What’s This New Thing?

Don’t be afraid of life

A friend and mentor of mine told me this once during a visit while I was at an inpatient rehab.  Such a simple piece of advice to think of at first thought.  Especially for someone who tends to display himself as fearless.

This mornings lesson came courtesy of poochie and mother nature we got to see snow for our first time.  This new soggy chilly ground covering did not stop us from potty!  We found it tasty though, something to snack on!  It’s everywhere!! We played, danced, ate, and rolled in this new thing.  Our once boring yard primarily used as a bathroom has become a new world all because a light dusting of this wet cold white stuff.

This morning I woke to a familiar deal, nightmares and terrors out of nowhere.  Pupster was right there with a nuzzle to remind me I was alright, that things were okay.  Her gentle nuzzle and pushing of her head against me with a soft low whine acted perfectly to remind me where I was and who I was with.  she reminded me that I should not fear life this morning.

Life is rough, topsy turvy, emotional, just a ball of crap for the most part and yet here we are being humans.  This is cold dad, this is fun!!  when do we lose our childhood?  Somewhere along the line we all forget the feelings of “new” and “interesting” we grow old and cold and stupid.  We get stuck in our stupid ways our habits and what we think being adults is.

Today I’m going to play with pooch, in the snow like an idiot because I can!  I will break out the snoopy sno cone maker my loving girl got me years ago and we will snack on snow cones and snow and just be.  Today I am not afraid of life, in fact today life should be afraid of me.

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Some Thoughts on Healthy Living

And So I Decided to Quit Smoking….

I woke up this morning after getting what I consider to be a good nights sleep (more than 4 hours uninterrupted) and for the better part of this morning found myself in a severe funk.  Not so much angry but full of anxiety and maybe a touch of depression and a whoooole lot of that frustration thing.  It seemed like everything just frustrated me, for the first morning in a while I even slacked on making breakfast which is just not like me.

Granted, I have a lot to have anxiety about with the recent job applications / interviews and everything else going on with my life and add into that PAWS (post acute withdrawal syndrome) and I’m already a ball of stress.  So like an idiot a few days ago I decided to  quit smoking….. I’ve got lozenges (almost out) and a stack of patches (never really worked) along with tins of flavored toothpicks (probably going to be crapping splinters for a while) but the edge still comes and goes.  What the hell was I thinking?

I’ve got a good support system in place but it’s still difficult and so now I suppose I’ll rant about it.  Just after noonish I decided to indulge in one of my favorite dishes to eat as well as cook (and don’t laugh, it’s a big deal) a big bowl of Ramen (Or in the Hawaiian culture “Saimen”).  Just the time it took me to prepare it, my focus on chopping the vegetables, frying the perfect egg, simmering the pork to make the perfect broth, mixing my own seasoning blend, and putting it all together made me feel better.

Eating it in traditional style (quickly, slurping as to cool the noodles and unlock the broth flavor) gave me a sense of calm and happiness that I have been missing the last few days.  Now some might think “healthy living is in the title, isn’t Ramen horrible for you?” NO!  If done right it’s a very nutritious dish not to mention a very fulfilling one to explore.  A quick google search on traditional Ramen houses will yield a very interesting culture and a whole new world built around this wonderful part of my life.

Unfortunately throughout the rest of the day I lapsed in and out of the anxiety over and over, at the beginning of this post I was feeling it with a heavy edge to my demeanor overall.  By the time of this paragraph I am finding myself a touch less on edge and feeling better overall.  I know the nicotine and the overall habit will pass with time and I just need to hang in there.  I know my health will only get better and I will be able to extend my hiking enjoyment by sacrificing my smoking habit.  And then there’s that whole money thing, I sat down on day one and started calculating the cost of my smoking over a years time ($2445.00 a year on average).

Just uhm, wow!  So $203 a month on the low side that’s insanity considering all it does is appease a self imposed edginess from starting up in the first place.  So, wish me luck and I hope I can keep this up!  I’ll keep everyone updated!

~J

A Quick Diagram of Alcoholism

I’ve spent way too much time of my life doing flowcharts….

So I figured, why not?  The basic idea of an alcoholic decision cycle… as done in wreck-less fashion over the course of too few minutes with colors that probably make no sense!  Enjoy:

alcoholiccycle

Perhaps later I’ll do a Power Point but….. nah….

