As of today, THE OCD DIARIES has a new home. Stop coming here and go instead to the new OCD DIARIES at theocddiaries.com.
I’ll keep this site up for a little while as everyone makes the transition.
I hope you enjoy the new site.
As of today, THE OCD DIARIES has a new home. Stop coming here and go instead to the new OCD DIARIES at theocddiaries.com.
I’ll keep this site up for a little while as everyone makes the transition.
I hope you enjoy the new site.
By now you’ve gotten used to new posts from me almost daily. So I thought I should warn you that there won’t be another new post for a while. It’s all part of the relaunch of the new OCD Diaries.
We’ve been moving all the previous posts to the new site and working out the bugs. With all the most recent posts and all the older ones now in the new place, I feel funny about posting new stuff here. Besides, I could use a few days off.
Fear not: I’ll be back soon. And when I return, it’ll be on a new OCD Diaries with better categorizing, a much more user-friendly layout, more guest posts and a broader theme. You’ll also be able to access all my favorite mood music by clicking a box in the posts that will take you straight to my Spotify library. No more copyright cops chasing me on Youtube.
Until I return, be well.
Yesterday I watched the “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne” documentary, which focused heavily on how his addictions maimed him and his family over four decades. Though my addictive behavior pales by comparison, it still struck a chord.
What hit me deepest is how Ozzy finally decided to get real sobriety after his son Jack had kicked drugs and alcohol. It took his son to show him the light.
The son showing dad the light theme is an old one. It’s the whole “Luke Skywalker helping Darth Vader find his good side again” story. Only in the real life examples, the fathers get to live after having their epiphany.
In the documentary, we see Ozzy changing into a different, crazy person who continuously brings heartbreak to his family — especially his children. The daughter from his first marriage is asked point-blank if he was a good Dad. Her answer is a simple “No.” We learn — though it’s not really a surprise, given how incoherent he was in all the episodes — how his alcoholism was at its worst during the run of “The Osbournes” and how his youngest kids started using in that period. Finally, we see his son Jack deciding to clean up, inspiring his father to do the same.
Like I said, my addictive personality didn’t come close to the levels of Ozzy Osbourne or Edward Van Halen. But it was bad enough that I can relate to things like being useless on the couch when my kids needed me. I was never that way all the time, and I’ve been a pretty active Dad more often than not. But I am guilty of those bad moments.
But what I relate to most is how it took becoming a parent to drive home the need for me to be a better man and reign in my demons — the OCD and addictive behavior that was a byproduct of constant fear, anxiety and exhaustion.
It wasn’t an instant thing — Sean was almost 4 and Duncan was was barely 2 when I realized things were not right in my head — but the cattle prod was definitely my hunger to be a better parent.
So yeah, I have to say I’m inspired by these rock n’ roll stories.
The daughter of close friends just found out she has Crohn’s Disease. She’s suffering a lot right now, and I know exactly what she’s going through. This post is for her.
Hello, my young friend. I’m sorry that you’re hurting so much right now. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was around your age, and spent many weeks in the hospital between ages 8-16. It stinks. But if there’s one thing I’d like you to remember after reading this, it’s that it WILL get better.
I experienced all the things you are now — the massive loss of blood, the knifing pain in the gut, sleepless nights in the bathroom, and more blood.
A couple times, I’ve been told, the doctor’s came close to removing the colon. Too much of it was under siege and they didn’t know where to start in terms of targeting it. But it never came to that.
The pain was pretty intense. I really don’t know how my parents were able to get through it. I think it would cause me more anguish to see one of my kids suffer than to go through it myself. That had to hurt. Especially since they lost another child along the way. It also couldn’t have helped that I would be in the hospital for six-week stretches in 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981.
I mention this because you should know how hard it is for your Mom and Dad to see you hurting. They’re new to this Crohn’s thing, and they will worry endlessly about what they are doing for you and whether it’s the right thing. Be patient with them if you can. But if you need to yell at them once in awhile so you can cope, go ahead. That’s what parents are for.
As you will probably soon discover, the most popular drug to treat what’s making you sick is Prednisone, which comes with a long list of side effects. Your face might get puffy and you’ll want to eat everything in sight. But you’re a strong kid and you can handle that.
