Digging in, Digging out

Something *had* to give, and finally it did

I blogged a while ago about pulling myself out of a deep depression, sadly it did not last very long and I’ve found myself less than apt to do much.  Life has a way of being hard for everyone not just me and I must accept that.  In fact, it should be stated that I have been extremely blessed in life.  I have an extremely supportive family despite how poorly I have behaved both in the past and recently.  I have food in my belly and a roof over my head.

Stewing in all we’ve done wrong, not being able to shut our brains off and only catching sleep a half hour at a time becomes maddening

Not having motivation to do much is incredibly emotionally painful for those of us who have always maintained an active lifestyle.  Stewing in all we’ve done wrong, not being able to shut our brains off and only catching sleep a half hour at a time becomes maddening.  I found myself avoiding everyone in particular my family.  Something had to give.

 It’s a sad reality that when one plays a game against the self, he/she loses in either case

I used to suffer light depressive periods which are fairly normal for most human beings.  I never really understood a long term debilitating type of depression until now.  Short periods of pulling out and actually accomplishing small tasks such as cooking a meal or sweeping the floor, even smoking a cigarette (I don’t smoke inside) become major wins in life.  The frustration seems to feed on itself- depression keeps me from doing things, thinking about the things I haven’t done creates more depression.  It’s a sad reality that when one plays a game against the self, he/she loses in either case.

So I’ve been working here and there as a day laborer, which has paid me just enough to pay for the gas and cheap lunches with little left for living.  Yesterday (Sunday) I was prepping for a good nights sleep as the day labor game requires me to show up at 5:30 AM in the “hopes” of getting work among the 100 other people.  I received a text from a friend of a friend of a friend asking if I would swing by to talk about a job.  A job in a career field I have been in before: hardwood flooring!

This was a small lead I got about a week and a half ago, I used to do gymnasium floor installation about 20 years ago and not only did I enjoy it but I was also quite good at the work.  And so I went and met with the man, I start tomorrow (Tuesday) morning!  Good work, full time, good pay!  I decided that today I was not going to shovel dirt for no money and instead prep lunches for the week and practice a little self care.

For the first time in months I used my camera to take some macro shots of wildflowers, I folded laundry, I vacuumed, organized some things.  I’m in a good mood and am hopeful that this time around I wont slip back again.  Tomorrow morning I go back to a career I truly enjoyed decades ago and I’m incredibly excited.  I am taking today to go through and do a personal inventory of all the ways in which blessings and luck have fallen on me through my life.  No negatives, just the long list of gratitude’s.

And I might even call my mother

~J

Pulling Myself Out Of The Brink

Depression and wasted time go hand in hand, I’ve lost a week and all without taking a drink.

So over the last week a lot has changed, inside and out.  Just the last two days I’ve found myself struggling to force myself to do things, to get up and be a human.  Last Wednesday I went to take an early afternoon nap and found myself living in my bed for days.  I did not sleep much as I still have issues sleeping but I did not move.  I moved just enough to use the restroom and eat now and then.  All I did was lie in bed and consider how much I hated myself.

This obviously was not good, I could blame the overcast clouds or weather but honestly it was my own failure that wasted a week.  I had things that I committed to that I failed to do, this ended up pushing me into a spiral hating myself for hating myself and failing.  Examining this is difficult this evening but I need to avoid going through the same thing again.  The bad news is that it happened, the good news is that through all of it I did not drink!  I locked myself in my apartment and lived in my bed for a week, not good either way.

So yesterday morning I had enough, perhaps its because I had a full nights rest for the first time in months or maybe I was just done.  I went to meet a friend of a friend for work and got a line on a hardwood installation job (I used to install gymnasium flooring) and I am today still patiently awaiting the business owner to return from the rodeo he performed at over the holiday weekend so I can nail some flooring!  I planted seeds, some veggies for our complex out in the yard.  I shredded potatoes for hash browns, swept, mopped, vacuumed, and cleaned.

Then I got a phone call from a friend, his gym was doing an exhibition for a no kill rescue (I forget the name exactly and am waiting for pics and info but I think it was DMK).  I’ve spent years practicing eskrima and they wanted to know if I could do a quick 5-10 minute routine, I did a performance of a Sinawali “Heaven Six” which are the basic 6 movements in stick fighting.  Then of course I entered the ring and proceeded to get my ass beat by a friend all in the name of getting pooches adopted.

The last time I was in a ring was probably 17 years ago, it was interesting and yes I spent today nursing wounds and sore.  My pooch, a boxer named Charlie was adopted that evening!  In fact there were 8 of us doing the exhibition each sponsoring a pooch and all 8 pooches were adopted as of this evening!!  I’ve gotten used to deleting emails as most of it’s noise but today I got one that just made me smile.  Three days ago I was a bedridden emotional mess, today I can say I’m actually somewhat happy.  I’ll try and post our group photo as soon as I can get my hands on it, 8 roughnecks in sparring gear with 8 poochies of all sorts.  (it was all I could do not to bring the blue heeler home).

