Yesterday, the voters of my state made the decision to legalize a previously illegal mind-altering drug, rubberstamping its use for “recreational” purposes. Before all of my friends in the “Good grief, It’s Just Marijuana” camp rise up to chime in, please know that I spent too many years working in drug and alcohol treatment and witnessing the carnage it leaves in its wake. I have experienced it personally in my own life and family. And I have painfully worked through my own struggles with prescription narcotics and methadone … you and I are never going to come to an agreement on this issue. I’m sorry.
Having said that, with sincere and heartfelt humility, here are a few thoughts …
Like millions of others, I have relied on “substances” to elevate my energy level and keep me propelled forward. In years past, I used extreme exercise and weightlifting and the resulting release of mega endorphins to fuel my body and mind. Oh, how I loved that rush! And it was healthy … I mean, really, it was just exercise! But like all things taken to excess, there was a problem and eventually my body got my attention and was heard.
“Leg presses?” said my neurosurgeon who has cut and spliced, wired, stapled, and fused me back together on four occasions. “Really? What the @#$% were you thinking?”
Now, I’m a smart woman. I have long recognized that my habit of filling every moment of every waking hour with purposeful activity has been my replacement pain management program. If you know me, you know I’m intense, driven, and focused about EVERYTHING I do – business, relationships, projects, worthy causes, shoes . It makes me good at what I do, but it’s also a blessed distraction from the dull, ever present chronic pain that is my constant companion. I freely admit that my Do-aholism is my coping mechanism. Reason says that if I focus on one thing really, really hard, then I can’t simultaneously pay attention to another. Seems harmless enough.
But my all-time favorite, nay, my beloved Drug of Choice, has consistently been caffeine – efficiently administered by way of chocolate, sodas, energy drinks, and coffee. My big, beautiful, gleaming chrome Italian espresso machine that I paid an arm and a leg for delivers two shots of rich, dark espresso with perfectly foamed crema faithfully to me every morning when I arrive at my shop, and continues to do so throughout the day whenever I need to rev my engine (which is often). No harm, no foul. And it’s legal.
But again, like all things taken to excess … there is a downside. And so, a few months ago I began to tackle some of my habits – the good ones and the bad. (I’d like to say it was my idea, but it wasn’t. Two visits to the ER in less than 72 hours with stroke symptoms and a $7500 insurance deductible out of pocket did the trick.) So I’ve stepped away from some commitments, cut back on my work hours, delegated some responsibilities that I really didn’t want to give up, and … drum roll please … I stopped drinking coffee and caffeinated beverages. Cold turkey.
Again, with complete transparency, this has not been easy for me. I have been through withdrawals of another kind, and while this does not compare, it has not been a walk in the park. It has also not been easy for my husband, or my employees. Because not only has caffeine been my go-to drug to keep me energized and alert through early morning meetings and long days, it has apparently impacted my moods and emotions and my ability to deal with stress and be patient with others in ways that I could not see.
I learned many years ago when I first began working in the Recovery field that our addictions and obsessions are, in fact, our coping mechanisms – smoking, drugs, alcohol, sex, overeating, binging & purging, coffee, shopping, exercise, and yes, even marijuana are all “substances” that we can use to excess to quell our anxiety, clock out, repress memories, dull our emotional and physical pain, and propel us through life.
This morning, I unwittingly “fell off the wagon” and, out of habit, made myself a latte with REAL espresso instead of the namby-pamby organic decaf stuff I’ve been substituting for the last month. Kapow!!! In a nano-second I became the Energizer Bunny and Little Miss Motormouth AND Melvin the Chipmunk … all at once!!! Yeah, baby, I am on a roll!!!
The downside is that I now have a headache, vertigo, and elevated blood pressure. I need to go home and lay down. All because of a “harmless” cup of joe.
My journey is just that … mine. I’ve chosen to be transparent about a lot of things in my life with the hope that some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way might be of help and encouragement to someone else. I don’t believe that any of us can reach a “point of arrival” where we know it all and have it all together. In a perfect world, if we are using our time together on this earth well, then we should all be in the process of “becoming” … becoming wiser, kinder, patient, compassionate, forgiving, healthy, and holy. I want to become more of all of that, and less of who I was when I started.
But here’s what I know …
…even though we know our limits, that doesn’t mean we always stay within them.
… even though we freely acknowledge our weaknesses, that doesn’t keep us from us from giving in to them.
… and even though we know the rules, that doesn’t mean we play by them.
Some people can walk the high-wire and never fall. But some folks need the net.