A lot of people helped me survive a childhood of brutal Crohn’s Disease: My parents, great doctors, school friends who helped me catch up with my schoolwork and rooted for me whenever I got out of the hospital, and a great therapist who helped me sort through the mental byproducts of illness.
I think you’re going to get through the current attack and that you will be able to move on to a better life. Again, I lean on my personal experience.
I’m probably one of the luckiest Crohn’s patients on Earth. The last bad flare up was in 1986 and I haven’t had once since. I still go through frequent periods of inflammation, but nothing that requires drugs or hospital stays. The colon is checked out every other year to make sure the layers of scar tissue don’t run wild and morph into cancer.
Had the doctors removed the colon when I was a kid, I think things still would have worked out. I would have learned to live with it. Whatever you have in front of you, I think you can make the best of it and push through.
Be strong and keep the faith, my young friend. I hope you feel better soon.
P.S.: Here’s a picture of me the year I was diagnosed. I’m the kid at the very back, right in the middle. As you can see, Crohn’s Disease couldn’t kill my smile. It won’t kill yours, either.
An article in The Atlantic called “5 Very Specific Ways to Fix Your OCD” blows it from the start — in the headline.
OCD sufferers know damn well that you can’t fix OCD. You can only learn to manage it and make it less of a disrupting force in your life.
Knowing that as I do, I’m dissapointed that the writer would give OCD sufferers false hope, followed by five pieces of advice that are not totally unhelpful, but also not very realistic.
I still write some clunkers with the best of ’em. All writers do, especially when you produce articles daily. But here, I think the author was mislead by Concordia University psychologist Adam Radomsky, who spelled out the five strategies.
What follows are portions of the article in italics and my responses in plain text.
Re-examine your responsibility. Many of the symptoms of OCD can be caused and/or exacerbated by increases in perceived responsibility. The more responsible you feel, the more you are likely to check, wash, and/or think your thoughts are especially important. Ask yourself how responsible you feel for the parts of your life associated with your OCD, then take a step back from the problem and write down all of the possible other causes. For example, someone who would likely check their appliances repeatedly might feel completely responsible to protect their family from a fire. If this person adopted a broader perspective, they would realize that other family members, neighbors, the weather, the electrician who installed the wiring in the home, the company that built the appliances, and others should actually share in the responsibility.
Radomsky misses the point — OCD sufferers usually know the reality of these situations. But our minds spin with worry anyway. Like the addict who knows he-she will eventually die from their bad habits but can’t help but continue with them anyway, the OCD sufferer knows that he-she shares responsibilities with others, but can’t help but take on all the problems of the world anyway. The brain is constantly in motion, taking small concerns and sculpting them into huge, paralyzing worries.
Repetitions make you less sure about what you’ve done. This is bizarre because we usually check and/or ask questions repeatedly to be more confident of what we’ve done. OCD researchers in the Netherlands and Canada, however, have found that when repetition increases, this usually backfires and may lead to very dramatic declines in our confidence in our memory. To fix this, try conducting an experiment. On one day, force yourself to restrict your repetition to just one time. Later that day, on a scale of 0-10, rate how confident you are in your memory of what you’ve done. The next day, repeat the same behavior but rate it a few more times throughout the day. Most people who try this experiment find later that their urges to engage in compulsive behavior decline because they learn that the more they repeat something, the less sure they become.
I appreciate what he’s trying to do here with the role-playing game, and it can be helpful to try tracking how much you repeat an action and what it does to your memory.
But he again misses the crucial point: We OCD sufferers already know these repeated actions fuck with the memory of what we have or haven’t done. One of my OCD habits has always been going over the checklist for what I need to do before leaving for work the next morning. Clothes laid out? Check. Coffee maker programmed? Check. Lunch made and in the fridge? Check. Laptop bag stuffed with all the necessary work tools? Check. Then, even though I know full well what I’ve just done, I run through that same check list over and over. I’m not as bad as I was before treatment, but it’s still in me.
Treat your thoughts as just that — thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are normal, but they become obsessions when people give them too much importance … Spend a week making this distinction between your OCD thoughts (noise) and thoughts associated with things you are actually doing or would like to be doing (signal). See what happens.
