Friday, August 22, 2008

Day two hundred and thirty two ... It's all in your mind.

I'm in a lot of pain right now.

I think it's a result of using a piece of gym equipment I wasn't completely familiar with.

The injured area in question is my right shoulder, and it hurts so bad I have to brush my hair with my left hand.

Yeah, it's that bad.

And it's a damn good thing it happened too.

Because it is helping me to understand how I stay sober.

See, what I am doing--abstaining from my vices and losing weight--is maddeningly simple.

I'm constantly amazed, walking around bookstores, at the massive quantities of self-help books on the market. Not too long ago--before I took the plunge and went to my first AA meeting--I checked out the selections on how to quit drinking at the local Barnes and Noble.

There I found rows and rows of books, large and small, on how to quit, why to quit, when to quit, and how to keep from ever having to quit again. There was even one which I believe was called Quit Drinking by Planning Your Relapses. That one almost made its way to the counter with me ...

... and then I slapped myself in the head and ran out, almost through the plate glass window.

It gets to be overwhelming sometimes.

And so, as I have written, I did a great job staying sober for a while leading up to December, 27 when the shit hit the fan. And, as I have written, from that point on I have been clean as a whistle and happy as a clam (I know, what do clams have to be happy about? They inhale sand all day and then they get a hot tub they'll never remember.)

And, as I am writing now--for the first time--I don't go to AA anymore and haven't for months. 

So how do I do it?

Well, let's take my current pain I'm immersed in today. 

I injured my right shoulder three days ago. As of yesterday, the discomfort had subsided a bit after some well-intentioned babying.

As of yesterday, I was enjoying increased flexibility and ease of motion.

And I just had to celebrate.

I had to plug a cord into an electrical socket. I should have done it with my left hand as it was at an awkward angle, but I didn't. But, I mean, this was such a simple and mundane task that I had done hundreds, if not thousands of times before. And so, I used my injured arm to reach down, around, and behind the Christmas cactus, and--with my body at an extremely unfamiliar postition--I plugged it in.


And I was back at square one.

I had to go and sit on the couch and rub it gently and try to convince myself that it wasn't as bad as before it started to get better. At the same time, I had to admit to myself that my arrogant thinking (that I was back to normal to the point where I can do anything again) had gotten me to the point that I couldn't do anything again.

I had to admit to myself that I had done something completely stupid that I could have avoided if I had only thought to myself how badly I had felt mere days before.

I had to remember to remember.

More than a few people have told me I should write a self-help book. I tell them that I am--slowly, and patiently--and each day that goes by is another page written. I don't know if what I am doing will work for others. I just know that it works for me. There's not much to it. All I've done is to admit that there are problems in my life and address them with brutal honesty. I also don't run and hide from my unattractive and harmful tendencies. I surrender nothing. In fact, I become more powerful and resourceful each day I refuse to allow drugs and alcohol (and excess of food) into my world. I do not stay away from bars, I do not stop hanging around with my old friends. I do not hide from my aggressors. I simply understand, as each day goes by, what their motives are, how their system works, and where their weaknesses lie.

In other words, I use my brain. And in this way I protect myself from myself. Because nobody is going to--and nobody has ever--made me do anything I did not want to do.

I did it all, everything, every time.

Others weapons at my disposal:

I write how I feel in a public forum. I constantly remind myself that how I feel now--with almost eight months of sobriety under my belt, my friends back, my wallet full, and my musical path on a seemingly endless rise--and not think for a second that I could have it both ways. I do not change myself--I adapt.

And I remember to remember.

This, my friends, is the key to happiness. You must remember how you felt in the past, fully and without sugar-coating it, as compared to what choice you have in front of you, and you must use your brain and decide if it is what you want. 

Correction--not what you want, but what will be the best for you.

I know that the best for me right now is to not do yard work today and to try to not lift anything with my right shoulder. 

Do I have a brand new, red, chipper/shredder outside that is calling my name? Yes, yes I do.

And will there be hundreds of moments throughout the day when I will be tempted (by virtue of being right-handed) to use my injured arm to lift or open (or brush) something? Yes, yes there will. And will I forgo my healing and rip apart the tender tendons by doing more than I should?

I hope not, but I can't be sure. I know that from the weather reports I've seen, I can postpone my plans to use my new, red, chipper/shredder until Sunday when I am in better shape. It is a small example of my adaption (yes, adaption) process, but it speaks volumes. 

I have to think of how I feel now (or I should say how I will feel in a little while when the pain subsides) and not look at it as it is. Because it is a fleeting condition at best. It is healing and not healed. And I have to remember how my shoulder felt as I plugged in that stupid cord into the wall, successfully screwing up tens of hours of therapy by overextending myself.

And this is what I should have done each time I got to the point where I would eventually fall in my many attempts to stay sober. Because, every time I'd get to the point where I was a total mess and stop for long enough for the pain to go away, I'd start to notice changes in my complexion, changes in my stride, changes in my mental state, changes in my musical ability, changes in my wallet, and changes in my relationships with others. I'd notice these changes and I thought I was all better. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought that now, I was really ready to take on the world because I had never felt this good before.

And I'd go on a bender worse than the last. 


Because I failed to remember to remember.

I simply forgot--or intentionally ignored--the way my life had been mere days before. I took each benefit from not drinking as a sign that I was fixing my problem--which I was--and became so thrilled with myself that I was getting better that I just had to celebrate. I just had to tell the world. I just had to plug that cord in under the Christmas cactus because it's such a simple and mundane task that I have done hundreds, if not thousands of times before ...


And I was back at square one.

And here we are at square two hundred and thirty two and I'm in a world of pain.

But this will pass, and my arm will heal.

And I'll continue to work out and lose weight (I'm currently mired at 206 and I suppose I didn't want to shout about it as I'm a bit behind, but there you go. 18 pounds in 10 weeks. I suppose that's nothing to be ashamed of) and I'll be confronted with challenges which I think I'm strong enough to overcome.

But I'll always remember which machine it was that I misused, resulting in this injury, and I'll stay away from it. I will stay away from it, yet I will still perform that same exercise. Because that one machine is designed to do the work of the many free weights that sit not far from it. They do the same job as said machine, however, they are harder to use and more difficult to control. They aren't guided by levers and pulleys. They are, as the name suggests, free. They are unpredictable, and are wont to go this way and that. But, unlike the machine that has a path set by the manufacturer to work a certain way every single time, the free weights are controlled exclusively by me. Unlike the machine that provides equal distribution to two limbs that are, by nature, mismatched, the free weights let my body work at its own healthy pace. They give me options, and options are tools for success. I could let go of them in mid extension and they would drop to the floor. I could make the same motion I used to injure myself on the equipment designed for ease of use. 

But instead, I will remember to remember, and I will use them correctly.

I will use my mind, and it will make me stronger.

Thanks for reading,


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