Thursday: Disconnect

Forgive me, Dear Reader. It’s been eight days since my last post… (Is it obvious that I am also a recovering Catholic? ๐Ÿ˜‚)

I’ve been a bit under the weather; and, as a result, have found myself smack dab in the middle of mental depression. Sadly, this isn’t uncommon in my world; and though I’ve gotten much more adept at handling it, it’s always a struggle to find myself here.

For me, the most frustrating part of mental affliction is the fundamental disconnect between knowing and feeling. I know that this will soon pass, and that putting one foot in front of the other will help to hasten that passage. I feel, however, that the darkness will never dissipate; and I should therefore simply give in, and wallow away.

Second to that frustration is knowing that my moods also affect Mitchell. Though skilled at tip-toeing across eggshells, he often finds himself a target for all of the negative feelings swirling in and around me. It isn’t fair, it just is.

Last, but not least, there is the formidable weight that comes from everything feeling overwhelming — from brushing my teeth to filling ice cube trays to studying for my courses at the university to my obligations in AA.

The irony of depression is that it takes away your will to move, when moving is the only thing that will pull you out of it. (That damn disconnect again.) And that is where I currently find myself — stuck between knowing I must move, and having absolutely no desire to do so.

Falling ill interrupted my Yoga practice and the routine that went along with it. These past several days, I played video games and watched reruns of “The Office” in lieu of completing “normal” everyday tasks… and having done so has made me feel more lethargic and a little less human.

So I suppose the only thing to do is to get up out of this chair, brush my teeth, take a shower, and get dressed. Who knows? Perhaps I will feel better after having done so, and will then continue to move forward.

I just really don’t want to. No promises, Dear Reader. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Thursday Soundtrack: Citizen Soldier

Wednesday: Day Three (and Ashtok)

I woke up this morning in a really good mood, excited about the things I wanted to do today; and found myself using that as an excuse to try and weasel out of my morning routine. ๐Ÿ˜‚

It comes down to this: I find the maintenance parts of life — eating, grooming, sleeping, etc. — to be monotonous, boring wastes of time; but, they must be attended to if we hope to make it to each tomorrow. *Exasperated Sigh*

Yoga took twenty minutes, and I hopped right into the shower afterwards. I skipped the ritual Greek Yogurt this morning, but only because I was anxious to fix the damn Bluetooth issues on my laptop.

The driver went spontaneously missing yesterday afternoon, and none of the support articles I found provided any remedy to the issue. Nor did enlisting Mitchell’s expertise. Both tired, we decided that I would try and call support this morning.

After hours of rehashing all the details to both Lenovo and Microsoft support, I finally got routed to Ashtok, who accessed my system remotely, and set about completing all the tasks I’d already completed through FAQ article instruction… except this time, it worked!

I didn’t try to hide my enthusiasm or how impressed I was.

“How on earth did you make it do that, Ashtok?! I did the same damn thing, to no avail!” I exclaimed.

Rather than give some scripted answer from the fiendish individuals who write the hellish Microsoft support articles, Ashtok shared an anecdote with me.

He said that when children in India feign illness to get out of chores or school, they are often presented to a family elder for diagnosis. The child is looked at, asked a couple of questions, and then told that there is a remedy to their problem — an antibiotic injection. When faced with the sight of a needle, many instantaneously recover. He ended his story by saying, “Computers are very much the same, Ms. Cassie.”

Not gon’na lie, Ashtok’s fable — along with his IT prowess — made my day.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference… even from half a world away.

Tuesday: Day Two (and Sexual Haunting)

I’m not well rested today. Mitchell came to bed around three in the morning, and woke me in the process — further dooming me to hours of tossing and turning (and very little sleep) from there on out. I was able to doze a bit once he got up this morning; but sadly, solid rest could not be found. So I gave up the ghost, and got up.

I wasn’t happy about “having” to do Yoga, but I again trudged through. Thankfully, the instructor I follow on YouTube has a very calming, relaxed approach to her practice. No matter how discouraged I feel going in, I always feel better coming out. (Note to self: That means you have now felt better for having practiced Yoga two seemingly dismal mornings in a row.)

I’m a bit sore and stiff, but have sustained no injuries. Therefore, I had little excuse not to go about my new morning routine — shower, brush my teeth, dry my hair, get dressed, and eat some Greek yogurt before all else. (To some, this may seem ridiculous to note as an achievement; but those of you who understand that such activities can be monumental tasks, I count as true members of my tribe.)