We have greenage,

~Joe

An Honest Discussion About ADHD and Self-Medication

A Little Story With a Big Boogeyman

Authors Note: This is the longest and probably most difficult article I have written thus far, it was originally intended to be posted as my second article with an entirely different title and subject.  As I wrote to illustrate my point the article changed drastically into what is essentially a part of my life story.  As raw as I have tried to be in writing this, I will not be adding any pictures or fancy quotes, just the article as I completed it.  As always, and in particular with this one please let me know your feedback, ideas, rants, anything.  And look forward to at least 3 off shoot articles from things that came to mind during the writing of this one. A PDF version of this article for sharing can be downloaded here.  ~Joe

I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD more times in my life than I’ve stubbed my toe or hit my funny bone combined. Quite often people will comment that I also have a bit of OCD (more on that later). I wanted to take some time to explore how I have turned my so called “disorder” into positive adaptations that have brought me success and an interesting life. I also wanted to examine how my failed attempts at self-medication has caused destruction of those successes and held me back. All told, when I am thinking clearly I can honestly say I would never trade this so called “disorder” for anything.

I’m going to start by framing the view of ADHD I have come to adopt, it was once explained to me that ADD, ADHD, and many other similar so called disorders are in fact nothing more than different evolutionary types of “brain wiring”. The tag “disorder” is merely a societal method of coping with a version of personality that may not fit the present view of “normal”. To be more detailed as it relates to ADHD vs. “The Norm” it was described as a hunter / farmer relationship. It is not so much that we have developed disorders as it is that society itself has changed.

The hunter (being ADHD) has to maintain a high level of alertness and be ready to snap into quick hyper focused action during a hunt, or dangerous situation. The farmer (current norm) has to maintain a great deal of routine planting, watering, sowing crops on a clockwork schedule. This made perfect sense to me and I have built on this theory since it was first presented to me as a young man. Centuries ago the hunter could have been considered the norm or, in the very least the respected ones in society as survival required the natural skills to respond and react to danger for protection as well as prey for sustenance. Whereas presently in most modern cultures systems are in place to provide our protection, food, materials, and services for us without the need to hunt them down. Society itself has changed to a more routine mindset and over a great number of decades this mindset has become the norm pushing other thought patterns out into the fringes that we label “disorders”.

So now that I have described my viewpoint on ADH (omit the D) let me go back to the OC (again omitting the D) has come to play in my life. I have always been incredibly disorganized (a common trait for ADD / ADHD of course) often late, forgetting commitments, masterful at procrastination, quick to panic (and often get flash angry) when things spiraled out of control. Over time I began to force myself to organize, keeping things “just so” and religiously using alarms, lists, and stacks of notebooks to “normalize” my life. I *Made* myself OCD! Did I need to go to such lengths? Probably not, but the structure put me in a position to be incredibly superior in what I did, efficient and effective.

Well, hooray? One of the dynamics of ADHD is that of extremes, extremely distracted, extremely focused, extreme emotions, and so on. As I began to achieve my personality changed immeasurably, often cocky and egotistical, opinionated, boisterous, argumentative, and overly driven, I became an ass. I developed a fear of failure and a need for achievement that was so intense that success itself became an end game that meant I would no longer have something to do. This end game had to be avoided at all costs, add to this a deep seated emotional view that I didn’t deserve success, and a self-destructive cycle that would inevitably devastate my life as I knew it began.

Something happened to me, I became human. I had injected myself into a lifestyle that was hyper paced with little to zero room for a recharge. I had stormed castles that were beyond my ability to protect after capture, pillaged items that I had no means of transporting, I had overextended myself without consideration for anything, completely reckless. I began to self-medicate, drinking at first to relax and calm down, or in many cases to wine and dine a potential client, to be social, nothing too heavy.

Moderation and judgement were short lived, as soon in the same ways that I had trained myself to be obsessive / compulsive about my organization I had trained myself to be a highly functioning alcoholic. I could perform the most complex and intricate tasks perfectly while under the influence. This combination of achievement mixed with self-medication worked for me, until it didn’t.

I very quickly began making mistakes, forgetting to do things, losing my edge. The emotional distress caused by failure, or sometimes just perceived failure brought me to my knees. I began drinking to black out and numb myself no longer did I care about the buzz or enjoyment. Socially having a few drinks gave way to hiding in my workshop drinking vodka straight by the gallon with passing out being the only thing that would stop consumption; coming to and restarting the process at the wee hours of the morning.

I had crossed a very thin line from a treacherous path directly into absolute obliteration of my life as I knew it. I spent the next several years in a repetitive cycle of clawing my way to recovery only to fall right back into the pit of relapse, soon I had torched all but my own mere existence. At the time of this writing I am sober, slowly and carefully working to reconstruct my life. I say reconstruct rather than rebuild as I have come to the realization that in order for me to continue I must work towards something that does not resemble what I was.

