At the heart of Dr. Gabon Mate’s life work is the following question: “The question is never “Why the addiction?” but “Why the pain?” The research literature is unequivocal: most hard-core substance abusers come from abusive homes.” “Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to […]
Wow, it’s been 3 years since my last posting. Dang! And, its been nearly three years since I last logged on. Things have changed here, there are many cool looking sites now. I like it!
I am grateful to be sober! I am connected and enjoying life in the present. I use to be the biggest skeptic about that possibility. I want to write a post and share the progression of my journey. Hope to soon. In the meantime, thought I’d cut and paste a couple of responses that I shared with other alcoholics that have just begun their sober journey:
[Less than 30 days, can it be so hard]
It’s damn hard…so be kind to yourself! What you’re doing is courageous. Look up the word Courage and stare at the descriptions for a while. Too many of us treat alcoholism as nothing more than the common cold. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Alcoholism is a fatal illness. I heard that before I got sober and I have watched the reality of that, over and over, for some time now.
Recovery does not happen alone, it can’t! “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. – Albert Einstein
Find a strategy that works for you to be in “face to face” contact with another alcoholic. Why go through something alone when someone else has already traveled that path. We need each other. It gets easier. Connection/love is everything!
[I’m a newly sober mom, looking for inspiration]
You’ll do great. Remember this…”every child deserves a sober parent!” The time your child is with you in life is fleeting. They grow up in a flash and leave your home. Get all of them that you can, when you can!
Alcohol was my solution. It worked for a long time, until it didn’t! Most people drink alcohol with impunity. But they drink for the enjoyment. We drank to numb out emotional pain.
[It’s been four days and nothing is happening]
We want it “RIGHT NOW”! We stop after years of drinking, drugging, or both, and we want everything fixed NOW! I get it. I certainly did too. Arresting your addiction is a monumental accomplishment. Less than 1 in 20 can achieve physical sobriety. If you have stopped, you have accomplished much. You have earned a ticket to the starting line, a new beginning! That ticket came at a great cost to you and your loved ones.
You are on a new journey now. A journey of discovery, recovery and connection. It was never about the addiction, that was your solution. It was always about the pain! The emotional pain that caused you to seek relief through forms of self-medication.
Hey, it’s going to take some time. And, recovery is not something that happens alone. Find your posse, your peeps and your recovery plan. We need the help of others, that’s fundamental. It may (will) get worse, before it gets better. You’re now moving forward in life without altering your state of consciousness. If you’re like most of us who have taken this step, there are things in your past that you would just as well avoid. Now its time to face them. It all gets better “EVENTUALLY”. I’ve not met one person in long-term recovery who regrets moving forward in life from that initial starting line. Heed the definition of courage. Involve yourself with others who have traveled the path before you. A better life awaits!
[How do I say no to a drink offer]
Say “No”. If you want to sound more polite, say “No, thank you”. Both responses are complete sentences. That’s it! There is no need to explain any further. If they persist (most don’t) and say “why not”, you can repeat “No, thank you” or you can say “I feel better when I don’t”. Then they’ll say, “uh, me too”, and go on talking about how they need to take more healthy steps.
[A writer with Bipolar]
You’re going to be just fine in life. You are reaching out and connecting through your talents.
Isolation isn’t healthy for anyone. Being aware of the problem puts us into the solution. One of my favorite people, Clinical Researcher and author Brene Brown, says “We are neurobiologically wired for connection”. Check out her TED Talk – The Power of Vulnerability. An all time TED Talk favorite with 33 million views.
I “have” Bipolar 1. I didn’t say that “I am” Bipolar 1 or “I’m Bipolar”. Big distinction between the two. Just like someone who’s living with a lifelong condition like diabetes doesn’t say “I’m diabetes”. Those that have diabetes go through the process of educating themselves, putting together a manage plan, and then following that plan daily so that they can lead a normal and productive life.
The disorder dimension of Bipolar is preventable. Deviate from my manage plan and I put myself at risk. Stick to my manage plan and I get to enjoy the gifts of having Bipolar – intelligence, creativity, empathy, resilience…and more!
Share your gifts with the world and do good things. Just as others do with the talents they’ve been given.
At two years into my sober journey, I had traveled to the zero point of my soul. I was so full of pain and self-induced suffering that I just stopped and sat down on the floor of my bedroom one day. I became paralyzed. The room felt too big, so I closed the door. That brought me no comfort. I went into the bathroom and closed the door. Still, no relief. So, I got into the shower. In great discomfort, I just dropped to my knees and curdle up into the upper left corner of the shower. It was just me, my tears, and my overwhelming thoughts of stopping the pain for good.
I have heard it said that you live your life forward and understand your life backwards. Makes sense. Hindsight is 20/20, right! Today, I can tell you that I was not alone in my shower six years ago.