I’ll tell you what happens: Your thoughts continue to run wild despite the exercise. Not that you shouldn’t try it. For a few people, it may help. But one of the very first things we learn is that we are not our thoughts; that thoughts and reality are not the same thing. But this is like the responsibility example above. We keep thinking because we can’t help it.
Practice strategic disclosure. People with OCD fear that if or when they disclose their unwanted intrusive thoughts or compulsions, other people will judge them as harshly as they judge themselves. This sadly often leaves the individual suffering alone without knowing that more than nine in 10 people regularly experience unwanted, upsetting thoughts, images, and impulses related to OCD themes as well. Consider letting someone in your life who has been supportive during difficult times know about the thoughts and actions you’ve been struggling with. Let them know how upset you are with these and how they’re inconsistent with what you want in life. You might be pleasantly surprised by their response. If not, give it one more try with someone else. We’ve found that it never takes more than two tries.
This piece of advice is sound, but gets buried beneath the unhelpful material.
Observe your behavior and how it lines up with your character. Most people struggling with OCD either view themselves as mad, bad and/or dangerous or they fear that they will become such, so they often go to great lengths to prevent bad things from happening to themselves or to their loved ones. But ask yourself how an observer might judge your values based on your actions. If you spend hours each day trying to protect the people you love, are you really a bad person? If you exert incredible amounts of time and effort to show how much you care, how faithful you are, how you just want others to be safe and happy, maybe you’re not so bad or dangerous after all. And as for being crazy, there’s nothing senseless about OCD. People sometimes fail to understand how rational and logical obsessions and compulsions can be. Remember, your values and behavior are the best reflection of who you are, not those pesky unwanted noisy thoughts.
This too is sound advice. But it leaves out something incredibly important: You can’t review your character and reconcile it with your OCD habits in this simple step he lays out. It takes years of intense therapy — and for some, like me, the added help of medication — to peel away the layers and get at the root of your obsessions.
You can learn to manage OCD and live a good life. But it’s a lot of hard, frustrating work. And that work is ALWAYS there, until the day you die.
Know that before you dive into the search for simple solutions. If it looks simple, it’s probably too good to be true.
It feels like Twitter has been with us forever. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a relatively new toy we’re learning to use. I see it as my second dysfunctional family.
My Twitter house has 3,262 people crammed into it; many from the information security profession. Some of the smartest people I know sit around the kitchen table every day, bantering without ever getting tired.
As it is with any family, we often get on each other’s nerves.
For one thing, the house is always LOUD. It’s so loud that it’s normal for half the household to go to bed with headaches while the rest keep pontificating, sharing pictures and arguing.
There’s the older uncle who’s perpetually cranky but we can sit at his feet and listen to him for hours because he’s so damn funny. And smart. Let’s face it, every family had a beloved, crazy uncle.
There’s the other uncle who will disagree with you just to start a debate. But he’s such a nice guy you just can’t get angry when he picks your positions apart.
There’s the cousin who never stops talking. Any random thought he has, he says it. You can’t keep up with him, he talks so fast. But he too is smart and talented, so we put up with it.
There’s the cousin who puts everything and everyone down for the sake of starting a conversation. This one usually comes in the house blasted on vodka or wine and talks about tearing someone’s eyeballs out. But this cousin is harmless and, deep down, a good kid.
There’s a brother who is always telling people what they did wrong — that they didn’t work hard enough or made sweeping statements that tarred people who didn’t deserve it. The rest of the family is afraid of this one. Unfortunately for us, though, he’s usually right, so we put up with him and, occasionally, try to stop doing the stupid thing he says we’re doing.
There’s the cousin who will let everyone know the second she stubs a toe, gets charged too much at the auto body shop or finds a hole in her umbrella. She’ll make her grocery list and run down the list aloud for all to hear. That grates on a few nerves, but she’s a sweet lady who is always there when one of us has a problem, so listening to her grocery list recital is the least we can do.
There are the two middle siblings who fight about everything, especially politics. They’ll occasionally call each other names, usually personalized variations of the F-S- and C-words. But they know their politics, so we listen and learn for about a half hour before yelling at them to shut up.
Then there’s me, perhaps the most infuriating family member of all.
