Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Crazy Thoughts"

I'm not sure how I feel about the word 'crazy'. I've used it. I've said it many times to describe myself. I've definitely used it to describe others and their chaotic lives. Still, there's something about the word itself that doesn't sit right with me. Maybe it's my growing serenity chaffing against the attempt to think of myself or others as less-than. Or it could be the way our society uses this word as a label, then discounts those it's applied to. Or maybe it has something to do with the old saying of how a crazy person never sees themselves as crazy; if you think you are, you probably aren't.

I much prefer the program phrase of 'sick and insane'. That describes my disease with a lot more accuracy,

In the AA big book, there's a great story, a parable really, about a man who can't stop himself from running out in front of fire engines. He does it again and again, eventually landing himself in the hospital. After he has healed from his injuries, he pledges from the bottom of his heart never to do it again. Then, when released, he immediately steps in front of the first fire engine he comes across. I know of no better metaphor for the sick insanity of this disease we suffer from.

Sick and insane doesn't just apply to the compulsion to use, though. It is our very thinking that has been twisted. It can be hard to recognize those thoughts, and difficult to separate them out. Learning to not act on them, learning to not obsess on them or let them control us, takes time and practice. For me, the more I care about something or someone, the more vulnerable I am to this part of my disease. And my god, the thoughts I have are about as sick and insane as they come.

My best friend can tell you about the time I thought he was a government plant, set up to monitor my movements and activities. After all, how could anyone get along with and have so much in common with me unless they were the product of psychological study and deliberate deception? When I was going through my last divorce, I was convinced that my soon-to-be ex-wife was in a threeway relationship with my sister and her boyfriend. I remember dating a new girl once and being certain she was secretly a sex slave for some college fraternity. These are some of the more extreme examples, but there are plenty of mundane ones, too: my boss is plotting a way to fire me; my ex is banging a friend on the sly, etc. When I'm in a good mental place, I can laugh at these thoughts; when I'm not, they ARE my reality.

Having some clean time and some Recovery under my belt, I'm able to deconstruct these obsessions. My best friend being a Fed is really about my own lack of self-confidence and how I feel that I could never really have that much in common with someone--that no one would ever want to be friends with me. The thing with my ex-wife and sister is the manifestation of the betrayal I felt at my family's siding with her during our divorce. Plots by the boss are actually my own fears of losing my job in these unstable economic times, combined with how I don't fit in with my coworkers. The thoughts of lovers running around behind my back are fears of betrayal coupled with my hatred of secrets, all stemming from growing up in a family of emotionally unavailable people who always talked around everything and never directly about anything--especially if it was something important.

Like other addicts, I have far more experience suppressing my feelings than actually dealing with them.

I'm learning, though, how to deal with my emotions. I'm learning how to deal with obsessive thoughts, as sick and insane as they are. Talking about them helps. Hearing about others' struggle with similar issues helps me to not feel so alone. A hearty laugh from my sponsor helps me to remember that I am still an addict, no matter how caught up in the insanity I may get. The difference is that today I don't have to let these thoughts rule me. Today I have a solution. Today I have a clear head and the blessing of my Recovery to carry me through.

The AA big book has some great suggestions, too, on how to handle things. Given that the majority of the people in my life now are other addicts, it's not just my own sick insanity that I have to deal with. When confronted with another's disease I've found it very helpful to remember: we are ill. Others are to be treated as you would a close relative who is dying. Remember that they are suffering from a disease, that they are sick and insane, and that without help and love and support, they will die. Compassion is the key--towards others and the self. We are, all of us, a bunch of sick people.

God knows I am.

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