I originally started this article thinking that I might do a list of “tips” on ADHD self-management; I had a pretty good start until I began to truly examine my experiences over the long run. Lucky for me there is this wonderful invention called the backspace key! I decided instead to illustrate my view of ADHD and the plight I experience that is self-medication and perhaps finish off with some positive lessons that I have learned. I am a firm believer that mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities that begin with a negative consequence. This does not make mistakes bad, in fact it is probably more beneficial to start with the negative and end with the positive rather than the other way around (this thought may be a topic for another discussion).

So, in many self-improvement and recovery programs there are aspects of creating “lists” if you will of ideas, goals, accomplishments, dreams, mistakes, etc. 12 step groups often refer to this as an “inventory”, many of the RBT (rational behavioral therapy) or CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) types use “lifestyle balance” tools. In any case I thought it important to look over some of my own past “lists” to continue this article. Below is a small cropping of notes I took while going over several journals and lists that I have created (the types of tools I used will be in the footnotes):

Positives Negatives
Serial Entrepreneur Flighty and aloof
Self-taught high level IT High strung
Flexible in task shifting Low frustration tolerance
Successfully built business Poor time management
High level of economic understanding Poor personal finance management
Ability to learn new things very quickly Bored with new things very quickly
High level of analytics Overly critical at times
Incredibly fast at accomplishing tasks Often cannot say no
Able to talk to anyone Sometimes present false masks to protect myself
Driven Low self esteem

This is in no way an exhaustive list, in fact creating this list was exhausting!! The good news here as I see it is that I’m examining my strengths and weaknesses. Again I must state that I am program agnostic however, the 12 step program has a very immaculate way of describing this in the terms of “taking inventory” and “defects of character”. My personal experience is that it is all too easy to get lost in the negatives when taking such an intensive look at myself and with my new goal of reconstruction I decided to focus on the positive aspects and try and narrow what has become a 2 page list of sometimes incoherent ramblings down to a simple sentence.

I am a flexible individual who is highly energetic, driven, curious, and capable of attacking new challenges while maintaining a high degree of integrity, honesty, and open communication.

That simple statement took me hours to come up with, and I am seriously considering writing it on my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker much like I used to write my to do list when I first started my career in IT. My point for this whole long explanation of my history with ADHD and self-medication is that self-medication in itself is not always bad; it is the way in which we choose to self-medicate that defines the results.

To further explain my theory on this I would like to describe my new methods of working with my so called “disorder”. With my reconstruction I have really put a lot more effort on living a healthier lifestyle, my sleeping habits, my morning routines, the food I eat, beverages I consume, my activity as a whole. In the past I kept myself so busy with my drive that I often forgot to take care of myself, I have found that changing this dynamic has helped me to become a lot more rational and has opened a window of opportunity for me to learn a better way to control my shifting of focus.

While this method of self-management is new to me, I can attest that even in these early stages I feel much more centered, focused, at peace with my history, and overall I am happy with the direction I am going. It has been a long time since I could say that! And yes I am still driven, excitable, inquisitive, energetic, and scatterbrained at times but I am back to learning how to harness those traits rather than shutting them out with alcohol. Since beginning this journey of attempting to write a positive article for each day I have noticed an overall general calm about myself, I’ve experienced no cravings, no urges, not even a thought of my affliction as it relates to today or tomorrow.

My hope is that I can maintain this forward progress and become a better human being I owe it to myself as well as my family and friends; and I would like to think that maybe, just maybe my smattering of words into the internet might help someone else.

Take it out of park,

~Joe

The Positive Benefits of Creation

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One of the authors hobbies, Gummy art.

Why not take action to improve yourself?

Creating something, whether baking a cake or building a table, even snapping together a Lego set or creating a blog entry can become an incredibly cathartic process of not just focus and self-reflection but also discovery of one’s own capabilities. Often it can also serve as a distraction or outlet from a myriad of problems we encounter through life be it anger, depression, addiction (urges and cravings), and of course boredom.

Smart Recovery © calls this a form of VACI or Vitally Absorbing Creative Interest and it is recommended in point 4 of the program “Living a Balance Life”. While it is very true that engaging in a hobby or activity (which can be anything ranging from hiking to simply meditating) is not just beneficial but in many cases required to achieving life balance; I would like to suggest that activities that produce some sort of output can be useful in all stages of life (or to frame within SMART© Point 2 “Coping With Urges” and Point 3 “Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors”). In the interest of not seeming to focused on one single program I will also point out that many 12 step sponsors will recommend a sponsee perform a task when called about an urge or craving.