I’m constantly shoving the stuff I write in their faces because I want them to talk about how the subject matter plays in their own lives. I don’t say much else when I’m in the house unless I’m excited about a new band I want people to hear or my kids say something too damn funny not to share. But I write all the time, and I have to show them everything, even stuff they may have seen before.
People tell me to shut up and go away; to stop repeating myself and promoting myself. That last one pisses me off and I spit out a few choice words. Then I resume what I’m doing like nothing happened.
People seem to tolerate me because writing is my job and, once in awhile, I write something that resonates with a few of them.
The rest simply ignore me when I get to be too much.
A messy, loud place, this Twitter house is. I’ve thought about moving out a few times, to get away from the so-called echo chamber. But I always decide to stay.
Because love ’em or hate ’em, these people are family.
And because — I’ll admit it — I need a few dysfunctional people in my life.
I haven’t been to many OA meetings lately.
I haven’t called my sponsor in awhile.
I was getting to a point a couple weeks ago where I realized I was also getting sloppy with the food. It’s always the little things you get reckless about: Instead of the 4 ounces of protein I should be having during a meal, I’d let the scale go to 5. I’d slack on the vegetables and sneak in more grain. This is where the relapse starts.
For some of you this isn’t easy to understand. An out-of-control relationship with food still isn’t accepted as a legitimate addictive behavior in many quarters, and one of my goals in this blog has been to raise awareness and understanding.
A lot of my earliest posts preached the Gospel of the 12 Steps and Overeater’s Anonymous. I had reason to be so fanatical: OA helped me break a horrible binge cycle that I hadn’t been able to stop before.
It owned me until I started going to OA meetings, got a sponsor and started to live the 12 Steps OA and AA use to give addicts the spiritual fortitude needed to break free.
I still depend on the program today, but a big problem has gotten in the way: I’ve started to rebel against a lot of the rules. That’s typical addict behavior. When life gets a little rough, we start looking for excuses to fall back to old, self-destructive patterns. My family has experienced difficulties this past year (my father’s stroke, etc.), and that has made it difficult for me to stay squeaky clean.
At one point I started smoking again. My wife caught me and I stopped. But I was pissed, because I felt entitled to do something bad for me. People like me are stupid but common: When we want comfort, we do the things we know will kill us in the end. Stuffing cocaine up your nostrils will eventually give you cardiac arrest. Weeks-long binges, centered around $40-a-day purchases in the McDonald’s drive-thru, will do the same. The latter may just take longer.
I also started to give the halls of OA the stink eye because I was starting to find a lot of people too fanatical about it. There are people in the program who will tell you that you’re not really abstinent if your program doesn’t look exactly like theirs. One person told me the program comes before everything and anyone else. I bristled over that, because in my mind my family comes before everything else.
True, without abstinence and sobriety I can’t be a good husband and father. But I can’t be those things if I’m running off to four meetings a week and making six phone calls a day to others in the program, either.
I’ve also had the sense that people in these meetings love to hear themselves talk too much and too often.
I’m ashamed to say that, because I think these people are doing exactly what they should be doing. I’m just tired of hearing it is all.
I don’t think I’m rotten for feeling this way. I’m trying to figure out where this program truly fits in my life, and I think these are honest reflections on my part.
If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that you can’t do the same exact thing forever and expect the process to stay fresh and helpful. Like a tire that’s rolled thousands of miles, a recovery program can wear down until you get a blowout.
I do have a few things to cheer about: I haven’t suffered a full-blown binge relapse and my weight has remained steady. Clothes still fit. I still climb hills without spitting out a lung halfway up. I have absolutely no interest in hitting the McDonald’s drive-thru or stuffing my coat pockets with candy bars and cake in the gas station snack aisles.
I haven’t caved to alcohol either, and believe me, there are times I’ve wanted to. Alcohol was never the monkey on my back that food is. But I used it heavily as a crutch at one point.
I brought all this up with my therapist at last week’s appointment. I lamented that I can’t spend all week in 12-Step meetings and still have a life. I complained that people simply trade their first addiction in for a new one — the program itself.
My therapist noted that some people have to do that, otherwise they will certainly binge and drink again. It’s not a choice for them.
So here I am, plotting my next move.
