TSM – Back To Reality – Joanna’s Journey

What lies behind you...

What lies ahead of you…

What lies beyond you…

Is Insignificant..

To What Lies Within You.

I have come across a strange phenomenom that has been trying its hardest to outwit me at every turn.  It sneaks up at the oddest times and places thoughts in my brain that require some conscious effort to remain at peace with.  As well as forward time travel, the concept of Back To The Future also seems to exist.

Except this is called Back To Reality…….

The worst of my alcoholism has already been stopped by The Sinclair Method.  It has been pretty much almost wiped out at the most basic of levels and every day I recognise the wonders of living a sober life, a life in which I have complete control over whether I chose to have a glass of alcohol or not (and mostly, not).  Sure, I am still relatively new to TSM but as I work to support people along the road of TSM themselves, it brings the greatest joy to my life.  It is almost as if my life previously had little meaning, lurching from one drunken binge to another.

I expended a lot of energy of trying to keep my drinking under control,  it was exhausting.  Trying to keep my alcohol level at an even enough keel every waking hour of a binge so that I could function adequately (or at the very least, make it through the day in one piece without alerting suspicion), achieve what I needed to do, and then retreat at the end of the day to my version of ‘relaxing’.  Was it a nice feeling to have to drink in the morning so that I could then manage for several hours without it?  Of course not, but that was my life.

I never wanted to pass over into that stage of constantly getting drunk, but ultimately it became something that I could no longer manage.  It may surprise you that I don’t like being drunk.  In fact, I really dislike the sensation, but as sure as night follows day I only had limited energy and abilities to be able to try exert some kind of control over it.  It was one drink too many that caused it but I could never judge precisely which drink that was, so to make things as painless as I could I tended to hide out at home and drink, not coming out of hiding at all during my worst binges.  That way, the only person I could disappoint would be myself.

Since TSM came into my life, all that has changed.  I’ve been given a second chance.  For the most part, my days are thoroughly enjoyable now.  When I go to bed at the end of the day I am filled with gratitude.

But….I am human.  At times I am faced with some of the previous insecurities that I always knew existed within me and that I tried so hard to keep down.  Am I good enough?  What if I fail?  What if I mess everything up?

Ha! Reality Is Back!

So, the drinking has gone but some of the previous triggers remain for me.  However, what is particularly interesting is that thanks to my response to TSM, at no point has it seriously crossed my mind to drink on these triggers.  In fact, in that sense they are not even ‘triggers’ anymore – they aren’t triggering an uncontrollable urge to drink whatsoever.  But they are still there trying to unnerve me a little.

Throughout my time on TSM dreams are one way in which they have shown themselves.  These recent dreams have a slight twist on the usual drinking dreams I have had in the past.  The act of drinking in the dream is not troubling to me.  What is troubling is that in the dream I am drinking without taking the naltrexone first.  This is strange when you consider that at no point has it occurred to me to do that in real life.  So, why dream that I do?

This naturally led onto another thought – a second reality – yes, TSM is a life-long process if I chose to drink in the future.  I have no qualms with that, it was a decision I understood and made when I began TSM.  I am comfortable with that decision and always have been.  From day one I took the view that it was no different to any other medical condition that requires regular medication.

So since I am not in conflict with taking naltrexone in the future, why was I now realising that I will never have the kick from alcohol again?  These thoughts triggered a period of mourning for the loss of that kick and some fear of what will I do without it.  After all, that is what I had been chasing for so many years, so I suppose it does makes sense that I might feel a loss for it.  That first drink that I would get down me as fast as I could gave me such a brief rush of what?  Was it relief, or pleasure or something else?  Well, for me it was most certainly the relief of feeding the craving, giving it what it wanted.  It released the turmoil from my head and it stopped the physical trembling that I would be going through, especially if I was upset about something.  The scariest realisation of my life was the very first time that my hands trembled so much that I struggled to get the top off a bottle of vodka.  That was the day I really knew I was in trouble.

The brief satisfying kick I was so desperate for no longer has a craving to satisfy.  Am I not wasting time and energy projecting ahead about something that no longer exists – surely no craving equals no need for the kick?  Of course, it you found your drinking gave you pleasure rather than relief, then this would not hold true for you and your feelings of loss will be more difficult to work through, but for me this loss is a no-brainer since it simply should not apply anymore.

By exploring why I had this feeling, and talking it through with others, I have come to realise this pre-occupation has been a habit for me, a blast from the past as it were.  When I was trying to recover on an abstinence based model, I had exactly the same feelings.  I tried to stop drinking many times before and failed, always finding myself back in the middle of a binge.  With the knowledge that I would likely drink again lurking in the subconscious of my mind, I was able to disregard the feelings previously.  This time, until I realised that under TSM I have no craving to satisfy so missing this elusive thrill isn’t going to be an issue anymore, the mourning felt more ‘real’ for me.  It took facing the uncomfortable feelings head on to realise this.

My point here is that recovery using the Sinclair Method, like all other treatment models out there, does not make us immune from normal emotions.  We must allow ourselves to explore them and not run away.  Like in the example above there is often a rational explanation and solution to be figured out.  At some point, we are going to be sad, upset, happy or angry and we need to learn to embrace the bad as well as the good and find practical ways to engage a new coping mechanism (assuming, of course, your usual coping mechanism was alcohol).

This is a process that I am finding takes time and a lot of patience with myself – no beating myself up over how I might feel on any given day.  I have taken steps to allow myself to accept and explore my emotions.  It is better for me to accept that it is okay to wonder what an ice-cold beer on a hot sweltering day is going to taste like, than it is to fight against the thought of it.  It may be that when the time comes I might even make the decision to have a glass of coke, since there have already been many occasions so far when I have made the (easy) decision to have the non-alcoholic drink.  It really doesn’t bother me anymore. Whatever the decision, it is something that I am aware of but that I refuse to project ahead on.  Acknowledge and move on. For now….query resolved.

I couldn’t see a life without alcohol last year, yet the steadfast resolution to never drink again without naltrexone is not some magic cloak that has made me immune to some potentially unsettling emotions and situations.  Life goes on around us and we need to learn to adjust to it accordingly.  Indeed, it is a big testament to TSM that it has enabled me to deal with some quite difficult personal issues without running back to the bottle.  Sure, at times it has fleetingly crossed my mind to simply go and get drunk, but TSM gives you a chance to think before you end up going down that road.  This has been true of one recent event that has been very difficult to deal with, difficult to get my thoughts and feelings around.  It has thrown me around like a rag doll for a good few days but at the end of it, I have remained completely sober knowing that I have my naltrexone if I needed it, but finding that I am slowly learning to cope with unusual events in life without drinking. At the moment there are changes ahead that will test my abilities and my confidence in myself.  It is quite daunting to be facing something so big, so early in recovery but as the words of this article begin these things are insignificant to what is within me…..and I do know that what is within me is good and decent.

The positive news for all of us is that help is out there!  There are many ways available to us to deal with emotions. If you feel that professional help would be of benefit, then by all means take that as an option.  Self help books also have great potential.  Mindfulness: A Practical Guide To Finding Peace In A Frantic World is one that comes with excellent recommendations.

The key I have found (so far) is to face the emotions and the situations head on.  Do not hide or try run away.  That is often what got us in trouble to begin with.  We are a worthy human being who got a little lost along the journey of our life but we all have abilities that we probably haven’t even tapped into so far.  Ask for help and support from others, but once you have looked at all the available options, deal with that emotion and have trust in your decision.