I will not relapse over Donald Trump
I haven't posted any original work in Grey's Recovery for months. There are several reasons for this and I'll briefly mention a few. One reason is that I now work for a mental health organization rather than a treatment center focused almost exclusively on chemical dependency. My title is Substance Abuse Specialist and I still run a group (two groups now) focusing on chemical dependency as well as providing individual counseling but much of my work includes clients who have significant mental illness and/or difficulty meeting basic needs and often I find that while these folks do have Substance Abuse issues they are not the number one priority. A second reason is I'm trying to get into grad school. Writing essays, chasing down people to write recommendations, and studying for the GRE take up much of my free time. Thirdly and the last reason I will present is my anxiety disorder is acting up. Coping skills I have learned in recovery are very effective in coping with anxiety so I have managed to stay functional in spite of the thunderstorm raging in my chest that periodically shocks me with bolts of agony. While my new job and the idea of going back to school at 47 are enough on their own to produce the occasional sleepless night by far the biggest trigger has been the unyielding fear that Donald Trump may soon be president of the United States. I'm almost 9 years away from my last drink but the relentless fear has brought back a longing for numbness for a short gentle oblivion that up until now was a distant fading memory. But I am not the man I was 9 years ago and I win or lose I will not relapse over Donald Trump.
Forget for a second that while the race has tightened Hillary Clinton is still favored to win. Forget also that a President Donald Trump will probably not bring about the apocalypse I fear, though he will most certainly damaged many of the causes I hold dear. I have completed numerous ABC exercises, identified my irrational beliefs and disputed them. I have also chanted the serenity prayer as a mantra that even as a nonbeliever I sometimes find comfort in. These things have helped but they have not been enough to end the silent torture my brain seems determined to inflict upon me. But win or lose I will not relapse over Donald Trump.
While it hasn't worked to address the anxiety itself which has gone off the rails and may not return any time soon that doesn't make me powerless here is what I can do.
Accept that I am going to be anxious. This is probably the most difficult choice to make but expecting anything else is simply magical thinking. I am going to be anxious and with that anxiety will come a low frustration tolerance, poor sleep, and an ever present physical pain. But I've been here before, this is the devil I know. I have survived it drunk and sober and I will survive it now. I occasionally meditate on the anxiety, not to reduce it but to get to know it. I test its limits and sit with the pain. I step back and observe my mind running away with itself and remember that wherever my mind runs my body remains here. I occasionally take an ibuprofen to address the head and muscle aches but I resist the siren call of the dog's Xanax and of course the liquor store because I know the cost of the relief that will give. Numbing this will only delay the inevitable. I will have to face the anxiety either now or later, and if I send it away with chemicals it will return later with its friends. Worse still a chemical solution may compromise the tolerance I have built up over 9 years and validate the nagging thoughts that tell me I really can't stand this. But I can. Win or lose I will not relapse over Donald Trump.
My rewards for this path are considerable. For every 2 days I cope with the anxiety I get a day or two of feeling invincible, powerful, like nothing can keep me down. My nights have not been completely sleepless, I've even had a few nights where I've slept through the night. On the worst nights I still manage to get 3 to 6 hours of sound sleep. Not ideal but enough to function on. My anxiety is acting as a focus to practice mindfulness. In spite of my poor sleep I've had amazing clarity of mind and my compassion for people struggling with mental illness and addiction as well as my gratitude for those who support me my recovery is growing. My anxiety is killing me, it's helping me grow.
Only a few more days to go.
If anything from my experience helps you I hope you use it, even if you replace the name "Donald Trump" with a far more qualified candidate.