An interesting view…

So bear with me I’m posting from my phone, I sit surrounded by boxes of clothing and paperwork and trinkets sorting through and throwing away and building massive give away piles.

Sometimes something hits me, remembering a past that seems now long ago or a person even a dog that I lost along the way.  What of this do I keep and what to let go?  How many more pictures can I hang before I run out of wall?

On the one hand shedding some of this is incredibly freeing but on the other I miss a lot of the past.  I will grapple with this most likely for the rest of my life but it’s nice to know I have a few things to reflect and remember over.

Years ago in October I had a mentor pass away in a boating accident, I came across the news clipping last night along with custom tee shirts a friend made with his picture and the word “hero”, I came across a tee shirt a dear friend gave me with nothing but a picture of a chair on it.  So many things I drag around and yes I suppose it’s time to let some go.

My precious Akita’s ashes still sit by my bedside the dog I worshipped (she was amazing) various cards from the love of my life and stuffed animals, etc from my K that I hold dear.  Pictures and even funeral programs it has been an adventure.

I have charechatures from 8 years old on to a more recent 25 ish (well not all that recent I guess).  Box stamps from a former employer, hats, pens and notepads, all manner of random shit that I think we all tend to drag around.

My question is such, do I desperately cling to these pasts or move on?  Do I do a combination of both?

I think that in the coming days I might actually finally spread my pups ashes and play guitar in honor of my lost mentor.  I would view these as the best way to honor both. And my beloved Soja pup will have a bag of haribo gummy bears to keep her company (she loved gummy bears).

I will sort my paperwork and keep that which is truly dear (I have a happy one month anniversary card still) and the rest who knows.

The interesting thought is that I have gone through much of my life absolutely blind to the blessings I have been given through those around me.  My family my K my pup and many friends and customers.  

I had a good run but I don’t think I’m ready to give up yet!

Miss sojas stone
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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

Remembering the Best Parts

Sometimes I find reminders of the good in my past

There was no internet, no “I” devices

Yesterday while I was cooking lunch I heard an awful loud and rumbling noise outside, I looked out the window to spot a street sweeper passing by. It has been more than 25 years since I have seen a street sweeper in a residential area and I had a little chuckle over that. I did how ever have a spat of disappointment when I noticed the sweeper was using nylon brushes. I remembered fondly as a child riding my bicycle or walking with friends or family collecting whatever “junk” I could find. The metal street sweeper blades were the top echelon of “junk” one could collect.

There was no internet, no “I” devices, just baseball, bicycles, fishing, club houses, and of course junk collecting and trading. We used to keep our junk in tackle boxes or coffee cans, whatever we could put it in! I would collect all manner of nails, bolts, pill bugs (roly-poly bugs), strange parts and pieces of whatever was strewn along the side of the road or in the fields. One had a sense of accomplishment when looking through all the fun “stuff” collected over time.

Realizing I was lost in this thought and my pasta sauce was about to burn I ran back to the kitchen and finished my lunch with a sense of calm serenity. I had a kind of solemn happiness thinking about how I had so many good moments as a child. Throughout my adult life and my battle with alcoholism in particular I have been conditioned to focus on the negative aspects of my past and present. The idea of working with past trauma, and accepting past mistakes is beneficial I understand however, I don’t really recall any situations in counseling or meetings where past positives were a focus.

There are a number of therapy methods centered around positivity such as focusing on daily gratitude and such but most therapy focused on the past (that I know of) seems to be centered solely on the negative. I’m not discrediting any of the methods by any means it is just something I’ve noticed. In any case I will say that gratitude is a good thing and I should probably start working on that more myself! Back to my original thoughts though!

The image that comes to mind is from 2001 A Space Odyssey; Dave removing the “memories” from HAL “Daisy Daisy….” It’s as if Dave is in my head moving the memories around!

In the short time between what I affectionately call “the clean street incident” and the time of this writing I have experienced numerous moments of happy reflection on good times of my childhood! This experience has been wonderful in helping me to continue my momentum of maintaining a positive attitude. I’ve found myself remembering moments long forgotten, almost as if some unseen force has changed the tape in my head. The image that comes to mind is from 2001 A Space Odyssey; Dave removing the “memories” from HAL “Daisy Daisy….” It’s as if Dave is in my head moving the memories around! Lucky for me his goal isn’t the same as it was with HAL, I don’t feel like he’s shutting me down. I think he might be trying to help me organize my storage space.