I already tightened up the food plan. I’m being strict in weighing out the food. I’ve all but eliminated dairy from my diet, because I was starting to use it as a crutch. I’m walking regularly again. I’m hitting at least one meeting a week.
Today, I’m calling my sponsor to come clean with him and see if he is still in fact my sponsor. It’ll be a good conversation whatever happens, because I relate to this guy on many levels.
It’s time to look at the rest of my program and honestly assess what I need to be doing. A “program before everything” approach isn’t what I want right now. My life is too busy for that. I need my program, but I need it in its proper place.
I need to go to more meetings, though three or four a week ain’t gonna happen.
I need to talk to my sponsor a lot more often, though not daily like some people do. In the very beginning I needed that. Now it just irritates me, because I usually have work to do right after a call, and some mornings I simply don’t have anything to say to people on the phone.
I know I still need the 12 Steps, meetings, a sponsor and a rock-solid food plan. But my needs aren’t the same as the next person, and that should be ok.
Some in the program will read this and suggest I’m pining for the easier, softer way that doesn’t really exist in an addict’s world.
I don’t feel I am.
I consider this my search for the more realistic, honest way.
Journalists like me have never been particularly comfortable using anonymous sources. When you don’t name names, someone inevitably questions if your source is real or imagined.
But after dealing with some addictions in recent years, I feel differently about it.
There are some important distinctions to be made from the outset: I’ve written opinion pieces in my day job as a security journalist that have been critical of the hacker group Anonymous for hiding their identities while doing damage to others.
Going behind a mask so you can launch protests is fine with me, because honesty can be difficult when you fear the FBI agents at the door. I’ve been specifically critical of cases where I thought their actions had harmed innocent bystanders. In cases where innocents are hurt, hiding behind a mask makes you a coward, in my opinion.
That aside, we do live in a world where speaking your mind will get you blackballed, investigated or unfriended and unfollowed — if the latter two matter to you.
In one example where we were covering a data breach, a former employee wanted to tell us what really went on in the lead-up to the breach. But the person didn’t want their name used for fear that the company would try to sue them or hurt their chances of landing future employment. I agreed. A few days later, the person decided not to tell their story because people still in the company were snooping around the LinkedIn profiles of former employees. I can’t say I blame the person.
Indeed, covering security has made me understand the importance of anonymity compared to my experiences in community journalism.
But my experiences with addiction are what truly brought the importance of anonymity home for me.
Though I chose to tell everyone about my dependence on binge eating and, to a lesser extent, pain pills and alcohol, I’ve met a lot of people in OA and AA who never, ever would have started dealing with their demons if they had to do so publicly — in front of friends, family and workmates. The prospect of being blackballed, fired or worse would have kept them on the same path to self destruction.
But because they can go somewhere where everyone is going through the same ugliness and not have their names exposed, they can be brutally honest about themselves and take those few extra steps to get help.
It would be nice if we lived in a world where everyone honored naked honesty. But as Ice-T once rapped in a Body Count song: “Shit ain’t like that. It’s real fucked up.”
I was lucky. I was able to out myself and my demons without getting blackballed. It’s been an immensely positive experience. But you can’t always depend on the loving, respectful response I got.
In that environment, if anonymity can help a few more people get at the truth about themselves and the world they live in, then let it be.
Though my home team made the playoffs, I didn’t care. I’m all for the morale boost fans get from winning. Hockey just isn’t my thing. What’s more important to me is how fans conduct themselves, win or lose.
After the Bruins’ overtime loss to the Capitals last night, some Bruins fans failed in the class department. They gave a black eye to the team and the vast majority of fans who handle defeat gracefully.
This CTVNews article explains:
Boston Bruins fans are reeling after a stunning overtime loss in Game 7 Wednesday night, but others are reeling from the racist backlash that erupted over Twitter after the Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward scored the winning goal.
Ward, a Canadian whose parents emigrated from Barbados, scored the game-winner over last year’s Stanley Cup champions at 2:57 into overtime on a rebound from a shot by Mike Knuble, to make the final score 2-1 for Washington.
The TD Garden arena in Boston instantly fell into a shocked silence as fans’ hopes of back-to-back Bruins appearances in the Stanley Cup final evaporated.
