LifeRing Recovery: a self-help alternative for recovery from alcoholism and other chemical dependency. Group support for abstinence from alcohol and “drugs” by empowering the sober self within you. Completely secular: no prayers, Higher Powers or Steps.
I think there were aspects of therapy that did help me when I was still drinking. But it never really helped with the drinking. I expressed my drinking concerns to one therapist and she suggested I get a really lovely wine glass and have one glass a night, to sip and savour. I realise now she had no understanding of alcohol addiction and the red lights associated with it. Bizarrely, she even discouraged me from meditating at the time I would normally start drinking, because meditation means withdrawal from contact with others, means you are isolating. She was wrong. She wasn't a great therapist. I then had a therapist on the national health- he was good, and I learnt a few things I now know are true about me. The therapy I am still having now (four years- I'm starting to worry about how much I've spent!) has built on some of that but has definitely been the most beneficial. But alcohol has only ever been one very strong thread in a bigger tapestry, and actually we rarely talk about it now at all.
I guess I just didn't want to feel I had been wasting my time and money, that my past was all negated because I had still been drinking.
Have a good week
That was my experience too, E. I began seeing therapists very early on in my 20s and I always expressed concern that my drinking was a problem. Very few seemed to think I was alcoholic because I didn't fit their private image of someone out-of-control, chaotic, coming to sessions drunk, getting arrested, having emergency admissions to hospitals in alcoholic withdrawal. I was just drinking a bit too much and not all the time. I was being honest about it which meant i wasn't in denial. They saw it as a bad habit and not much more. The compulsion I tried to describe, the weird patterns of secret drinking and not knowing why I would drink so much at times made little sense to them. And of course I would drink the feelings away after therapy, a numbing I didn't see as blocking insights but it did.
One therapist i saw was alcoholic herself and attending AA and she didn't see her binging or bender pattern in me so my drinking wasn't 'alcoholic' in her terms. That has to do with the idea of a monolithic alcoholic personality: self-destructive, a liar, selfish, immature, anti-social, flawed and with moral defects. I was involved with social activism, had a close circle of friends, was able to study and work well, was in good health, ate and slept well, could talk about my problems without making excuses for them, turned up promptly for sessions and paid on time.
I agree that drinking may be only one thread in a tapestry, but it is rarely minor, in the same way that insomnia or little phobias or childhood memories of death are no longer big problems in our lives but somehow go on affecting us in ways we may not recognise. I get distressed on significant anniversaries or traumas or death without realising the date of the anniversary consciously.
Dreams have always been a clue to underlying obsessions or fears or wishes I can't admit openly, to the preoccupation with certain themes and people in my inner life, archetypes and projections, both hostile and beloved. It isn't that rational but it forms a large part of what is happening in me below the surface and darkening moods or leading to feelings of stuckness. I do agree with Freud on the importance of what we have forgotten or disregarded as a factor shaping our most powerful motivations and with Winnicott on play objects and transitional objects that 'hold' our terrors and desires until we are ready to look at them or let go of them. I do feel the 'liberation' of drinking showed me that I was not who I seemed to myself to be, and that it released a great deal of repetition compulsions, reenactment daydreams, thanatos death desires, a way to disconnect from what felt unbearable deep down.. It is now no longer operating actively but some dreams I have now are extended and transformed 'drunk' dreams, not about alcohol but about a complete disorientation and search for a space of mindless dazzling euphoria.
How very interesting. I'm afraid my dreams have been very obvious recently. Dreams of being a teacher but not even knowing what my timetable is, what texts are on the curriculum or which students are in my classes. In one dream two nights ago I absconded from the school or college and walked up a brambly and rocky pathway, struggling over the last couple of boulders and brambles into a village which seemed to be full of black magic- grigri as my mother in law would say. Black horses charging out of the village pub in droves is the detail I remember. And then an old man, the village elder, says ' have we frightened you enough to make you leave?' I said yes and struggled back down the path. Well there you go. My mind is a strange place at times.