Tonight I hope to sleep, and tomorrow morning a phone call to see if I can go nail some flooring.  I miss the activity and the work but to walk into a massive room with a concrete floor one day and 3-4 days later to walk out of the same room with a wood floor is an amazing feeling.  I’ve got a lot of calls to make and apologies to give out but I will live, and hopefully never find myself in the proverbial “pit of despair” again.

Adopt a shelter pet!!

~J

Getting it Done and Finding Old Memories

Going through boxes during a move can be interesting.

Sorry for the late post today, I’ve been quite busy here going through boxes and boxes and yes… more boxes of stuff in preparation for my new apartment on the first. I did have my mother who is still in town helping which made things go a lot faster but there were some highs and lows when opening certain boxes. We got a late start, leaving to get our first load from the storage unit just a bit after noon. We did manage to do two loads in total with each one lining the garage in three rows and two rows respectively.   Working through till around 8 PM we finally finished sorting and re-packing not just both loads but a good bulk of kitchen items that I already had here.

What I find interesting is how my attitude constantly changed, I will fully admit to being a complete moody prick today. I can make up plenty of excuses for my changing attitude, from getting organized only to have mom move a box on me trying to help to not getting much sleep but those are just surface avoidance tactics. Excuses are a waste of effort for me anymore, I try not to make them and still end up doing it anyways out of habit and sometimes shame or guilt. Sucks to step out of myself and watch “me” sometimes, I don’t always like myself.

I turned into a rubber ball bouncing from highs and lows with so much as a glance at a random nick knack changing my course.

The reality is, opening each box was a moment of holding my breath. Not knowing what I would find and what memories would spark was the worst, harder than dealing with the memories most times. I came across a good number of things that fired up old emotions good and bad and with the added anxiety of the unknown.  I turned into a rubber ball bouncing from highs and lows with so much as a glance at a random nick knack changing my course. Wow, I’m absolutely exhausted mentally this evening!

All in, it was still a successful day, we went through about 30 boxes / tubs and a few tackle boxes that I use to organize random items. I’m quite pleased, I managed to thin out a lot of items to give away, garbage, or sell piles emptying a total of 14 boxes a rolling bin, a small tackle box, and a medium tackle box. These empties will come in handy for my next few runs between now and the first and I should have a smooth move overall.

I’m okay with that, I’m comfortable and safe here right now and those are good things to be.

Depending on the job situation I may end up having to stay here a few extra days before I can get my key and move my bed in.  I’m okay with that, I’m comfortable and safe here right now and those are good things to be. Besides, staying a day or two will give me the opportunity to help my grandparents settle in.

Tomorrow I think we will try another load if there is time, as well as get the donate pile dropped off and god, laundry, and everything else. Mom leaves Tuesday so we’re trying to capitalize on as much time as we can. We also plan to meet my love for lunch tomorrow and I am wholly looking forward to spending some time albeit short with her.

*Treasure*

I’ve kept every card my wife has ever given me, and found the box that I kept them in when we lived together, this made me smile and honestly tear up a little. I came across my father’s paperwork that he left behind, his arborist certification, etc. this was slightly stressful as he died from alcoholism while I was in my first rehab. I came across many photo books, one of my beloved Akita who passed several years ago; her ashes sit in a small urn underneath a beautiful tile made in her likeness in the back corner of this yard that I will soon see sold (I will be taking urn and tile with me). There were many emotional treasures I found, along with a penny and a Starbucks gift card with $35 on it!!!

I suppose over time these emotions will stabilize, I cannot honestly say I am enjoying feeling so much but I cannot say that I am hating it either. Life is odd sometimes, I can only hope to keep myself from being so moody in the future and work to become a better person that provides hope, support, and love to those around me most notably my love K. and my family.

Feel your emotions but don’t let them control you,

~Joe

 

Letting Go in a Positive Way

There is a difference between memories and physical objects

I love my grandparent’s home, I grew up here I have memories here. My grandfather built me a clubhouse in back, I used to climb a plumb tree and pick gooseberries and raspberries to eat on the spot. I remember my grandmother used to pick me fresh strawberries from the garden when I would stay the night and I would sit and dip them in a bowl of sugar to eat in the evenings before bedtime. I used to use the crawlspace under the stairs as a clubhouse, in fact “no girls allowed” is still scrawled on the little wooden doors. I remember watching Sesame Street on the color TV, one of those giant cabinet deals that must have weighed a thousand pounds!

