Given all I’ve written about my recovery from addictive behavior, you’re probably wondering why I’ve dragged you back into this dark room. The simple answer is that my fight is far from over.
This post is the opening salvo of what will be a weekly series on the 12 Steps of Recovery and how they apply to me.
Since the start of the year I’ve been focusing more intently on the AA Big Book and how all the steps work. I’ve mentioned the steps many times here, but I’ve only touched the surface. As part of my own work on recovery, I need to go deeper. Much deeper.
There’s still so much misunderstanding of what addictive behavior is, what defines out-of-control behavior vs. simply enjoying something a little too much. I realized how much work was left on this score when an acquaintance wrote me the following message:
First, he questioned the short “about” blurb you see at the end of each post:
“Welcome to THE OCD DIARIES, the blog that kicks fear, anxiety, depression and addiction in the teeth. It’s written by Bill Brenner, a man who went through hell, saw the light and lived to tell about it.”
To that, he said:
With anxiety and depression I certainly understand, but when I think serious addictions I was thinking some sort of drug abuse – in fact heroin is what popped into my head. Alcohol also a possibility… but binge eating? Come on man. Everyone has a hard time knowing when to say when to junk food, Shit, I gotta throw it in the trash sometimes so I don’t eat it all.
The key line in that statement is that “Everyone has a hard time knowing when to say when.” Very true.
Everyone struggles with something.
Everyone struggles with relationships. Everyone looks for comfort in certain behaviors: Eating, drinking, smoking, sex, spending, Web surfing, music, exercise, mountain climbing, gum-chewing, TV.
Just about everyone struggles with the difference between having enough of the items I just listed and not knowing when it’s enough. People eat too much all the time and casually make note of it. People get drunk and the headache they wake up with the next morning tells them they went too far.
There’s a tight parallel when it comes to mental illness, the main focus of this blog. Everyone struggles with times of depression, anxiety, mental fatigue, personality conflicts. Those very things are what usually drives a person to addictive behavior. The mental struggles eat a hole in your soul and you spend much of your time trying to fill it with stuff.
It’s all part of being human. That’s why the readership of this blog keeps growing. Everyone struggles and relates to the cause and effect.
But when does addictive behavior become the stuff of evil — a cancer that takes you over body and soul until satisfying the itch becomes the priority over all else?
That’s where we try to separate the so-called normal people from the crazies. I say try because one person’s crazy is another person’s normal.
We all think we know the difference between normal and crazy. But most of the time, we don’t know shit.
I can only tell you where my sense of normal crossed over into insanity. I’ve told you in a million different ways in this blog already.
To me, the key to recovery is partly about identifying when a behavior makes life unmanageable. Not the typical idea of unmanageable, where a person might always be scattered, nervous, hyper or lazy, thus becoming difficult to be around.
No, I’m talking unmanageable in the sense that your life is like a car speeding out of control, where one tire is flat, the engine has run out of oil and the back bumper is hanging off and causing sparks as it drags on the ground. The vehicle is ready to fall apart, and yet it keeps going faster and faster.
The addictive behavior that does that to your life is the insidious devil whose head must be ripped off if you’re going to make it.
For me, clinical OCD has always been a driver of my addictive behavior. I had to bring the OCD to heel before I could even begin to deal with the addictions. The 12 Steps of Recovery are key to my ability to manage both.
I’ve broken my addictive behavior into categories that have more to do with what makes me insane than what is simply considered good or bad for you.
I love cigar smoke. Smoking is bad for you.
I love coffee. Some say that’s bad for you, though I don’t really believe it.
I love spending money on things. Who doesn’t? But spending too much can ruin you and those you love.
I love music. Some days I’d rather sit around listening to rock and roll than doing any number of other things I should be doing.
All of that can be considered addictive behavior. But binge eating, followed closely by alcohol and third by the prescription pills I used to take for back pain — those are the things I craved so badly that at one point I was willing to let everything else in life go to hell.
When you start neglecting the people and things you love most so you can scratch the itch, you got a real problem.
People blind themselves to the danger by thinking about addiction as simply drinking too much or shooting heroin. But you can get an out-of-control, soul-eating addiction to just about anything.
That’s the thing people fail to grasp, and I’ve tried using this blog to educate them.
But without a painfully deep dive into the steps, nobody will learn what they need to learn. And so I’m going in.
The posts in this weekly series will focus on one step at a time and how each one has come into play in my long struggle to fight off the demons. Some steps I’ll be able to tackle in single posts. Other steps will take two or three posts. This is a big-ass onion, and I’m not even close to peeling back all the layers.
Some days I don’t know where to begin.
But for this series I know where I’m going now. I started here, and there’s no turning back.