I’ve always had negative coping methods, I was never taught the right way to deal with a stressful situation. In the past I would turn to drugs and prescription pills. These days, I still have my vices, but they aren’t as radical. I still find myself leaning on the wrong things to get through the day. I still self medicate to endure social situations. And worst of all, I’ve become completely unmotivated to do the things I enjoy.
I saw my therapist this afternoon. She asked me how I was doing, I let her know I was feeling pretty good and over all in a stable frame of mind. We set some goals back at our first meeting to address my negative coping methods. I don’t do anything dangerous. My vices don’t force me to make poor choices. They don’t impact my career or my personal relationships. They cost me a bit of money, sure. But I don’t do anything the rest of America hasn’t done themselves. We all have our ways to cope. Some use and/or abuse medication. Some drink, sometimes to excess. Some smoke pot and others dive in to hard drugs to escape reality. Some gamble their paychecks away. Some eat their feelings, while others find release in sexual experiences. Some people even physically harm themselves. Sure, some people don’t do any of these things. And plenty more do them, but in moderation. Regardless, most of us have our vices.
I’ve been very honest about my habits to my family and friends, and every mental health professional I’ve seen is fully aware as well. I won’t spell it out here for a couple reasons. First, I’d like to protect myself, my career, and those around me. I hope you can respect that. Second, is it really important? A vice is a vice. Any negative coping method is still negative, right? So the dirty details aren’t relevant to the conversation, but if you’re curious you are more than welcome to contact me directly and we can talk about it privately. I will tell you, you have nothing to worry about. Again, I’m still a responsible and productive member of society. I stay employed. I pay my bills (mostly) on time. My marriage and friendships aren’t compromised in any way. I don’t drive illegally nor do I do anything else that would harm myself or anyone else. And all of my doctors ageee that I do not have a real problem. I am not an addict. I have dependencies and negative tendencies but again, I’m not doing anything most of their patience don’t do. I simply realize that I do these things, not to enjoy myself, but to avoid reality. And that, I find, is a real problem.
I told my therapist that I came to the realization that my negative coping methods were distracting me from my passions. I have a lot of hobbies I barely pay attention to, and many other interests I haven’t even began exploring yet. She agreed, when it came down to it, my vices would always win. Yes, playing my bass brings me just as much joy as negatively coping with my day. But why do one, when I can do the other more easily? I get just as much, if not more, gratification from coming up with new recipes, crafting, reading comics, and hiking, but really… why expend the effort when I could just self medicate? I swear I’m not lazy, I’m just depressed and unmotivated by my negative coping methods. And I can’t do both, I can’t indulge in my vices AND enjoy my hobbies. Some people can, but not me. If I don’t focus all of my attention on what I’m doing, I’ll half ass it and be disappointed with the outcome, insist I didn’t do as well as I should have, and become too discouraged to try again. Its one or the other. So its time to make some choices.
Last week we decided to pick one negative coping method and work on it. We agreed not to try to ‘fix’ too many things at once, as to not overwhelm and set myself up for complete failure. So I picked the easiest, but one of the most severe. One that does affect my health presumably. One that can trigger a digestive issue I have, and then from the fear of being sick and ending up in the hospital, brings on anxiety and PTSD episodes at its worst. Its really something I need to get a hold of. I already made the decision to avoid this habit when I was in less than a good mood. This meant no more consumption when I had a bad day. Its something many of you do, but I have several bad days in a row and end up going on ‘benders’ for lack of a better word. My therapist also suggested that I set a daily limit on consumption and if I broke it, I was to punish myself. The punishment would be that I was no longer allowed to indulge in that specific vice for a month. It had been 7 days and it was time for my progress report.
Throughout the week it was easy enough to stick to my limit. I mean, I had rough days and longed deeply to escape in to this bad habit, but I made a commitment to change and was going to see it though. The real challenge came when a friends birthday party occurred. I was nervous, and my social anxiety was through the roof. I’ll admit, I fell back on some of my other unhealthy crutches, but I stuck to the goal at hand, and did not over indulge in that specific vice. I was quite proud of myself, and so was my therapist. We both sincerely thought I would have more of a problem adjusting, but apparently I just needed some structure. We are going to see this goal through for a month, and then tackle another.
The next is my most innocuous yet difficult vice to break, I’ve tried for several years to cut back or quit all together but I end right back up over consuming on a daily basis. Its something most people do for pleasure, its something I do to cope and isn’t enjoyable in the slightest. So that’s my next goal. I don’t have to worry about it for a few weeks, so I’m not going to let the stress get to me right now. As it stands, I’m doing pretty fucking well! If you struggle with addiction or dependency, I hope you get the help you need. I know exactly how hard it is to overcome addiction, but I cant tell you what will work for you. Please seek the care you need, because you are loved and you are worth it!