After that, I didn’t want to write… but that same annoying, little voice from yesterday said, It takes time to form new habits. Don’t yet give up! I promptly told it to shut the hell up, and grabbed the laptop to play Magic: The Gathering; but instead, have (rather reluctantly) found myself here.

The thing about positive behavior is that it brings about positive reward. Physical activity increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, and helps us to feel empowered.

The problem is that when I feel more empowered, I feel prettier — more sexual. The longing to be desired, and to receive physical confirmation of that desire, increases. And in my house, that quickly leads to arguments. Thus, I have begun to equate feeling better to further frustration.

Don’t misunderstand. I have a good life. I’m married to an intelligent, kind man who possesses a very quick, dry wit. He cares deeply for me, is an excellent cook (a talent I sorely lack), and supports me in my endeavors. He just isn’t interested in sexual expression.

I used to think that this was a part of his personality that had changed over the course of our marriage, and that I was somehow at fault. The better I get at listening to him, though, the more I understand that it’s far more likely I am the one who has changed.

He recently pointed out that I was always the affectionate initiator of our sex life; and that when I got sick, that part of me seemed to slip away. It only returned when I started drinking again; and (duh) he wasn’t/isn’t crazy about who I am when I’m drowning myself in Jameson’s.

This observation prompted me to reevaluate my sex inventory; and the hard fact of the matter is this: I’m not very comfortable initiating sober sex and when I have initiated such activity in the past (usually drunk or high), it’s been about power and manipulation versus love. It’s been about the mood altering effect, not the act itself. In its own way, sex is just a different manifestation of my addiction. And I don’t quite know how to fix that.

Yes, I know the psychology of sexual abuse. I know that when young girls are victimized (especially preceding puberty) their sexual identity gets twisted up and comes out the other side a very elusive and sometimes damaging aspect of their personalities… and yet, the desire to enjoy sex in a healthy way pervades, however subtly, the rest of our lives.

I will never know what my sexuality might have looked like had it been left to blossom in its own time, in a more acceptable way. As it stands, the twisted version of my sexuality that just is infiltrates every fiber of the woman I have become.. and is forever haunting my relationships.

Tuesday Soundtrack: Lady A

Monday: Day One (and AA Shouldn’t Suck)

I woke up grumpy and pessimistic this morning. I walked into the living room, sat in the recliner, and gave myself at least a dozen justifiable (okay, somewhat justifiable) reasons for not starting a healthier routine today.

I sipped my water, smoked my vape, and commenced brooding. And then suddenly, amidst the clamor of excuses to be a slug today, the thinnest, annoying little voice whispered, If you just do it, it’ll be done, ya’ big dummy. And you’ll probably feel better for it.

Begrudgingly I pulled on my pajama pants, turned on Zelinda from The Yoga Room, and started her seven day challenge for beginners. After just twenty-six minutes of practice I felt better. I ate a yogurt afterwards, started that load of laundry I’ve been putting off, and got showered and dressed for the day.

Then I checked my phone, and called (not texted, called) a friend who said she was feeling a little blue… and by the end of our conversation, she didn’t sound quite as sorrowful as when she answered, and (bonus!) my own spirits were lifted.

I found myself frustrated, however, by one of the reasons for my dear friend’s sadness… members of AA. And here’s the thing, folks: AA should not be a source of dissatisfaction in one’s life.

Often, when I hear folks speak about problems in the program, one issue resurfaces again and again: sponsorship.

Sponsorship is a challenge. It means different things to different folks. It’s misunderstood by some, and gets abused and/or misused by others.

Sponsors are not priests, clerics, clinical therapists, nor financiers. Sponsors are not fairy godmothers (or godfathers) that can wave a wand and fix all your problems for you. And sponsors are not your mother (or father).

As I mentioned before, the word “sponsor” doesn’t even appear in the program portion of the Big Book. All that is truly required to work your program is a close-mouthed friend to call on when step work (of life) gets challenging.

I further advise women to create a network of people they can call, because my experience and/or suggested solution to a problem may not always be the one they need. (The proverbial “It takes a village…” perspective.)

There should never be a hierarchy between sponsors and those they guide through step work. (i.e. If you’ve become a housemaid, chauffer, or laundry attendant for your sponsor, something has gone terribly awry.) All a sponsor should do is guide other members through step work — and the daily challenges of life — by sharing their own experience of having (hopefully) done the same.

If you expect your sponsor to listen to hours of “poor me” lamenting, or to confirm that you are in fact a victim of the cruel outside world, then you aren’t really looking for sponsorship. You’re looking for someone to co-sign your bullsh*t, and all that indicates (to me) is that you may not be ready to get yourself straight.