I know this neighborhood, I listen to Revelry in the morning and taps in the evening from the nearby army base. I can hear the coal trains on distant tracks, I love this home. My grandfather always wanted a champion yard, it’s one of the best in the neighborhood and has been as long as I can remember. When I was in my late teens I moved in to get a jump start on a new life and tonight I sleep in the same room and the same bed as I did then.

Now word is they signed a year lease on a place in Arizona where they have been wintering the last two years. I think it is best for them, much better for their health as well as mobility as it’s a somewhat assisted living place. So, it’s inevitable the house here will go up for sale sometime in the future. I know they are stressed about telling me even though I already know as they are well aware of my attachment to the home. In all reality yes, I will be sad however this is the best thing for my beloved grandparents and I support that above any brick and mortar “thing”.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of “letting go” lately, today we moved all my belongings out of the home I shared with my wife for over a decade. Today was very emotional and between pondering this post and pacing the house aimlessly I’ve been stress cooking. Cooking has been a solid fall back for me to keep my mind off things, currently I am working on a soup for tomorrow with various beans, fresh veggies, and pan seared pork seasoned with turmeric, garlic, rosemary, and a little bit of Portuguese sausage seasoning. Unfortunately, now I am at an impasse waiting for the beans to soften, boil and soak… boil and soak… repeat.

It’s been an emotional week for me, and I need to remember to keep a positive mindset. My mother is in town and we have done well at mutual support. I also have an excellent support system in place by way of my online community at HipChat, everyone there has been nothing short of a god send for my sanity and most importantly my sobriety. So today I am going to re-frame, my life is in a reconstruction phase (go figure the title of this blog) and I have some flexibility in how I move myself forward. I can focus on the positive and create a better me and that is what I choose to do today.

The house going up for sale? I’ll probably get furniture and *hopefully* kitchen stuff for my new apartment. My grandparents moving out of state permanently? I can always visit, and I know they will have help when they need it from the place they are moving to. Moving all my things? Well, I need to go through them it’s an opportunity to clear out all the junk I’ve been dragging around. I will soon have a place where I can sit and not be bothered, a place of my own again. And it’s dog friendly so when things stable out I foresee a pooches in my near future!

I’m off to find something to cook,

~Joe

Happy Easter! A Day for Rebirth.

If you do not celebrate Easter, I guess happy Sunday. I’m no longer exactly religious but I do consider myself spiritual.  The ideals surrounding Easter itself have always been interesting to me.

It’s interesting to think that Easter is about the “Resurrection”, in spiritual terms “rebirth”,”regrowth”, “new life”. Much like the Phoenix rising, there are many stories and spiritual mentalities based around the theories of destruction and reconstruction.

Looking at this time in my life I myself am experiencing my own sort of reconstruction phase. My destruction can simply be explained as self-destruction via alcoholism. I could probably write books delving into the why’s and how’s pertaining to burying my old self however, this is a positivity blog. I instead will focus on my reconstruction and forward progress into what I hopefully believe is going to be a better life overall.

So, as I sit here in quiet meditation thinking (and writing) about my current reconstruction I begin to mull over the list of major changes that I have been making over just the last few weeks and will be working on over the next few weeks. It may seem short sighted at first, but I believe I cannot fully move forward long term unless I take a serious look at the short term. So, short term this is what’s been happening:

  • Currently attempting new career tracks that prioritize passions over pay
  • Focusing more heavily on my peers and friends within the sober community to be a source of positivity, both for myself and others
  • Obtaining a new place to live as that I may establish a space of my own
  • Owning up to some of the past characteristics so that I may move forward unabated
  • Maintaining a stricter routine so that I can plan and prepare more effectively
  • Trying to focus more on positive mental attitude regardless of how I feel emotionally
  • Ahh yes, staying SOBER

What can set me apart during this phase of my life is how I maintain my positive attitude and forward momentum.

Some of these are not small tasks, some are quite simple. At the core of reconstruction, the largest requirement is that I put in my best effort. I am certain to stumble now and then and run into hurdles but this is an unavoidable constant for any living being and in this way, I am not so special. What can set me apart during this phase of my life is how I maintain my positive attitude and forward momentum.

And thus, while I do not consider myself a devout Christian or Catholic I cannot deny the power of resurrection. I am not of the caliber that is spoken of in religious texts of course however, I can see on a macro scale the energy and enlightenment involved in the re-creation of one’s self. This gives me an interesting topic to meditate on throughout this day.

Regardless of religious affinity, I urge everyone reading this to take some time and meditate on the ideas of rebirth and the fortitude that we all posses.

~Joe

Fast Friday 

I can honestly say that I have an amazingly supportive family.  My mother came in from California last night to help with my transition!

Needless to say we defied our own expectations today!

I had already prepared an amazing ham and bean soup so once she hit Denver I pulled it out of the fridge and plopped the pot on the stove.  We sat and had soup followed by cake that I had baked earlier in the week thinking “we’ll get a little done tomorrow”.  Needless to say we defied our own expectations today!