I struggled most of my life with the concept of God. As far back as I can remember. Who is this all-knowing and almighty being! Someone that takes deep refuge in the clouds, watches over and protects you? Not buying that! Someone that is all around me that I just can’t see. Not buying that either. So how about just living in the mystery of not needing physical proof and just believing. Yeah, whatever! Maybe when things are going incredibly great. But…but…certainly not when things are going bad! Because then, I’m in charge!
Discomfort was my most comfortable state of being, growing up and well into adulthood. If the discomfort was too much, I eased that discomfort with alcohol. If I felt comfortable, I felt fearful. I never wanted to feel fear. I would always wait for the discomfort to return. But I would also use alcohol to ease that fear. You know, that’s what I believed I deserved…fear and discomfort. And damn it, I was in charge! Not any God. I would not be foolish enough to believe that someone could possibly run my life when things went bad.
Why did I not choose the long-term solution to my short-term problem that day on the floor of my shower. Looking back on that day today, it is clear to me that I was not alone. I remember passing thoughts about the collective souls of those who had passed, but stay in my thoughts, they were there. I also remember the collective souls of those who are living and were trying desperately to help me, they were there. It was my frightened but determined wife. It was my friends, who didn’t understand my pain, but cared about me and wanted to help me in any way possible, they were there. It was my children, all confused and not saying anything, they were there! And nature, the bright sun shining onto the shower floor. The song birds singing, there too!
Today, I am eight years into this sober journey. I am humbled. I am grateful. Happiness fills me daily. Everyday! “God is doing for me what I could not do for myself” (Quote from the Big Book of AA). Everyday! And, everyday, my faith continues to grow stronger. Everyday, the joy that I feel inside grows alongside my faith. And, everyday, I think less and less of my troubles and my needs, and more and more about helping others in need. My intentions become my actions to help others. Those that I can help.
Yes, I traveled to the zero point of my soul, figuratively driving that bus until it just stopped and shutdown. I realize that my seemingly control of everything and everyone was nothing but an illusion. There, beside me on that day was my God.
I know who I am today. I am enough! A husband, a father, a co-worker and a friend. And, I know who I am not today. Not God!
In the embedded YouTube video, Dr. Gabor Mate makes the assertion that one shouldn’t ask “why the addiction”, but instead ask “why the pain.”
Love, mother/child bonding, sex, vigorous exercise, spicy food, caffeine, nicotine, opiates and ethanol – all signal the chemical machine in our brain to produce dopamine, temporarily elevating the natural dopamine levels in our brain. Some, like nicotine, produce almost an instant and massive surge of dopamine, albeit short-lived. Whether it be through healthy or unhealthy methods, the opioid receptors in our brain and spinal column enjoy the higher levels of dopamine. “The increased dopamine sends a pleasure signal over and over. This feeling — and the craving to repeat it — help create addiction.” (Court JA; et al. Dopamine and nicotinic receptor binding and the levels of dopamine and homovanillic acid in human brain related to tobacco use. MRC Neurochemical Pathology Unit, UK. Neuroscience 1998 Nov; 87(1): 63-78.).
So why are some people prone to addiction while others are not? That is still unclear in the scientific community. However, there are strong indicators that have been researched and give varying degrees of plausibility.
As a boy, I lived in a constant hyper-vigilant state, never knowing when or where it might come from. I always had to be ready to move quickly. The hormone Adrenalin, on the ready to take flight. And the hormone cortisol, geared up to keep me moving. I believe that the elevated and sustained levels of cortisol in my system during those crucial brain development years (one to five) did its damage on the neuron endings (synapses) in my brain. The research that I’ve done supports my claim. Also see my post “How did this happen to me” for further explanation.
“Early childhood is a critical period in a child’s life that includes ages from birth to five years old. Although stress is a factor for the average human being, it can be a molding aspect in a young child’s life. Characteristics of stress include the outcomes that arise when people cannot manage internal or external difficulties. Internal stressors include physiological conditions such as hunger, pain, illness or fatigue. Other internal sources of stress consist of shyness in a child, emotions, gender, age and intellectual capacity. External stressors include separation from family, exposure to family conflict, abuse, divorce, a new home or school, illness and hospitalization, death of a loved one, poverty, natural disasters, and adults’ negative discipline techniques. Additional external stressors include prenatal drug exposure, such as maternal methamphetamine use, other maternal and paternal substance abuse, and maternal depression. A few stressors can be manageable for young children, but the effect of multiple stressors can be cumulative and significant. When stress builds up in early childhood, neurobiological factors are affected. In turn, hormone cortisol levels are uncontrollable and cannot be brought back to normal ranges.”
In this short 17 minute video, Dr. Gabor Mate speaks without mixing words about the association of Dopamine and addiction. This is a fascinating presentation by Dr. Mate.
(3. Poulsen, Marie K. “The Biological Context of Early Childhood Mental Health.” Preventive Medicine 583 Lecture. University of Southern California, Los Angeles. 8 Sept. 2011. Lecture.
4. Davies, Douglas. “Chapter 3: Risk and Protective Factors: The Child, The Family, and Community Contexts.” Child Development, A Practitioner’s Guide. 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press. Print.