It's interesting you say that your therapists did not perceive you as alcoholic. I think I have had that problem with certain friends and acquaintances. I have a friend I have mentioned before who has been hospitalised twice with illnesses that doubtless and their roots in her alcoholism-I described a visit to see them on Do the work's thread- she and her husband are in denial and she sat there drinking red wine, looking feeble, anorexic, teary, with that slight head wobble you sometimes see. Her whole appearance screams alcoholic. As does her behaviour. As does what she says. She honestly may die within a very few years if she doesn't stop. Me and my husband have decided we need to say and offer to do something to help. but it isn't easy. Her husband trained for medicine with mine. The plan is for my husband to speak to him first. I am going to offer to take her to a SMART meeting- I'm planning to go to her local one on Friday, just to see what it's like. I've been reading a bit about SMART and I am wondering whether it could be a good network for me to give service in. I don't think I have the confidence to set up a Life Ring group, it would be much better for me to have the network of an organisation already operating widely. But that's something else. Anyway, the husband is in practically as deep denial as she is, and he also drank massively on Sunday night. He kept on opening bottles of wine and beer without even asking my husband, and topping him up. My husband should perhaps have declared time on it, but he said he was partly interested to see what would happen and whether there would be any kind of cut off point. There clearly wasn't. But the problem with this is that he was inadvertently validating the behaviour. It was a very very long evening for me.
Anyway, what I'm getting round to is that I'm pretty sure that these friends, as in the case of several of my drinking friends, think that I didn't really have a drink problem and that abstinence is for me using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I was trying to say to my husband that he may need to explain to them that my difficulties were much greater than they might imagine - I want them to realise I do understand how locked in she feels by this compulsion, how impossible it feels to stop, ( but of course that is ironically the very reason she needs to) I asked my husband why I feel people didn't exactly take my drink problem that seriously and he said I never appeared that out of control, I didn't behave really badly when drunk, I was ostensibly managing my life pretty well- as you say, like you, I just didn't present as someone with the expected level of chaos externally. The agony and chaos were mostly inside. I didn't black out. I didn't get memory loss about what happened when I was drunk ( not that I remember anyway ) I hid my shame because, well, I was ashamed. I have a few incidents in mind when I know I behaved inappropriately and was met with contempt. And I took that contempt, amplified it, and carried it around in the form of intense self-contempt which i probably drank some more to relieve. Behaving as if I was still 25 with a young man was one such incident- it was more complicated than that, because his mother was a pitiful and very obvious alcoholic. I KNOW he saw that in my behaviour, and he shut me down immediately. No one would have seen that, or realised it, but it was horrible and makes me cringe to this day. also, when I felt perfectly sober in my brain, but I couldn't make my tongue work, and heard myself slurring. The shame of it. I was so painfully conscious of how hideous it was. I would never be sick before bed but frequently felt terrible the next day, sometimes spending 12 hours vomiting. I could poison myself to a shocking degree whilst feeling pretty much clear about it all whilst I was doing it. But obviously that clarity was something of an illusion. The small humiliations, like driving my daughter to school and having to wind down the window and brace myself against projectile vomiting. I didn't vomit, she didn't see that or have to feel the shame, but god I felt the shame. These are the things that made me want to stop drinking.
The first phone call was going to be last night, but my husband bottled out. I totally get why. Tonight, hopefully.
That is an extraordinary dream, kafkaesque! Do you write down associations that come to you when waking and recalling a dream?
Interventions are always difficult, E. In part, I find they bring up over-identification and my own shame and resistance to being confronted. The kinds of memories you describe are so like my own worst 'aarggh!' moments that I still physically recoil and shudder to think of myself behaving that way. The relief is that they are in the past and getting further into the past --
I'm hoping your friends are receptive -- but, yikes. The husband may have a big problem of his own. I've stepped away and done nothing, heard months later that a friend had died in an alcoholic coma and that stays with me as a painful self-accusation, the guilt of not having tried, not having risked anything in order to help. So I am hoping she hears you. But that 'hearing you' might not be possible.
Such a quandary.
