Month: October 2015

Perfekt’s Problem

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I have no qualms observing my surroundings and pointing out everything that I see wrong which can range from the dishes being put away incorrectly or mowing the yard in a pattern I don’t see fit; the organization of pantry’s and refrigerators to the bed not being made the way I think it should be. I can sense the lunacy in this reality even as I type these words. I have issues with perfectionism, and contrary to what I thought about striving to be perfect, it is not a good personality trait to live with. Perfect is unattainable so when I fail to reach my desire for it, I become extremely critical of myself and sometimes even lash out in critical rants about those around me. But, I’m coming to grips with understanding I am my own worst enemy and I cannot start playing the “blame game” when things don’t go how I think they should.

Perfectionism: A doctrine holding that religious, political, social or moral perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or is attainable.

For the perfectionist, everything and every aspect of life is dependent upon achievement and being noticed for that achievement. All self-worth is reliant upon the need for everything to be or appear to be perfect. Ultimately, it’s a safety mechanism that protects from controversy or conflict.  The unfortunate side effect of this is being extremely judgmental of self and highly critical of others; the need for things to be perfect trumps everything else and ultimately promotes a state of dysfunction, rather than the higher quality of life being pursued. Being perfect is humanly impossible, which means setting standards that cannot be attained will only lead to anger and frustration – then loneliness and regret.

If I look back on my life, I can start to notice the patterns forming when I was a child and into my early teenage years. If I behaved or did something well, I was rewarded for that. If I didn’t reach my potential or performed poorly, I was not rewarded, thus triggering feelings of failure, depression and a desire to give up altogether. So, I began to formulate the conclusion that as long as I do everything perfectly, my life will work out and everything will be ok. I can recall the way I organized baseball cards, the need to have all of anything I was collecting such as old coins or action figures. Whatever it was, I wanted the best and I wanted it all – anything short was unacceptable in my eyes.

Another twist is perfectionists often have difficulty opening up to others out of extreme fear of rejection or being exposed to vulnerability. They do not bounce back from challenges or mistakes well because in their mind it solidifies their worst fears which is that they are not good enough – in turn this can cause long bouts of depression, and in my case, it was coupled with substance abuse, which sent the perfect life that I desired spiraling out of control. I was on a quest to numb out all the imperfections of my life, and subsequently, I numbed out everything else.

There was a large void in me that I could not seem to fill no matter how desperately I tried – and I certainly tried, albeit not in the healthiest of fashions. For me, it came in many forms like compulsive spending, over-eating or under-eating, sex, and alcohol abuse. Deep down, I felt so disorganized and unsure of myself that if everything around me was or seemed perfect, I felt safer and just maybe everything would be okay; maybe I’d skate through another day.

Another problem in my life of perfectionism was that I spent so much time and energy future tripping; I failed to stay in the moment at hand. I always thought if I had the perfect house with the perfect yard and the perfect family – then everything would be okay. That would make me feel happy and fulfilled. I repeatedly found this was not the case, yet I still craved to stay the course. I focused all my efforts on trying to make it better and better, but in the process I ignored things that were way more crucial like spending valuable time with my children or being grateful for what I already had right under my nose. To me and my skewed mind, it wasn’t perfect – so I had to keep chasing. What I ultimately ended up doing was chase everything and everybody out of my life and fall deeper into my depression and alcoholism.

I genuinely thought that all the things I did, provided, and helped with was showing my love and affection for my family and those around me. Achieving the next great thing is what drove me – it made me feel needed and important; like, “look at me, look what I did”. I was so focused on achieving that great life for my kids, progressing in my career and building a happy home. But I wasn’t connecting on any level other than I did “stuff” – and doing “stuff”, it turns out, is not the most proficient way to build meaningful connection with anything other than sorrow, regret and loneliness – let alone trying to maintain perfection in a house with two young children. My expectations were unrealistic and everybody suffered because of it. It left me in a house, empty of my kids, my wife and all the “stuff” I put before them.

