Open Topic

Prison Break.

In spiritual circles it’s common to talk about being “on the path.” The path to God (or however we may describe a Higher Power), the path to redemption, the path to awakening, the path to enlightenment.

And we are hardly lacking for guidebooks and maps. Addicts may employ the Twelve Steps to work through their spiritual recovery. Buddhists have the Noble Eight-Fold path to inform their journey. Other wisdom traditions have various rituals, methods and practices to light the way. An entire self-help industry exists to inspire spiritual exploration through books, seminars, retreats, podcasts, YouTube videos and more.

The journey along a path IS real. For most of us, it’s long, filled with twists and turns, peaks and valleys, glimpses of light, flashes of despair. We stumble often on our wanderings through the Dark Night of the Soul. We wish there were an express lane, an easier, softer way, but there is not.

Yet we can spend a long time hiding in our shadow, staring longingly through a window out toward the light. We can convince ourselves that spiritual growth is inherently complicated. We can obsessively analyze competing “truths” and run through countless gurus and teachers. We can get overly focused on arriving at some imagined perfect destination and entirely miss out on what is possible along the way, right here, right now.

The invitation is simply to begin, to emerge from the places and situations that keep us stuck, entrapped. But it’s hard to escape from a prison if we can’t see that we are a prisoner.

Yet, right now, we can in fact acknowledge that we are prisoners of our habituated, reactive thinking, trapped in a room of ego protection, a pathological desire to control and a failure to accept reality.

Right now, we can see the forks in the road, the profound choices we get to make moment to moment. Do we choose forgiveness over revenge? Compassion or judgement? Being open-hearted or walled-off from connection? Do we fundamentally embrace love or fear?

Right now, we can accept that so many of the answers are within us and available to us in the present moment.

Often, we witness other people peering into our prison cell, and we think (hope?) that they have the answers, that they will drag us out, that they hold the key to our freedom.

But more often than not, we have the key, we just don’t see it.

We need to see it. And we need to use it.

We need to open those windows and unlock the door. And then we need to walk over the threshold and out into the light. There the path becomes so much more clear.

And we can begin the journey with a lot less baggage.


Open Topic

The Road That Relapse Travels.

I have had a certain philosophy about relapsing for a long time now, and have said a million times before, that we relapse in our addictions long before that actual physical moment of using. I have preached often that addiction is not the substance abused. Addiction is a behavior. A way of living. It’s a way to get outside of ourselves. It can numb almost anything that we consider negative. It is our way of avoiding life. It deflects having to deal with and work through the tougher times of our lives.

The problem being, that although it numbs issues and problems, it does not make them permanently disappear. They will sit there, and wait, many times, strengthening day by day. There always comes a time, when we will no longer have any choice but to face it.

It becomes physically and psychologically traumatic, as we end up having to face not only the problems that have been waiting for us. We have to do all that, while also somehow dealing with the chemistry and biology of our bodies adjusting to life once again without the abused substance or behavior.

The first stage of the timeline of a relapse is what experts call Emotional Relapse. It is something that is one of the big ones in my own life, and tribulations of multiple relapses. We do not necessarily think about the using in this phase. What happens is, the body and mind go through many struggles. Those struggles are usually quite difficult, and certainly are not overcome alone. It is things that can set the stage for a future relapse.

Things that may affect us in an emotional relapse stage is strong anxiety, trouble with sleep patterns, unable to eat properly or healthy, lingering withdrawal symptoms, anger, sadness, and the biggest one for me, isolation.

The type of things that we just cannot defeat alone, or without some real help. Those things do not simply go away on their own. If we are stubborn and refuse to get help, or ask for help, we risk taking one step closer to full-blown relapse. A process that develops out of desperation to just feel regular.

So like already said; we don’t have to be thinking about using in this stage. But it’s clear, how this stage can boost us one step closer to relapse. It’s the Satan-like power of that desperation.

The next phase of relapse is called the Mental Relapse. This represents the clear battle that we face against ourselves. We start to rationalize in our minds, how much we can rid the problems of emotional relapse with a mind numbing use of a drug or drink. If not drugs and alcohol, maybe it’s a behavior like compulsive eating or gambling, each, having the ability to be just as personally destructive.

The mental battle stems from the fact that even though that attempt to rationalize is happening, there is still a clear sided other half to the equation. The part of us that knows that taking the plunge to use again is a seriously terrible idea. We fight so hard, it’s an us against us battle that is quite difficult to win.

There are things that we may also do, that escalate the difficulty even more. Things that may seem subtle when they are happening, but dead on warning signs nonetheless.

Don’t think for a moment that it’s not a big deal because it’s only things that we are doing in our minds. All it takes is one weak moment, and we can be back on that road of hell instantly.

If we can’t distract ourselves from all these dangerous signs, then we really need to get honest with someone close to us. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, then we need to tell a loved one how close to the edge, we really are.

What we dread most, can once again be our reality. The phase of this process that gets to the point where to stop here is the most difficult. It’s the phase of Physical Relapse. Quickly becoming a full-blown addiction all over again.

Avoiding so many enormous warning signs and so many chances to catch ourselves, is the reality of this last phase here. Instead of taking back control, in one of the many chances in emotional or mental relapse, we instead continued to rationalize our way, to this most deadly step.

It is a very scary road to travel. It’s a constant minute by minute life of Russian Roulette. A process of making choices and decisions that compromise our relationship with God. He may not turn his back on us, but we definitely turn our backs on him. Once again, we feel that destructive feeling of having no hope.

I’ve been down the roads that lead to this rabbit hole over and over again. I called it Russian Roulette, because there can be two very different results from traveling this world. We may survive relapses many times. We may learn a lot of tools. We may get a strengthened foundation through learning the hard way.

The problem with learning the hard way; is that thing I mentioned a couple of times. That thing called Russian Roulette. We may never learn all those things the hard way, if we are instead, overdosing and dying.