Recovery is the process of changing/modifying unhelpful behaviors and introducing balance into your life. Removing your addictive substance is step one. The rest is the real work. It’s identifying all the ways in which you used (alcohol, in my case) to soothe and block out stressors. I thought, after two years of sobriety, that I had done it. But I hadn’t. A new stinky layer is starting to peel off now.
It seems that I have suffered with general anxiety disorder on and off my entire adult life. I remember going to see a therapist in college because I was convinced I had contracted HIV and was going to die (I was in a monogamous relationship with a guy who had slept with like one other person and we always used condoms). I didn’t believe the negative test results I got. I thought that there was contamination at the lab. I would wake up on a beautiful day and think: Oh, it’s so lovely outside. Too bad I’m going to die. This might seem funny, but trust me, I believed it to my core. Eventually, after therapy and time proving that I was not sick, I let it go. It was the beginning of my ability to distort reality to the point of incarcerating myself in my mind and sincerely believing that I am destined for the worst possible outcome. I started doing it again. This time, it’s all about money. I am convinced that I am going to end up homeless and completely destitute, although I have no evidence to support this. It is reaching a fever pitch now because my husband and I are in the process of putting our house on the market and all the “what ifs” are coming down the pike. I am not experiencing all out panic attacks, but I am having obsessive thoughts, constantly painting myself in the worst possible light, taking on unearned guilt for the weirdest things. I do the comparison game all the time, not just with other people but with former versions of myself. Back when I wasn’t in business for myself and earned a very healthy salary.
I have a million reasons to happy. A lot more than when I was earning that big salary. But these distortions have pretty much taken over. It started out slowly and gained momentum until two days ago. On Wednesday, I had a visit with a wonderful, highly recommended therapist. After just one visit, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I am so looking forward to this journey with him.
I am not looking for answers, so much as cognitively therapeutic ways of dealing with these damaging thoughts. I am looking for a way to challenge them and to develop an alpha voice in my mind that gives myself permission to experience joy and call bullshit on the obsessive voice. A therapist is a perfect solution because unlike using general tools from a book or guide, he will customize them for me, because he knows exactly where my head is at. He also wants to get to the root cause of the distortions. Shit, so do I. I present to the outer world very normally and I am able to offer rational advice and perspective to my friends. Somewhere in my brain, though, I made this weird executive decision that I am undeserving of rational thought.
I used to hush all of this with alcohol. Obsessive thoughts be damned! I’ve got cabernet! (Of course, the racing thoughts would always find a way to sneak back into my brain at 4AM, when I was sober and vulnerable.) Now, I have empower myself to get to the bottom of this and develop strategies for dealing with them without booze.