So what did I have to do to escape the cycle of my pursuit for perfect? I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had to make some major life decisions. Since I was also suffering from depression, anxiety and substance abuse – treatment seemed to be my best option. So I boarded a plane destined for Southern California and started yet another stint in rehabilitation. The first step was clearing my foggy mind and coming to terms with exactly where I was in life – nearly thirty years old and starting over; accepting my part of why I was in the position I was in, and starting to develop an overwhelming desire for change. I had to leave my comfort zone and take some risks – listen to some direction and trust in the process; give it a fair chance to work. My life has since improved and the number of good days are becoming far more regular. I still have bad days, but I know that I have some new skills and tools to use and one day at a time – the sky is the limit.

When it Strikes, That’s What I’m Like

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I awoke to a dimly lit room; the only light was what could sneak through the curtains and the fluttering of the television dancing off the walls.  I was face down, slightly askew in my bed; pillows strewn about and still wearing shoes. The depravity of this scene being forged yet again in my bedroom is swiftly encompassing my desolate, lamentable existence.  I know all too well what took place, although I knew nothing of what happened.  To many this seems odd, but to me, it’s all too familiar.  To me, it’s just the way life is; dark, cold and lonely; face down in a queen sized bed for one, like the seemingly countless times preceding this.

I try to lift my head.  No luck.  I try again.  This time with a little more gusto; a superfluous persuasion from my brain to my neck screaming, “You can do it”. Yes.  Generally some form of dialogue resembling this stages itself in my head every morning.  No, it’s not “cute” or “quirky”.  Yes, it is downright annoying and I wish it didn’t take place.  But it does, so I digress.  I finally activate enough energy to force myself from my pillow top mattress – partially because I need to start going through my mental checklist; mostly because hydration is presumably vital to survival at this point.  I hope I can keep it in my body long enough to at least absorb some.  More so, I hope there is still a shot left in a bottle somewhere so my hands will stop trembling.  If they don’t, the water is going to end up all over the floor and not replenishing my wilting, deprived system.  

2009-September-20-Tsavo-water-holeMy feet link up with the carpet and I set my course for the bathroom.  I make it purely from memorization of the route, for I’m dizzy and blinded by the frivolous morsels of my life flooding back in.  I feel around for a glass – nothing.  I’m becoming increasingly desperate now.  My body is more desiccate than the Sahara.  I require hydration – fast.  Quickly, I discard the probability of feeling out a glass, so I locate the faucet instead.  I bury my head under the salubrious flow, like a gazelle that finally found its long lost watering hole.  I guzzle down gulp after gulp of metallic flavored water – simultaneously and periodically splashing it over my face.  This will prove to be the highlight of my day – my face under the faucet frantically ingesting bathroom water – not exactly ideal – not like say, waking up with Folgers in my cup.  It’s moments like these I long for a coffee commercial to become my reality.  I’m actually fantasizing about it as my face remains planted under the waterfall of prosperity cascading through my bathroom.

After a short time, I give in to the inevitable conclusion that this is as good as it’s going to get, and I stumble back into my bedroom – slightly rejuvenated and apprehensively processing the next aftereffect from the night before.

The mental checklist, AKA my daily reprise, is the portion of the day I dread the most.  It’s when the stripped down, bare bones insanity starts rearing its ugly head.  This is when I try to piece together anything that may have taken place and could cause me trouble, embarrassment, or any other combination of events that may lead to unpleasant consequences. Why this chaotic cycle continues to run rampant through my life, I could not tell you – unless you consider the prevalence of my tortuously raging alcoholism. Yea, that’s probably it.  Yet I carry on, leaving a wake of destruction without even giving it a second thought.  It’s intensely egotistical – arguably narcissistic behavior, but as long as I’m not inconvenienced, it’s business as usual.  Go figure.  What a shocking revelation – a self-absorbed, “at any cost”, negligent alcoholic.