So for today I think I am going to relish in these good thoughts and maybe jot down some experiences as I remember them to reflect on in times of negativity. I wonder now how different my life would be if I had focused on the positive experiences rather than the negative long ago. Perhaps I should not even wonder this, what’s done is done! Today and tomorrow are what matter most, I should get my priorities straight!

Remember the best,

~Joe

 

Cleaning House

Realizing How Much Baggage I Carry

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Sometimes it’s good to take out the trash!

Like most people during a transitional period I have been recently going through my possessions, boxes and tubs of things I have pack ratted away over a period of time. Granted not all of my stuff is with me and is stored at another location and I must wait to go through that, I am still able to go through what I do have with me. I started this process on a whim as something to pass the days as I wait to hear back from potential employers and it’s becoming an incredible experience thus far.

I’ve always had two habits when it comes to “stuff”:

  1. I collect it
  2. I randomly jam it in tubs and boxes and forget about it

 

 

Sometimes I’ll need something and start going through tub after tub looking for what I needed (often never finding it) and pulling out other trinkets and baubles along the way to mess with “later”. This cycle results in things lying around in stacks until eventually I shift it to…. You guessed it another tub, hah!!! Going through every so often and actually discarding items that I do not, and will not ever need is one thing. Going through and realizing that the cost of keeping something around that I may need sometime in the distant future is a whole new ballgame altogether!

our emotional well-being is often impacted negatively by clutter, disorganization, confusion, and the sense of being overwhelmed when trying to clean up

I suppose I should explain what I am intending to relay when I mention the word cost; from my experience in various warehouse and business settings I have come to learn that inventory has costs that are not directly tied to the purchase price of an item. These costs are the time to move items from one shelf to another, the time spent finding an item, and of course the cost of space where the item resides. Add to those an emotional cost that is often connected to the negative aspects of clutter and disorganization as it relates to personal possessions. Quite simply, our emotional well-being is often impacted negatively by clutter, disorganization, confusion, and the sense of being overwhelmed when trying to clean up.

Initially I had no idea where to start, the first tub had me pulling things out willy-nilly thinking “wow I forgot about this!!” and slipping into my cycle of pulling things out only to create more clutter and disorganization. Eventually I started looking at the items I had spread out over the floor; I stood up and grabbed a trash bag. Quietly and thoughtfully taking each item and focusing my thoughts on the cost of each item and how important it really was to me. As I began judging each item carefully and deciding whether to keep it, throw it away, or give it away things slowly began to change for me emotionally.

I began to feel a strange freedom from a lot of possessions that ordinarily I would never part with. I began to feel more at peace in my surroundings and lighter overall. The idea that when I am done I will know what I have and where it is has overcome my annoyance with how time consuming and tedious this process has become in comparison to my original “tub stuffing” method.   I will wholeheartedly admit however, I had to force myself the first few hours to think slowly and carefully about each item and what to do with it and this was no easy task at first.

I’ve found an amazing goldmine of items (some still sealed in the box!) that I will be in need of in a couple of months when I make my move to a new home. I also managed to consolidate and empty two tubs within just half a day! Two tubs!! Overall I haven’t put much of a dent in all of the stuff I have collected throughout my adult life but I have made a good dent in the possessions that I have with me during this transition. I have also found a number of items I didn’t realize I had that I will need soon thus avoiding additional unnecessary cost, and of course a few items of great emotional value to put in my little treasure boxes (I use cigar boxes for my treasures).

I feel featherweight right now emotionally, light and agile, no longer encumbered

Today’s start was a good one and I hope to keep the momentum, I didn’t think it would feel so good and expected it to be more of a tedious task that I would drop only an hour or so in. I’m actually excited to go and get a few more tubs and continue the process, it’s been rewarding knowing I can let go of a lot of things I no longer need to drag around. Almost like dumping emotional baggage at times! I feel featherweight right now emotionally, light and agile, no longer encumbered by so much stuff.

Chang Tsu once told of a story about a deaf, mute man whom many went to see to learn. (I’m going to paraphrase this as I do not remember the actual text) The student was confused as to how such a man could be so sought a teacher to which Chang Tsu replied “heaven and earth could collapse and he will not be moved, to this man losing his speech and awareness of trivial external things is like throwing away so much dirt”. I used to try and wrap my head around this thought and now I think I might have a little bit more understanding.

It’s invigorating to realize that I can part with things I no longer need or want, and to know that if I need or want something I still have the ability to put in the efforts to achieve should I simply decide to. Today was a good day!

Happy housecleaning,

~Joe