I have a morning routine: up at 5:30, start coffee, get paper, bathroom, drink coffee read a bit of paper, then start breakfast.  She grabbed her first cup while I was apparently in the bathroom and went back downstairs.  By the time she came back up I was reading while eating 3 breakfast burritos she apparently thought of going out for breakfast.  I eat a lot so okay lol.

Anyhow I’ll spare you more boring morning details.  Today we managed breakfast, picking up all the household supplies I will need along with bedding, dishes, silverware, glassware, a vacuum, mop, broom, condiments, and a few other things.

Then off to show mom the apartment, since I’m taking over a lease the current tenant was more than happy to oblige.  Lunch, then get storage unit just down the street for transition.  

More cake!

Back home, price truck and moving labor. More cake!  And now I start a load of laundry before I plan my next cooking idea.

It’s not even 5 PM yet!  And while we’re both a touch tired it’s not bad! And I still have cake.

Drive on,

~Joe 

Life does get better if you work!

Exciting past 24 hours!

So as I type this I am chomping on a particularly darn good egg sandwich (I love my toaster with the egg poacher sidecar) and waiting for another exciting moment.

Let me rewind, in my last post I mentioned that I was looking forward to obtaining a new apartment as well as hopefully a new career in woodworking.  Later yesterday I received word…. the apartment went through!!!  Come the first I will have my own little space in the world for the first time in a long time, I almost couldn’t sleep I was so excited!  While it was slightly difficult to wait patiently to find out though I made it through.

I’m not going to say wish me luck, I’m going to say wish me positivity!

So fast forward this morning, I set my alarm for 6:30 and popped  out of bed at 5:00 with sheer excitement.  In less than an hour I will take to the road on my way to interview for this woodworking position.  I am currently well dressed wearing one of my best shirts and my Italian silk vest and I’m absolutely pumped.  I have a sneaking suspicion that if I maintain a positive attitude this morning I can clinch this thing.

I’m not going to say wish me luck, I’m going to say wish me positivity!  If there is anything that is going to get me this position it’s going to be a positive attitude, confidence, and honesty during my interview.  Very little “just happens” we have to be the catalyst and make things happen.  I will update you on how it goes later.

Be the catalyst to change for the better,

~Joe

When life gives you lemons, take em free stuff is always cool!

Staying positive on a semi bad day

This morning was a mix of lemons and sugar I must say, I currently have two big things in life I am trying to accomplish:

The first is that of a career change, finding a job is tough nowadays especially when changing careers. I’ve spent the last 21 years in the tech industry which on my resume reads to other industry HR as “He won’t stick around long as he’s overqualified”. Holy hell I’m sick of being considered overqualified for different industries just because I’m highly qualified in a separate area. On a separate note, just dealing with small business owners schedules puts me in a waiting game and I hate uncertainty.

Today I was supposed to have an interview with a local wood shop which I have been incredibly excited for. Woodworking has always been one of my favorite hobbies, my grandfather and great grandfather were both master carpenters I collect hand tools I absolutely love it. This morning I got a call to reschedule the interview as the owner had to do an emergency delivery today.

I really want this job!

On a positive note the call went very well and I was able to express my ability to “roll with the punches” to the owner of a small family run business that requires everyone involved to be flexible. So, the lemon is that I need to wait, the sugar is that I had the chance to exhibit my flexibility. I really want this job!

The second is that I am looking for a place to live, I don’t require much just a little space of my own that is affordable. I’ve found a little apartment in a 4 plex on the lower west side of town which is run down but quiet and very nice with trails and convenient access to the rest of the city. Nice and central which for me is a big plus. I’ve been waiting on the property management company who seems to be lagging.

The downside is waiting once again last night I put in my application so that they can run my background check. I’m not concerned about the check so much as aside from an auto accident recently I haven’t had any trouble with the law. In fact, I used to hold a clearance, it’s just the waiting game that is driving me insane. The good news is that just a few hours ago they contacted me for a copy of my driver’s license which tells me something is going on.

So today has been a mixed bag, I’m still hopeful and continuing to look for other open positions to apply for as well as other places to live. Life doesn’t stand still because someone else is dragging feet. I’m not going to let it bother me today and I am not going to let it cause me to drink today. In fact, I am working on firing off my resume to other places and peeking at rentals all around town. I’m going to spend the next few hours doing this and then I plan to spend some time with another passion of mine. I am going to spend some time in the kitchen cooking something, no idea what yet but it’ll come to me!

Life is tough sometimes but we can always learn from our mistakes and there is often always an alternative option or activity to cope. Someone once told me “When life gives you lemons, take them free stuff is always cool” hence the title of this article. Today I’ve got a lot of free stuff, I’m going to take it and see what I can do with it.

Pucker up folks,

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