The Dissonance of Addiction: What Do I Want My Life to Look Like?

Dissonance-of-Addiction

I’m an open book over here for the most part, and so I’d like to talk about this new thought that has been hindering inside of me. It happened side by side with all the other things that began to come together, like my plans to move in September. It was like a really big and unexpected nudge on the shoulder. There’s this thing I’ve struggled with for the past 6 years. It’s not something I talk a lot about simply because there’s a lot of shame built up within myself about it and there’s also quite a lot of shame brought towards me from a more societal point. I’ll take credit for 70%…okay?

There’s this thing I’ve struggled with for the past 6 years. It’s not something I talk a lot about simply because there’s a lot of shame built up within myself about it and there’s also quite a lot of shame brought towards me from a more societal point. I’ll take credit for 70%…okay?

I was 15 when I tried my first cigarette. Before I get into what came from that, let me start by talking about who I was, what was happening in my life, and what led me to that point. I didn’t know it at the time because 6 years ago, mental illness and mental health, in general, was not a conversation that was talked about. To be honest, 15 year old me understood mental illness as the crazies. Of course, I was sane so there was nothing wrong with me. I learned later on once I began going to see a counsellor regularly that I was and had been in the midst of a deep depression for most of my life.

Since mental health wasn’t talked about, I didn’t know that the deep emptiness I had always felt was something that everyone else didn’t feel. I thought this was just the way we all had to walk around the world. I was brought up to believe in a “suck-it-up” mindset and understood that showing emotions made you look weak. I knew this was the way I had to walk around the world, but being a highly sensitive person, a writer, a daydreamer, and having a boatload of emotions ALL THE TIME meant that I just had to try harder. I guess some people were just born weaker than others and I happened to be one of them. I really thought that growth, adulthood, and being a strong human meant that I had to get to the point where I wouldn’t have to try as hard to control what I was feeling. I thought being strong meant feeling very little. Clearly, I had a long way to go.

But this is what I knew at the time. I was also someone who didn’t fit in very well. But when I was 15, I finally discovered a group that took me in with open arms: they were the drug addicts, the smokers, the binge-drinkers. I looked at them with awe, being the weird bookish, socially awkward nerd. These people were brave to me. They were so honest and bold. They spoke their minds without any thought. They just looked so…….

Free.

They received a lot of backlash and scrutiny from most of my high school, but they didn’t care. These were the people that I knew were the strongest. They were in the place that I so desperately wanted to be, and they wanted to be friends with me? YES YES YES. PLEASE. I mean that in a super chill and relaxed way.

So that was the crowd I started hanging around. Meanwhile, my family life was a wreckage (if I were to put it lightly). My grandmother (my dad’s mom) had just passed away and the dynamic within my family was very strange. It was like two families living within a home: my dad and his mom. And then my mom, my sister and I. At the time, it was known that my dad didn’t want to have a relationship with my sister and I, and that was just the way it was. We had all accepted that fact and so we said a few words to each other here and there because we lived in the same house, but it was like a distant roommate situation.

Anyways, when my grandmother died, part of my dad did too. I guess he realized that he made it so she was his only family here, and so he fell apart more and more each second until one day, he lost it. All of a sudden he was in the hallway of our home screaming, banging his head against the wall over and over and exclaiming that he was going to commit suicide right then and there.

My sister and my mom left the scene and went downstairs because I guess they were annoyed or just thought he was being dramatic, but I stayed and fled over to his side. And it’s that moment when he pushed me to hit the wall and told me to get the fuck away from him. It’s that moment that he reminded me what I had always known all along, but the words had never been said out loud. It was that moment when he said that he never considered me family, and that he never would. That his only family had now passed and he was alone. It was that moment that something in me died.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget that moment, but I have been able to forgive it now after years of counselling and meditation and working on myself. But if I can point to one point of my life when everything went downhill, it would be that one.