This translates farther than addiction though; often with scenarios of high anxiety, depression, even avoiding or reducing the extent of dementia, or Alzheimer’s symptoms. The positive effects of a hobby are far reaching in that it exercises the mind, helps to achieve focus, generates a sense of accomplishment and, in the case of creating something it can also produce income or a gift for someone else.

Recently my personal experience has been that when I have an urge come on I can manage it very quickly and easily by engaging in one of my favorite “creational” hobbies, cooking. Often by the time I assemble all the necessary pots and pans and utensils and whatever ingredients I will need the urge has disappeared. Sometimes instead of cooking I will start a wood working project or fiddle with any manner of craft from stained glass, building a camp stove out of a coffee can, photography, and yes even this blog.

The articles for this blog is not only a very good example of a creational hobby but also in my opinion a very timely and excellent demonstration of how effective such things can be on changing overall attitude and improving well-being. I started this blog approximately three days ago, this is the fourth day and I have already noticed a major shift in my overall attitude to the positive. I find it easier to engage in conversations with a much more upbeat and relaxed tone, and shrug off comments that I would ordinarily respond to with argument or insult. I haven’t had an urge or even so much as a slight craving in the last two days, and my sleep has been better than I can ever remember throughout my adult life.

Here where I am at in Colorado, I impatiently await the days I can go out with my cameras and snap pictures of whatever strikes me in hopes for those few great shots that I may print and frame as gifts for friends and family. I cook a meal once a week for my much younger cousin who is living on his own for the first time a few blocks away. These creational hobbies not only provide me joy and absorb time that I might have normally spent looming in depression, but they also bring along a secondary feel good when I do something for someone else just because.

I invite anybody reading this to take a good look at what creational hobbies might become a useful tool in adjusting attitude and lifestyle to a more positive and productive meaning.

Happy creating,

~Joe

Positivity in a negative time

The miracles of positive thinking combined with hard work

 

The last few months for me have been a time of serious and intense self-examination, a lot of reflection on the past and present, and probably not enough focus on the future. The last few weeks this all changed as I began to realize that my history is filled with just as many positive successes and improvements as it is with negative actions and self-destruction. I began to shift my focus from regret and shame about my past to an energetic hope and curiosity for today and the future.

Why is this shift relevant to my self-discovery in isolation? Quite simply I had an “Aha!” moment wherein I realized that despite possessing no more than a general education diploma, and having no formal education I was able to work my way to a top-level information technology position, start and eventually sell a successful IT services corporation, become a respected marine plankton researcher, establish a high level of expertise in accounting, finance, business development, and even teach myself macro photography. I did all this by keeping an attitude of “I can” and a willingness to work as hard as possible as often as possible on what “I can” do.

Of course, I also managed to self-destruct and lose all the wonderful benefits of these things in a short amount of time. Worse yet, each time I would try and rebuild I would dwell on my regrets and the negative actions and consequences from the past enabling myself to continue an inescapable loop of self-degrading negativity. I spent years in this loop laying a foundation to rebuild and then destroying it just as it was almost ready to support whatever structure I so chose. The idea of “almost” turned into something of a religious action, a self-destructive ceremony to celebrate the doctrine that I am not worth the success. This entire frame of thought is absolutely garbage in its entirety; an ironic thought given that my dream job as a child was to be a garbage man and “take out the trash”.

The thought that one can look at any positive action during a time that appeared to be primarily negative or simply stagnant and turn that positive action into a marketable experience becomes incredibly transformative when practiced.

Cue the aha moment, maybe if I stop living in regret and find the next thing that I want to accomplish I can break this loop. I have always enjoyed cooking, what some people consider tedious such as the act of chopping vegetables and other prep work has always been a form of working meditation for me. I have through practice established the skill of technical writing, I journal daily for myself to get my thoughts and ideas on paper though I rarely go back and read them.

Perhaps I should pursue the areas of culinary arts and amateur journalism; the absolute worst case is that I am unable to enter either field and so long as I remain positive I can remedy that situation by finding yet another new endeavor. The thought that one can look at any positive action during a time that appeared to be primarily negative or simply stagnant and turn that positive action into a marketable experience becomes incredibly transformative when practiced.

So given these positive thoughts, and a path forward the second part of my “little plan” begins; the part where I have to put in the work.  Closing the YouTube video of whatever political stream I was watching and coming here to build this site and begin my work.  Learning journalism the hard won way that I learned everything else with, that of trial and error.  I hope that this first musing (I hesitate to call it an article) not only invokes some sort of positive thoughts for you, but also invites constructive criticism to help me “find my way” in this new version of myself.

Thank you,

~Joe