5. Middlebrooks JS, Audage NC. The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health Across the Lifespan. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2008.
6. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2005). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper No. 3. Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu)
There is a gift from me to you at the end of this post. And there is also an honesty test. Scoring is pass/fail.
I have been sober for 2,118 days, 0 hours and 1 minute. Among the AAer’s that’s a “way to go, keep coming back”. Among the population at large that’s a “good job, 2118 days of healthy living, and, under their breadth…that’s 2118 days of not putting your life or someone else’s life in danger”. I celebrate both perspectives.
I have heard that success as a teacher has pretty much taught us all it can by the age of 30 – 32. Our teachers from that point on become emotional pain and suffering. Oh boy, the stark realities of adulthood.
In the 5 plus years that I’ve been sober, I have experienced 3 crippling depressions, all filled with a bountiful dose of anxiety. Was I comfortable in my own skin during those periods? Anything but! I walked around as on big human nerve ending. Through all of that I started to understand that sometimes the solution to the pain – is the pain. A valuable lesson learned during this last bout with the big black dog.
Pain and suffering can also be a motivator. Today, I find myself motivated to not take anymore self-inflicted ass kicking’s. I don’t want to burden my family by not being there in body, mind and spirit. I don’t want to burden my wife, who is busy with 3 teenagers, ailing parents and a challenging career. I want to take part in life and not withdraw into isolation.
So what action have I taken. Well, when I was struggling to make it through the day I focused on “one day at a time.” I often repeated “let go and let God”, don’t take resentments “live and let live”, “don’t think, do, no matter how difficult it may seem”. I forced myself to not isolate. I practiced being honest with myself and others. I stopped looking at myself in the mirror every 5 minutes, quick glances to see how depressed I looked and what might be visible to others. That, of course, would be total self-centeredness in full bloom. I listened to others that I trusted and I did what they said. I knew that my perception was off and that I was telling myself every possible thing that was bad and untrue. I went back to AA. I bought a new Big Book because I threw my last one out when I graduated myself from AA, the second of three times. And then I and started to read.
“Selfishness – self-centeredness. That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.
So our troubles, we think, are of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it will kill us!”
Excerpt taken from page 62 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Copyright 1939, 1955, 1976, 2001 by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. All rights reserved.
Pain and suffering motivated me to take action. I am grateful for that.
When I first got sober I went to 90 meetings in 90 days. I went to four, sometimes five AA meetings a week during my first two years of sobriety. Putting in the time in early sobriety gave me the foundation and the solution to address my recent troubles. I am now into the solution and humbled once again. I am happy and str living in the present.
OK, the honesty test. Did you go for the instant gratification, skip the post and go right to the gift?
The gift. Google ‘sobriety calculator’ and bookmark this useful tool.
Childhood trauma, in whatever form it takes, extinguishes one’s voice. As the soul fractures and paralysis prevails, an audible voice can no longer be heard. It becomes cast in fear, shame, confusion and a sense of loss. Now, weighted under undefinable conflict and bound by shame, the child marches on in life. A veritable time bomb, highly susceptible to substance abuse and a wide spectrum of mental illness, awaits the adult.
A lunar eclipse has begun and is visible in our atmosphere. I am going to watch this event because I love nature and I love the universe. I love the innocence and the vulnerability that nature embraces. It too, has no voice, only beauty, innocence and awe.
Here is what NASA says about this cosmic event . “A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth is directly between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s rays and casting a shadow on the moon. As the moon moves deeper and deeper into Earth’s shadow, the moon changes color before your very eyes, turning from gray to an orange or deep shade of red,” the NASA website said.
The description put forth by NASA sounds akin to the trauma and the ensuing shame that abandonment of the mind, body and soul experience during the act of abuse. Waxing poetically, the child could be likened to the moon in this instance.
I want to give an audible voice to childhood trauma and illuminate the devastating impact it has on the human soul. Who could possibly touch a child inappropriately if they knew, to any degree, what the long-term destructive impact most likely will be to that innocent child.
Our world is abuzz right now in conflict, watching the sexual abuse scandals unfold in two major college campuses. I can only imagine the gamut of emotions being felt by so many. Mulling over the actual physical act of violating an innocent child. Thinking about your own children, a relative, a neighborhood boy or girl walking past your house each morning with a smile. Maybe even the child that you once were.
The voice of childhood trauma has made an audible sound this past two months. Perhaps this might be the unifying force that reunites a fractured nation such as ours is at the present.
I believe that all human being’s yearn linkage and loyalty to a cause that defines us and gives us a sense of purpose. So, why not look into your own soul. Think about how you can help raise the tenor of the pitch, to a degree that we all can become more aware and act on what is often called “Our Nations Shame!”
Perhaps then we will mobilize as a nation, remove ourselves from partisan bickering and positioning that we all find disgusting, yet take part in, and we do something that is good for the soul.