Hanging out with the druggies, I still refrained from trying any of the substances myself. Well, other than alcohol, but that’s a story for another time. But it was about a week after this moment that my sister, who smoked cigarettes at the time, asked me to go on her nightly walk with her and I did. We sat on the curb of a parking lot and I asked her if I could try one and she let me. It was gross and I coughed a million times, but I think it numbed something in me and I liked that feeling. So I did it again. One a week turned into one a day, which turned into buying my own packs.

I couldn’t breathe properly during that time, but with cigarettes, as much as they hurt my lungs, they helped me with that. They helped me breathe mentally. And simultaneously, they helped me fit in more with the crowd I’d already been hanging around. It was a win-win.

Now let’s fast forward six years later to present day.

I’m not that same person anymore. I look forward to the sun rising and waking up, instead of longing for more time unconscious in my dream state. I exercise every morning: yoga and pilates. I pay attention to the ingredients in the groceries I buy. I pay attention to the food I put in my body. I meditate so that I can hear myself more. I have a full time job that supports me financially so that I can use my energy on my creative pursuits instead of how I’m going to pay rent next month or buy groceries. I’m consciously surrounding myself with people who love me and care about my well-being. People I can have deep and meaningful conversations with instead of meaningless small talk and gossip. My life looks completely different than what it used to, and so I recently woke up to the realization that smoking cigarettes just doesn’t fit anymore.

It doesn’t make sense with the goals I have for myself. It doesn’t make sense with my everyday routine. It doesn’t make sense with the type of person I am anymore. It just doesn’t fit. It was like I woke up feeling this great dissonance between what I want for myself and what I’m actually still doing.

Progress never ends and some part of me knew I would reach this day, the day I would quit and set myself free from this addiction. And right now, I’m here and I’m ready to try the way I’ve never really done before.

Just like anything, the psychological component of this is far superior to the chemical addiction, so that’s what I’m currently trying to break down. I’m trying to break down what part of me needed this. What I got out of it. What I tell myself to excuse this behaviour. And at the same time, I’m doing a lot of research (PS: Definitely recommend reading Allen Carr’s book) and trying not to be so hard on myself.

This mindset I created around smoking for the past six years has to be reversed before I can cut it completely out of my life, because when I’m done, I’m done. I’m not willing to be someone who longs for a cigarette 3 years down the line, because at that point, it’s not the chemical anymore, it’s your psyche. It’s because this isn’t something to cut using willpower (at least for me). It’s something to cut because I have to unlearn what I taught myself for the past 6 years. I have to re-learn the reality that this is not a sacrifice I’m making when I quit. It’s actually a value I’m adding in to my life.

There’s a lot of work to be down here, internally, but I’m ready to do it now. It was a big nudge. It was an awakening. And each day, the more I learn, the less I crave.

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The Gravity of Knowing: A Home I’ve Never Been To

A-Home-Ive-Never-Been-To

“The only way to know what the next right thing is, is to get very still, block out all the voices from the world and go inside yourself. There is a knowing that rises inside of us when we get quiet enough. Some call it God, others call it intuition or wisdom. It doesn’t matter what you call it—it only matters that you know how to tap into it. To me, it feels more like gravity settling in than words I can hear. This is the new revolution for women: To stop explaining our damn selves. Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take us all the way home.”

– Glennon Doyle Melton

It came to me in a whisper, unrecognisable because my voice usually speaks to me in panic. It’s usually loud and difficult to tune out. It’s not the nicest voice but it likes to tell me its rational and I’m not. So this was different for me. It was simultaneously soothing and terrifying.

A coworker and good friend of mine was telling me about her new potential job in Toronto. She’s been in the same little rut I’ve been in and this new opportunity presented itself in such a quick manner that she’s picking up her things and moving there next week. I think I may have picked up something that was in her when she spoke. She was vibrant and excited and scared and I was so excited for her. And then it happened. I heard myself telling her I planned to move to Vancouver in September when my sublet lease was done.

Vancouver was always in the back of my head. Being alongside beautiful nature, a province that is striving to be the most environmentally friendly and sustainable in the world by 2020. The healthy lifestyle. Being able to experience the life of a city and also secluding myself towards nature when I need a retreat. Everything has always drawn me there, but I always thought I would move abroad first. My plan was always to stay in this small town so I could save up enough to move abroad for two years and travel. Maybe I’d settle down in Vancouver afterwards, when I had travelled enough to want to stay in one place for a long time.

