessness. I couldn't seem to help that I drank too much at night. Or all day by myself. I couldn't seem to help waking up in the morning and having no idea what happened the night before. I couldn't help myself! That lack of control was terrifying. It's as if somebody else has kidnapped you for the night.

Cleansing - and all the elements of the plan together - helped give me back control over that aspect of my life. I know sometimes - maybe a lot of times - I come off as Pollyanna, super-positive, cleansing makes your life perfect kind of thing. It doesn't. No. I still feel pretty helpless about a lot of things. Like getting older. Or dealing with crazy decisions I've made in my life (like quitting my day job to follow my dream of becoming a novelist. Hey! Great idea, Sher!)

** as an aside ** still waiting to hear back from my old agent about my new novel, btw ... She doesn't know this, but we did not have a single sober meeting or phone call when we were together. That's just how bad my drinking was back then. Yikes. btw sometimes I regret/question/fear the time this blog has taken me away from 'following my dream.' But I feel compelled to do it. I really do. I've always loved self-help and frankly, have gotten a lot from it over the years. So I'm not surprised there's that aspect to my personality as well. Especially since I'm so convinced cleansing can help people like me ...**

Anyway, as I said, alcohol cleansing can't solve everything. It won't help you win the lottery. It won't put a yacht in that slip down at the marina. But what it can do - at least what it's done for me - is take the helpless feeling over alcohol off your plate. Meaning you can have a drink (or a few) on a Saturday night and wake up feeling happy - not helpless - on Sunday morning. It's a small thing. But it's a huge thing. :)