I have signed in today because I might feel better if I share. I am feeling pretty depressed again. Very low right now, although just over a week ago I was in Portugal happily lying in the shade reading novels and feeling quite content with life. Post holiday blues? Maybe. I've been preoccupied since our return from holiday, on the one hand with my daughter's 18th birthday, into which I had invested thought, time, emotion and hard cash and which did mainly go very well, notwithstanding a meltdown by daughter who was worried her party would be badly attended and rubbish, which put me through an emotional mangle. (It was a good party in the end) This combined with being very frustrated/worried about my son who hasn't worked out that stuff (jobs, industry year placements, finishing modules for uni) will not come to him and that he has to get himself out there. I have done everything in my power to help him but his efforts have been last minute, slapdash and unfruitful. I am also concerned about his frame of mind and fearful that he may be depressed and yet not realise it. Worst of all I blame myself for struggling with depression and possibly inadvertently having made him prone to it, whether genetically or environmentally, it doesn't probably make much difference which. Anyway, as someone said to me, a mother is only ever as happy as her least happy child- although I can't lay it all on that, I have always been prone to low mood.
I have got sober, I have invested time and money in therapy, and I still feel terrible about myself. I know I have better times but right now I'm so fed up with life. My therapist seems to advocate allowing myself to feel shit and not fighting it all the time. The problem with that is that I feel shit and it feels absolutely hopeless. I actually feel I can't go on like this. Not that I will drink, not that I would do any harm to myself, because I wouldn't do that to my family, but that leaves me feeling very very stuck. I suffered from depression before I had a drink problem, I drank to self-medicate. For me it's a double whammy, and depression is ultimately a far trickier animal to deal with. Stopping drinking, hard as it was, is a very clear cut thing to have achieved.
Well that's it for today. Just hoping that tomorrow is better. At least I'm not in Hong Kong or Syria.
Sorry to hear you are going through such a hard time. I've never had problems with depression, but my wife has and I know how hard it can be to deal with it. Wishing you the best.
Thank you Brian. I am just going to plod on and I'm sure things will pick up. Hope you are well xx
Oh E I'm sorry you're having such a rough time. Try not to get into self-blame as a mother or make comparisons with those in conflict-torn places: that is the trap of depressive thinking, to minimise what we are going through or to feel we're ruining others' lives, it's all our fault, it's something we should put right or not have to keep enduring, that we haven't succeeded in therapy etcetcetc. I always feel guilty as well as depressed and it is just thinking gone awry.
Right now I'm sitting with a very sick little dog -- the vet operated on her for possible bowel cancer and she had no growths, thank god, but she may have kidney problems and it is freezing cold here, so I'm trying to keep her warm and draught-free and not worry about mounting vet's bills. I'm not too depressed myself right now but I know from what you've described that there is no rhyme or reason to depression, it can cloud great holidays or arrive after the homecoming or be seasonal at the end of summer or make any family crisis worse. Your children are negotiating adulthood at a precarious time and that is enough to make anyone anxious and frustrated. (Boris effing Johnson, really???)
But you have worked hard in therapy and stayed sober, this depression will pass. It may not feel like it, but you've come through all of this stuckness before and with more insight, had a sense of growth and maturity. I don't mean to sound Pollyannerish because I know that feeling of being unable to go on and having to go on all the same. I agree that stopping drinking may be hard but is a far more definite goal -- all we have to do is not drink which is achievable, whereas not 'feeling' down and helpless or desperate for no known reason is much more nebulous and unrealisable.
Thinking of you, and I'm glad you posted.
Thanks Mary, and sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. You are so right, that negative is a hallmark of depression and it is difficult to break out of the cycle of self-blame. I have just been poddling on, trying to engage with what is in front of me, trying to be entertained rather than horrified by the shit-show of British politics, which of course I can't do a thing about right now.