But I heard myself saying something different and I didn’t know if it was a lie or if something in me just wanted to match that spark in her. But once our conversation was over, I took myself aside so I could see what was really going on and that’s when I heard it. The quiet voice. The one I never heard before. The one that felt so outside of me but also completely within. And it told me that Vancouver was next and that Europe and travel and seeing the rest of the world, that would come too. But this is next. Something is there.

I’ve talked a bit about the gravity of knowing here before. It’s something I’m trying to learn to listen to more often. It’s something I’m trying to learn to pay attention to. It’s difficult when our ego is so loud and takes up most of the room. But when I heard it, I told myself I needed to listen to it. Or at the very least, explore the idea.

The first thing that popped into my head was how expensive this would be. The move itself would be pricey and then living there would be too. What if I couldn’t find a job? What if I’m just being impulsive? What if. What if. What if.

And then I told that voice to quiet down, in a motherly tone. I was still at work so sorry to customers who might have passed by me and heard me talking to myself. It must have been weird. But anyways, I knew I had to listen to this, because from my experience, this voice, this whisper, this gravity is a clue. It’s a knowing.

I went over to my store manager and asked him if we could talk about something privately and brought him this plan I had yet to figure out and that’s when I knew even more. By the way his eyes lit up at the idea. How excited he was for me. How eager he became to help me and support me with this move in any way he could. The way he told me he’d get me a secure job with one of our stores in Vancouver and how he’ll get me a raise and probably a promotion there. He told me to email him a preference list of which area I’d want to work in Vancouver because with his recommendation, the stores will be fighting for me. All I felt in that moment was complete gratitude. I’m so grateful to be surrounded with so much love and so much respect and with managers and coworkers who value one another’s work ethic.

When I told my mom, her eyes watered down so quickly with joy, and then I did the thing I feared: I called my dad. Our relationship has been pretty non-existant but we’re both trying to slowly create something. We’re both trying to learn about each other the way we never got to when I was growing up. I wasn’t expecting him to have the response he did, but it was the first time I’d seen any emotion flutter his face other than anger. It was just happiness and all of a sudden, he was willing to do anything to help me move there. He was willing to help me apartment hunt and he was willing to take the trip up there with me in July to put a deposit down on a place and to explore a city I’d call home even though I’ve never been there.

Because I listened to that small voice that told me this crazy thing that was outside of my plan, it brought everyone together. It connected me further with my work family. It brought me this new bond with my dad that I’ve never had before. And it also brings me more uncertainty than ever.

Moving to another province that’s a five-hour flight (or a 4-5 day drive) from where I live, a place I’ve never been to, is a terrifying and exhilarating thought. It’s something I never really imagined myself doing, at least not yet. I was supposed to be saving more for abroad. I was supposed to be doing a lot of other things. But because I listened to this thing, because I paid attention to it and gave it room to speak, I found myself right in the center of where I needed to be.

When things align like this, you have to remind yourself to be more grateful than afraid. I’m afraid because all the money I have saved so far is now going towards this move and a new place instead of abroad. I’m afraid because that city is far more expensive that my current one. I’m afraid because I don’t know anyone there. I’m afraid because I’ve never even been there.

But I know this is it. I know there is something there for me. I know that because I’ve learned to trust that voice. I know that because just putting this idea out there has brought a lot of people in my life together to help me and support me in this transition. I know that it’s just a few months away and there’s a lot to do, but I also know that it’s completely worth it.

I know that because this is the feeling I’ve been craving for so long. This is a challenge I’ve been asking for. Something that’s exciting and scary and brings me closer to something far bigger than me.

I’m excited for September and I’m excited for Vancouver. I’m excited about this change and I’m excited to see what’s in store for me. I believe that energy transfers and flows and I know that something in me clicked with the energy my friend had.