I walk into my living room and peer out the window through drawn shades. The outside world is blinding.  I can hardly stand it.  I yearn for nothing to exist beyond the walls that contain me.  The resonating sound of kids laughing, birds chirping, and neighbors starting their day is nauseating.  I don’t comprehend their utterly jovial and positive perspective on the world – so I stand there and secretly loathe them from within the confines of my home.  I spot my car parked in the driveway.  Check.  It’s present and doesn’t appear to have any new battle scars; a tiny wave of relief washes over me – one major catastrophe fortuitously avoided.  I earnestly turn my head away from the window and turn my attention to the status within my domicile.

20120524-0220712-pizza-hut-cheesy-bites-biteless-ccThere’s an open pizza box on the coffee table full of partially eaten slices – one appears to have escaped and lies wounded, face down in the rug; cheese meshed into the fabric and one lone pepperoni sits lifeless and inanimate. Wedged in between the couch and coffee table are bottles of Jack Daniels in a sad, shallow grave.  No doubt each one had been drained of its life; no doubt they fought valiantly in a battle they would never win – submitting in order to my wraith like so many before them.

Amidst the chaotic scene sits my baby girl innocently watching cartoons.  She looks over at me with nothing but unconditional love and acknowledges my presence with a sincere, “Hi Daddy”, in a soft, angelic voice; not aware of what the contents or condition of our living room really means.  She knows not how sick her daddy is; how much he needs help – God – the strength of a fellowship from which others suffer the same helpless condition.  I was irrefutably convinced that after I spawned a child I would keep sober – if anything in this world could motivate me to live an honest and productive life, it would be my children and for a short time it appeared to be enough.  But I quickly found myself drowning in the bottle once again and questioning everything I thought I wanted for myself, and for my family.  I was again defeated; broken; I folded faster than a seven-deuce to an affliction that hijacked my psyche so many years ago.  These thoughts and memories raced through my mind as I gazed across the room at my daughter who was still giggling at her cartoons. How could I be so inconsiderate?  So Irresponsible?  I could honestly think of nothing else that would keep me from continuing on this road destined for calamity.  I tossed around the idea that it would be in everybody’s greater interest for me to go down alone, rather than hold them hostage and forever anchored to my sinking ship.  They would at least have a fighting chance for survival should they separate from my plague of dysfunction and false reality.

I could go on and on about where my deranged mind takes me on a daily basis or what maniacal illusions are questionably digested there, but that still leads me nowhere closer to drawing a conclusion on why I continue to operate within this hellacious cycle.  I certainly knew I wanted to break the pattern and the only way to go about doing so was taking drastic measures; a total overhaul of my life and everything I’ve known.  That’s exactly what I did, but not before I embarked on an epic relapse and found myself in what was then the worse shape of my life.  Major life changes were my only chance at survival.

As an alcoholic, I walk a narrow path.  Yet I keep my head held high and although many fall away into the night, I carry on staying focused on the faint glow of promises that penetrate the horizon, scarce as they may seem, and lead me away from the cycle of despondency.  There is, no doubt, a war being waged. This war is never ending and will ultimately be determined by the battles along the way – the major conflicts; the most minuscule scuffle and every bit of dissension and strife in between.  It’s a vital measure of my craving to exist; to experience, not just be physically present.  I’ve always been looking for the answer, but forgetting to enjoy the ride.  The greatest conclusion I have come to on this journey so far is that maybe not everything in life has a concrete answer; maybe I can draw the same results in two totally different ways.  Quite possibly, just living in the moment at hand is enough; observing my surroundings; connecting with them.  I breathe the miracle of life into my consciousness and let it cleanse me of all the guilt and shame of my past.  It will no longer hold me captive or keep me gasping for air. The sun shines through after the darkest part of the storm and I’m finally ready to see the light.