But the volume was just starting to build on Twitter, where incensed fans began launching personal attacks on Ward, not over his playing ability but over the colour of his skin.
“The fact that a n***** scored the winner goal makes this loss hurt a lot more,” tweeted someone with the handle @tomtroy12.
Another wrote: “Stupid n***** go play basketball hockey is a white sport.”
Those were just two relatively tame examples in a long list of racist posts that appeared on Twitter following the game, though many were removed by Thursday morning and some of the offending accounts appeared to have been deleted altogether.
Indulge me as I share this quote from one of Chris Rock’s “Nat X” skits on SNL. It’s humor, but the idiots who wrote the tweets above demonstrated how dark comedy and painful reality are often separated by a pathetically thin line:
NAT X: I was watchin’ a hockey game and I noticed there were no black people. So I looked into this example of the white man once again keepin’ the black man down and found out why there were no black people in hockey. First, it’s cold out there! Second, we might get our gold teeth knocked out! Third, we have no desire to dominate another professional sport. And, finally, no brother is going to go anywhere there is a bunch of crazy white people wearin’ masks and carryin’ sticks!
What’s the racist Twitter rant between disappointed Bruins fans have to do with the theme of this blog? Quite a bit. One of the main themes is how we humans handle adversity. What are the examples of adversity making us better or worse? This post is an example of the latter. It stinks all the more because in this case we’re not talking about life-or-death adversity. This is over a fucking game.
As one of my Canadian friends, Dave Lewis, tweeted: “Stay classy. Wow, just wow.”
I’m not going to tell you I’m ashamed to be a Boston sports fan this morning. My lack of sports savvy alone prevents me from doing that.
But I’m also not ashamed because these turds don’t represent the vast majority of Boston sports fans, who usually acknowledge that the other team did better and deserved good wishes.
These tweeters are probably not even genuine racists. But as I said about the folks who were selling and buying anti-Obama “Do not re-nig” bumper stickers: You may not be a racist, but using the N word says something about the kind of person you are.
Like I said, I’m no hockey fan. But it still inspires me when a sports team does well. It takes someone like me — who can’t play sports to save my life — to appreciate the grit and determination it takes to play professionally.
Which makes it all the more disappointing when a fan or five repays the hard effort their team gave by being assholes.
I’m standing at a bar in Boston with my wife and stepmom. They order wine and I order coffee. My stepmom beams and says something about how awesome it is that I beat my demons.
I appreciate the pride and the sentiment. But it’s also dangerous when someone tells a recovering addict that they’ve pulled the monkey off their back for good.
Here’s the thing about that monkey: You can smack him around, bloody him up and knock him out. But that little fucker is like Michael Myers from the Halloween movies. He won’t die.
Sometimes you can keep him knocked out for a long time, even years. But he always wakes up, ready to kick your ass right back to the compulsive habits that nearly destroyed you before.
That may sound a little dramatic. But it’s the truth, and recovering addicts can never be reminded of this enough.
Dr. Drew had a good segment on the subject last year, when he interviewed Nikki Sixx:
Sixx talked about his addictions and how he always has to be on guard. Dr. Drew followed that up with a line that rings so true: “Your disease is doing push ups right now.”
So painfully true.
But Sixx makes another point I can relate to: Even though he’s been sober for so many years, he still gets absorbed in addictive behavior all the time. The difference is that he gives in to the addiction of being creative. He’s just released his second book and second album with Sixx A.M. Motley Crue still tours and makes new music. He has four kids, a clothing line and so on. He’s always doing something.
I get the same way with my writing. That’s why I write something every day, whether it’s here or for the day job. I’m like a shark, either swimming or drowning. By extension, though I’ve learned to manage the most destructive elements of my OCD,I still let it run a little hot at times — sometimes on purpose. If it fuels creativity and what I create is useful to a few people, it’s worth it.
And though it’s been well over three years since my last extended binge, my sobriety and abstinence has not been perfect. There have been times where I’ve gotten sloppy, realized it, and pulled back.
But the occasional sloppiness and full-on relapse will always be separated by a paper-thin wall.
I’ll have to keep aware of that until the day I die.
The monkey isn’t going anywhere. My job is to keep him tame most of the time.