When in doubt, stubbornly trust yourself. The small voice knows more than the loud one.

 

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When a Cycle Ends and the What Nows Begin

when-cycle-ends

This morning and the morning before, I’ve been waking up with anxiety. I’ll shake in my bed for a few hours and I don’t necessarily know what is happening to my mind or body. All I know is that I’m afraid, but I don’t really understand what I’m afraid of.

In a lot of ways, within this past month, my life has changed dramatically. In other ways, it’s exactly the same. I finished the first draft of my novel on April 21. I was finally able to move out of a toxic environment. The weather has gotten much warmer. I no longer have relationships with many people I once considered my closest friends.

But a lot stayed the same. I’m living in the same town. I wake up at 5-6am every day. I do my pilates and yoga (mind and body) workouts. I let my coffee brew as I go to take a shower and when I come out, I meditate for as long as I’m able to that day. I make breakfast, pack my lunch and dinner, and then begin to get ready to go to work. I usually come back from work at around 9:30-10:30pm and then try to read for a bit before I pass out, and then the day begins again.

It feels as though my life is much different, but my days are all beginning to look identical. I like morning routines. I like waking up early to do all the things I want to do before I do the things I have to do (like go to work). But after finishing the first draft of my novel, writing is no longer on the list of things to do, and that was by far my favourite. Even in the groggiest, tragic, or boring and uninspired days, learning how to write this first draft is what has held me together. And now, it’s over.

I wanted to go back in and start typing out the handwritten draft, but it didn’t want to be typed just yet. I felt a dragging of words that needed time to just sit and rest, and so I let them. In the meanwhile, I’ve had some thoughts of the next book that sprouted a while earlier that I’m beginning to make sense of and research.

But there’s this sense of a cycle’s completion that has been giving me a lot of anxiety. A lot of, “what nows” and “Now that this is over, is this what my life is going to look like?” And of course, the “Am I always going to live in this town and have to work this job?” When am I finally going to save enough to travel? Why can’t I afford to have the type of adventure I crave? What if this draft never wants to be edited? What if I never write again?

The day I finished the first draft, my housemates moved out and I had to pack the rest of my own things. I went to a goodbye dinner the next day for all the people at my work who were 4th-year university students graduating and moving on. Waking up to empty rooms and going to work with new faces, all I felt was lost. All I couldn’t make sense of was why I was still here and everyone else got to move on.

I’m now subletting a room in an apartment for the summer with strangers who complain that I wake up too early or that I need to close my bedroom window at night because they can hear the wind rustling. I moved out of a toxic environment into a place that scrutinises the way I go about my days. All I feel is groggy, meaningless, and like whatever this next phase of my life is going to be, doesn’t want me either.

I’ve been talking to my counsellor about it who is also a very spiritual person and made sense of this in a way that I want to share over here because maybe it’ll do something for any of you who feel as though they have completed a cycle or season of their life. She talked about how there was a time in her life where she explored Paganism and how that helped her understand the cycles of each of our journey’s.

Samhain (in the Pagan Wheel of the Year) is the ancient Celtic festival marking the end of harvest season and the onset of winter. It’s this sort of in-between time, a time right after a cycle’s completion, celebrated October 31st to sunset on November 1. It’s supposed to be a day and point of time when “the veil separating the world of mortals and the world of spirits is at its thinnest, enabling the souls of the dead, witches, and faeries of all sorts to mingle with living people. Even though it’s a cycle’s end, it’s not a sad time but rather it’s considered one of the most sacred. It’s more of a liminal time when the veil between life and death grows thin. It’s considered the most powerful and spiritual time of the year.

If we look at the periods of our lives, the endings of cycles, in a celebratory way, I think they can make room for magical things. Instead, I’ve been struck with anxiety and fear, which is okay and pretty normal. But if we shift our western ways of thinking and see any time of completion with eyes of wonder instead of eyes of fear; if we let ourselves rest and mourn this time and celebrate it all at once; if we look at it as a sacred time instead of a scary and sad one, what would happen? I don’t know about you, but I’m curious to find out.

 

 

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