Late night large pizzas, two pints of Ben & Jerry’s (albeit non-dairy) and obsessive flipping back and forth between a couple of ‘dating’ apps are few of my least favourite things. You wouldn’t be able to gauge my disdain for such behaviour, though, based on the frequency with which I engaged in it.
These behaviours are some of my deepest, darkest secrets. Probably not what you’d expect of a health and wellness professional. Am I right?
I’ve struggled with addiction my entire life. Whether it be with food, alcohol, drugs, ‘love’, gambling or any behaviour, person or activity that changed the way I felt about myself for even a moment, I wanted—and needed—more of it.
I’ve been active in a recovery community and sober from my major addictions for more than 17 years now. In that time, I’ve listened to a lot of inspiring stories and followed many life-changing suggestions that led me to where I am now.
In case you’re not in the know of recovery, one of the main things we don’t do at our meetings is ‘tell’ people what to do. Rather, we share our honest stories and struggles in hopes that people might identify and also heal in the process.
In a previous post I talked about searching my soul for (and discovering) the fears that kept my true self isolated and running in my cyclical addictions. In touching these fears, I was able to lessen their impact on my life and move out of the stifled emotional isolation I was in.
As I’ve begun to emerge from these ‘bad habits’, it’s become apparent to me that in addition to the fears I have about revealing myself, I carry with me some innate negative beliefs about who I actually am.
A few months into my new life without late night dates with Ben & Jerry and other ‘extra-curricular’ app-tivities, I began to notice a little depression settling in.
More specifically, I started hearing a small voice—at first a whisper—that would taunt my reflection while I was shaving, or changing my clothes—‘you’re getting old, Michael.’ ‘Look at those lines—your body is not what it used to be.’ ‘Your cheeks are hollow, and your face is drooping.’
The voice got louder and would wake me from an otherwise restful sleep to the reality that, ‘I’m alone. I live in a bachelor apartment and I barely have anything for my age. And I’m getting older still.’
Startled, I began questioning why this depression was setting in now? I’ve done so much work on myself. Especially just now in my sobriety. Wasn’t everything supposed to be getting better? Wasn’t I supposed to be straightening out mentally, physically and emotionally as I conquered my spiritual sickness and isolation?
Beset by theses questions, I scrambled to find their answer.
I remember my guru telling me many times during our after-me-acting-out emotional-hangover phone calls, to begin observing how I was feeling in the moment when I wanted to binge eat or turn on the apps. To notice how I was feeling and sit with it. To write about it if I could.
I suppose I had never really been ready to surrender these lesser-addictions until now, because I never found myself willing to sit in the feeling. Instead, I would order the pizza, pick up the ice cream or set up a quick ‘date’.
In grappling with these thoughts, it suddenly came to me, clear as day, that I wasn’t only just now beginning to experience these negative thoughts and this depression.
THEY HAD BEEN THERE ALL ALONG!
But I had been blotting them out by isolating—and seeking comfort in momentary ‘relationships’ and double cheese pizzas.
These nagging thoughts and taunting whispers are not necessarily the cause of my controlling isolation—but they are in a sense the catalyst that prompts me to want to control how I’m perceived. And then I’m compelled to overcompensate by putting on a show in everything I do.
In fact, I had gotten so good at putting on a show—and believing it—that I didn’t even notice that—to a certain extent—I actually hated myself as I was.
This realization hurts.
And it scares me.
If these negative beliefs are so entrenched in the fibre of my being, how do I overcome them? Can they go away?
A few weeks ago, when I was writing a piece about my self-imposed isolation, I struggled with the terror of the idea of actually sharing what I was writing.
In the midst of my mental/ego war, my guru sent me a random text. We chat for lengths on the phone all the time—but he NEVER texts me. In fact, I didn’t even recognize the number at first.
My guru had stumbled upon a universal statement issued to all writers that called upon us to tell our deepest, darkest secret as a means to let the rest of the world know they’re not alone in their suffering. My guru said, ‘This made me think of you.’
I remember a quote I once heard (I now know it’s by James Joyce) that, ‘The particular is contained in the universal’ (and vice versa).
Applied to life and my writing, to me this means in naming my deepest fears, I name the same fears others have. Universal fears and beliefs (and habits!).
My guru’s message was to remind me that the world needs more people to speak the language of the heart so they know they’re not alone.
That leads me to why I’m writing these posts—oh, and also why I’m officially now in the process of writing a reflective self-help book:
In revealing and sharing my deepest secrets and fears, I’m freed of them. I’ve named them and put them in their place. I’ve risen above them. They don’t have a strong hold on me any longer.
In naming my fears and sharing my not-so-glamorous truths, my hope is always that you might identify and name yours too, and—even if just a little—be freed of them.