Sadly, this is where a lot of folks are when they enter the rooms. They cling to the delusion that their problems are of someone else’s making, and therefore, only someone else can solve them.

News flash: Bad things happen. People can be cruel. And I have yet to meet a fellow female in the program who has not been a victim of sexual abuse. But as a sponsor, I don’t have the expertise to walk someone through trauma or grief recovery. That’s what mental health care professionals are for.

And don’t leave with the impression that I don’t care about what you’ve gone through in this life. I absolutely care! But I can only share — and then keep — that which I freely give away… and if I spend all my time feeling burdened by events I am not qualified to walk through, both parties suffer for it.

I end up grouchy and resentful, and the person on the other end of the line hasn’t been offered the help they truly need. Thus, the cycle repeats. Leaving each of us emotionally and physically exhausted.

That’s not how AA should leave you feeling. The fourth and the fifth step can be tough (and daunting)… but if you’re working with someone who has done the work themselves, it can be easier to understand, gentler to approach, and I promise… there is nothing so terrible it can’t be faced.

AA is a simple program. It requires only two things: self-reflection and taking responsibility.

It’s work, people. Challenging work? Yes, but well worth the reward. Ultimately, it is the reconstruction of one’s self.

So. If you aren’t ready to pull yourself from the desolate mire of thought that fuels that desire to be rid (restless, irritable and discontent) of self, then… Don’t. Call. Me.

I cannot afford to return to the twisted, snarling vines that choke the alcoholic in their lonely mental swamps. I have absolutely no desire to do so… and I hope to help others feel the same. That is the power of program.

“We absolutely insist on enjoying life!”

Sunday: I Feel Better When…

I feel better when I shower upon awakening and then brush my teeth.

I feel better when I write each day, when I read each day.

I feel better when I reach out and talk to a friend or loved one.

I feel better when I eat healthy and take a walk each day.

Why are such simple things sometimes so damn hard to do?!?!

Those of you who have mental health afflictions and/or addictions understand how baffling — and downright plaguing — a question this can be.

I myself suffer from a myriad of mental health issues: ADHD, Addiction/Alcoholism, Borderline Personality Disorder, Mild Depression, and OCD. (And those are just the ones with which I’ve been officially diagnosed. ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ )

Most days I function like any other human being. If you were to encounter me in a meeting you might think, That lady seems to have it figured out a bit. And on occasion, I do. But more often than not, it’s simply a product of putting on a good front.

There are days when getting out of bed is a monumental task. Never mind the rest of it. Mitchell has been with me long enough to recognize the signs of such days, and the poor man has become adept at walking on eggshells (and enduring the tumultuous storms of my moods).

On good days, I get out of bed and brush my teeth. I shower and dry my hair. I put on clean clothes. I go to a meeting. I read. I write. And I used to eat healthy and take a walk each morning.

Initially, Mitchell and I stopped walking because Tucson in the summer is akin to living on the threshold of hell. (One of my husband’s friends once said that it was so damn hot a hobbit stopped by his home, knocked on the door, and threw a ring at him. LOL!) But the heat doesn’t excuse my lapse from Yoga and YouTube aerobic videos for the more fluffy among us.

The plain truth is that it is easier to give in to despair than it is to pull yourself out of it. And unfortunately, I tend to take the easy route first… that is, until I hit brush so thick that I have to fight it — tooth and nail — with a machete and frenzied bouts of exertion that often lead to injury. (I.e. I tend to learn things the hard way.)

You would think after forty-three years on this earth I would’ve come to the decisive conclusion that “doing the next right thing” is far more satisfying than the self-flagellation that comes the morning after a rice krispy treat binge in dirty pajamas with oily hair, but goddam it! Those chewy little suckers are just so damn delicious. ๐Ÿ˜‚

In pondering over such thoughts this morning, I realized that my obvious outside has never matched my metaphorical inside.

When I was thin, and relatively pretty, I was riddled with insecurity and fear. Now that I have the budding self-confidence that comes with working a sober program, I’m a chubby housewife that rarely bothers with cosmetics.

I’d like to say that it doesn’t bother me… but dishonesty can plunge a person into the rabbit hole of active addiction. So let me be plain. It absolutely bothers me. On a daily basis.

I didn’t want to write about it. Writing puts it out there where I have to look at it… and I cannot sit in a mess for long before I hurriedly set about cleaning it up.

And yet, here we are.

I did get up this morning and brush my teeth. I showered and dried my hair. I put on clean clothes (though I confess I’m wearing Mitchell’s shirt in lieu of doing the laundry). I sat down and started to write. And now?