Strange as it may seem in terms of timing, I have decided I want to wean myself off my anti-depressants. Extremely slowly. I have been taking citalopram for at least 12 years (must check exactly how long with the doctor) and I think I have to face the fact that they might not be working anymore. I had never been on them for more than a year before this time. Of course they might be helping but its really hard to know. A lot has changed since I went on them. I tried to halve them a few months ago and totally crashed- but was this withdrawal or the return of crashing depression? Either way, halving the dose was clearly too drastic. Have been doing some reading and it may actually be that I am now dependent on them in other ways than levelling out my mood. I am starting by alternating a whole and a half dose, and planning to do that for at least a month before considering dropping it another increment. It might sound silly but it feels good to have another health goal. I am also instigating TM at least once a day. I'm not going to impose a twice daily meditation on myself unless it feels convenient. The last time I came off SSRIs ( I was on them for post-natal depression) I found meditation was very helpful. I also do feel that medication does affect the experience of meditation- I have balked against this suggestion in the past, it has annoyed me when TM teachers/practitioners assert this, but from experience I actually know it is true, I just wasn't ready to try to come off the meds. There are other reasons to come off it and see how I am- I'm on HRT but it has not done much to help my libido, which is of course affected by SSRIs. TMI? Hahaha. Anyway, it's a long term project. I'm anticipating it will take at least 4 months and maybe 6 to taper them off without being mashed by the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.
When I get low the last thing I want to do is increase the medication. It is absolutely a vicious circle when I know how hideously difficult it is to get off them- or even to reduce the dose. I know my sister feels that if you have a problem with depression, you shouldn't feel bad about taking them. I agree. But equally SSRIs were touted as being non-addictive and it seems that this is actually not the case. I had an aunt addicted to valium in the 70s. It's in the nature of these things, and as we all know I'm no stranger to addiction.
I hope you are enjoying the cooler months, I found myself hankering after a chilly day earlier! I like all the seasons but there have been some unbearably hot days here this summer. Not as terrible as France, but France isn't far away and I fear its a sign of things to come.
I hope your dog is doing ok Mary. A dear friend of mine whose marriage has broken up and has had now to move from her nice family home sadly lost her beautiful dog a week or so ago- she is absolutely devastated. they give their whole lives to us. Dusty continues to be a bundle of fun- she got in with the chickens this morning, she doesn't attack them but likes to chase them, its to be avoided but all the squawking and flapping and rumpus did put a smile on my face.
Off now to research chicken fencing and chicken diet. Some of their shells are rather fragile and I'm trying to enrich their surroundings because I can't have them totally free ranging.
Hopefully catch you here soon. and thank you again.
Hi E, good to hear from you. My little dog Chub is much better after surgery -- no cancer or blockages -- and I'm hoping she stays healthy. Good to know Dusty is doing well and that you are now a minor-scale poultry farmer! I would love to raise chickens, had bantams when i was child, but out here in the country we have too many large snakes and rodents as well as mongeese or mongooses, genets, hawks and falcons hovering around. Yesterday we saw a huge harrier hawk in a tree at the back of the garden eating a small hare. The hawk's wingspan was scarily impressive.
My utter ignorance here -- I haven't got anything to say about medications and I hope you're reducing with good trustworthy medical support. I haven't ever really taken mood or sleep medications, very expensive and often hard to get regularly here outside of cities.
You know, if I am taking flu meds or have had a cup of coffee before my early morning meditations, I notice the difference right away. Some hyper buzz or a foggy space where I want clarity, stillness. And over the years I've found that friends using meds find it hard to stay with meditation because they miss the finer, subtler sensations that come with sustained practice and being present. The quality of awareness is impaired. I do know that I find meditation harder if I'm tired or rattled by something, my concentration goes awry -- but the meditation is still valuable, I just ask less of it, focus on breathwork and calming techniques. Any kind of meditation has its uses, soothing or grounding. As I get older, I notice the backache is more of a distraction -- backache is caused mostly by my sitting writing or inputting for long hours each day and that won't change, no matter how many walks I do or how much stretching. A friend who does advanced yoga says she is highly sensitised about body sensations and energies but can't get into her mind because she has been trained for so long to stay with the body, give all her attention to the body.
Right now all I want to do is sit with all of Toni Morrison's novels from The Bluest Eye and Sula right through Beloved and Son of Solomon, read them again. Her work has inspired and challenged me in so many ways. There are so many tributes to her all over the Internet.
Oh I envy you your chickens! Are you going to give them extra calcium? This morning I made a magnificent labneh cheese from my own homemade yoghurt and splashed on olive oil and za'atar, wished briefly I could keep goats for the milk. Billy Goat Gruff giving the hawk a beady eye.
E you do have my email address, don't you? If I can give you regular support as you reduce the dosage, let me know. And keep posting here.