Now I have work to do… and because I’ve shared my woes with you, Dear Reader, I must try to right them… and there’s no take backs on commitments anymore. AA taught me that.

Saturday: AA Can Sometimes Suck

I had intentions to attend my homegroup in AA this morning… and then thought back on the terrible week I’d had within the program, and allowed myself to stay home instead — preferring a day of leisurely reading and documentary watching to one that could quickly turn to twenty-four hours of ridiculous drama.

When I entered the program of AA — more than three years ago, now — I had an unrealistic expectation (one that I have come to find is common among our membership): I assumed that folks with long-term sobriety were all solid, mentally healthy people. I was quite shocked to find this belief to be a reckless and unreliable one.

You mean alcoholics and addicts tend to be somewhat unstable? Duh, dummy.

I have come to find (rather reasonably, in retrospect) that the membership of AA is but a microcosm of the larger world outside its doors. In fact, there may be an even denser portion of the AA community that is mentally unstable than there is in the community at large. But, I digress…

I am now at a point in my sobriety where I am sponsoring other women in the program, and am saddened by the number that have been betrayed by a sponsor. (And might I point out that the word “sponsor” never appears in the original portion of our Big Book.)

If you have been unfortunate enough to find the need to join our ranks, and have actually worked the steps, then you know the intimacy that is required of the fourth and fifth steps. To lay one’s soul bare to another, and to then have those transgressions whispered of behind your back, is the cruelest of deceptions.

I have seen the shock, and fallen tears after such events; and it is never easy to witness.

For those who dare to try again, it is difficult to enter into any future “close-mouthed friend” relationships with an expectation of confidence. Picking up the pieces and attempting to put them back together again is a strain for everyone involved… and in theory, shouldn’t ever be necessary.

Don’t misunderstand. I do not think myself pious, or even a pillar in program. I haven’t done things perfectly, and definitely wasn’t honest when I first entered the rooms… but I eventually came to understand the idealistic humanity to which AA aspires. I attempt to “practice these principles in all my affairs”, and hope that in doing so, I move closer toward that ideal each time my sobriety closes the door on another twenty-four hours.

We practice sobriety as “an avocation”, and there are few in the fellowship who can profess with integrity to be mental health care professionals. Newcomers should know that we are little more than sober fools. The somewhat less-blind leading the newly blind. Just something to keep in mind…

Friday: The Power of Conversation

If you want to change the course of a day, take the time to have an actual conversation with someone.

It sounds like common sense, I know; but we live in a world where the art of conversation (and yes, there is an art to a good one) is dying.

In the rooms of AA, we often stress how important it is to pick up that cell. “Reach out to another alcoholic!” we shout with enthusiasm. And then we leave the good cheer of that meeting hall, get in our vehicles, and commence our busy lives… with ne’er a thought of the phone, especially if we have some time under our belts, and no longer feel like every little thing is a crisis.

In truth however, with years of sobriety behind me, there is a moment every day when I don’t quite feel like myself. A second (at least) for self-doubt and disappointment.

This morning, it happened while forcing myself to get into the shower. (Yep, there are days when I have to force myself into the damn shower.) I got a glimpse of cellulite in the hallway mirror, and felt utter despair.

I texted a friend about it, but I didn’t feel any better.

And since my friend was not available to take a call, I called my mom. And my brother. And my kid.

Not to disparage over my weight, but to ask how they were doing. And as we talked about subjects that widely varied — the chunk of change to be made in waiting tables, my nephew catching the largest salmon in Alaska, the definition of an NGO and why I might like to work for one — my weight slowly slipped away (from my mind, not my body… though that would have been nice ๐Ÿ˜‚ ). And it hasn’t returned.

In a world where we find ourselves isolated more often than not, the melodic sound of a voice soothes a lonely heart far more effectively than the store-boxed Ding! of a text. There is power to be found in the laughter of a friend or loved one, and commiseration to be had even in tears.

So go on! Look away from the screen for a moment and dial a number. Any number. Dare to change the course of this day. I guarantee, you’ll be better for it.

Welcome

We’ve been here before. A new look, a new start, to the blog. I get caught up in the frenzy of design excitement, gush over a new “focus” for the content, lose myself creating pages (that will ultimately prove superfluous)… and forget that the reason I started this project was to write for myself.

Don’t get me wrong, Dear Reader, I write for you as well. But often, in doing so — in trying to anticipate what folks want to read — I forget what I need to write.

This time around you will not find a cache of fancy category designations, nor a plethora of tags (though there will be some) attempting to connect with all of the other content across WordPress. If it’s meant to be you will find my words… and perhaps I too will find yours.

Welcome to Frosthidden.