Monday, February 8, 2016

Med vs mind...The God Side (A companion post)



As anyone who knows me can tell you: I'm not one to drop a dozen Biblical cliches in a 10 minute conversation. Not because I don't "believe" but because throwing those around is a poor substitute for authenticity. In many cases, it proves that there isn't any. The analogy I like to use is: If you speak Mandarin to me, it doesn't matter how many times you repeat it, or how loudly you shout it; I still don't understand you. I don't speak Mandarin.  We have to speak in common language, or stop talking so much. There has to be shared experience.
So for those interested, here is what I’ve learned over the last 15 years as a follower of Christ and the last 8 years as a recovering alcoholic. I’m using the section I posted as “ancient history” in my last post to illustrate some discoveries about my early life that I found just by looking back from a new vantage point.

After discovering what God says about me I chose to respond to it. I’m usually kicking, screaming and struggling all the way, but that doesn't change reality. One of my biggest "ah ha" moments?  I don’t create reality. Good or bad. My denial of that fact doesn’t change a damn thing except how content I am. God is the only constant in the universe, so I choose to believe Him over anyone. Including myself. Especially myself. You don't have to agree. It's not required that you agree.
The issue that a believer will always run into when dealing with either medication or cognitive therapy in regards to mental health, is the overriding fact that there is more at work than just doctors and meds and therapists. There is no circumstance that we walk through alone. Be it physical, mental, emotional or even imagined. Yes even imagined. God is concerned with the imagined and unreal as well! (2 Corinthians 10:5 and Ephesians 6:12) Why? Because it’s affecting His precious creation, which is you and me. Be it mental health issues or addiction (which is included in MH in my book), relationship issues, compulsions due to my past; it all falls under the umbrella of God’s concern. My chosen Higher Power loves me with a passion and it’s the same for any person He’s ever created. I will never struggle alone, although it may feel that way at times. Reading the Bible, any of us can discover that even Jesus felt as though God had abandoned Him. (Mark 15:34)
Here is the key point for me: God provides cognitive therapy in spades. I can’t slow myself down and concentrate on learning those facts if not for medication because my mind/nerves are too chaotic. If I learn these things, I cultivate a new desire to grow. That means meds will never satisfy me. Behavior modification, in my view, is a sham without a concrete reason and desire for change. If you can’t alter the behavior (white knuckling?) then what are you? A failure? Not true, according to God. This is heart level work. Nothing else will do. So...

Ancient history:

Age 0 - Born into a alcoholic/enabling/co-dependent home.
We don't get to choose our family of origin. But, if you're looking, it doesn’t take long to realize that God says YOU are NO accident. No mistake. YOU are not defined by where you grew up or with whom. Hurt people usually hurt people. In a fallen world, it's a fact of life. It’s not an excuse, it’s reality. The first thing an alcoholic/addict needs to learn how to deal with is reality.


Age 1-18 - Struggled with emotional sensitivity and worry. Quiet Chaos. Feelings of exclusion and embarrassment. Due to my family of origin, there is NOTHING unusual about feeling this way. Anxiety, depression, making (what I call) short-circuited decisions, etc. A lot of research backs this up. In many cases it sounds like, “Well d’uh! Of course these things will be the result”. I was past 40 before I knew that. There is a great book on this subject that my sponsor lent me. It’s called Adult Children of Alcoholics. What strikes me personally about this book was is it’s original print date. 1983. This was the year before I graduated high school. What did this mean? It's a new resentment for me to work on in my 12 Step life: ALL of this info was out when I was a kid! Someone could have pointed me in the right direction while I was still a minor. While I was still “moldable” and living under my parent’s roof. The source of the resentment becomes obvious.
Age 17 - High school graduation and work life begins. Out of control internally. Discovers drinking.
Gee. I was “always a good kid”. Who woulda saw this coming? ;) Couldn’t be biological disposition along with anxiety, a desire to escape AND my own poor choices, could it. Naw! Too easy. The statement above about hurt people hurting people doesn't give me the excuse to play the victim my whole life. Neither does a biological disposition. If I have the capacity to determine right from wrong, I have an obligation to "own my junk". That includes the choices I freely made. God is a gentleman. He doesn't invade on our right to choose.

Age 19  - Married
Neither of us knew God’s version of love. It's a harsh reality but if I don’t invite Him into my marriage, why would I be surprised when it fails? I can say I was too young and that’s true, but my idea of “true love” was way off base.


Age 21 - A father. Regardless of how the marriage ended, this was and remains one of the truest blessings of my life. A miracle. Not just once but twice. WIth the same kid! Not my story to share entirely so I won't. Suffice to say, reconciliation is always possible with God.
Age 25 - Divorced. Divorce drama. BAM! 1st full blown panic attack.This is what is called “the wreckage”. It’s going to happen if you coming into a relationship as ill prepared as I was. I am convinced that the panic disorder, which began here, was on the way regardless. This was just the tipping point to bring it to the forefront.

Age 26 - Age 28 - PCP diagnosed with Generalized Panic Disorder. Meds prescribed. Then another. (did not disclose my drinking).
This is why God calls us to be honest in our assessment of ourselves. (Romans 12:3). I was not, due to fear. Every character flaw I have found so far, has it’s root in fear. How many years did I waste in denial of reality?

Age 29 - Hospitalized for same. One week in-patient. New meds (did not disclose my drinking).
Same decisions, same results.

Age 29-33 - My world kept getting smaller. Had bouts of not being able to drive, shop/malls, movie theaters and work. It cut me off from my child. This was the worst. I may never know how much my subconscious fear or shame played a part in the panic, due to the feelings of failure as a father. Since I had no idea what the Godly idea of a father was, I failed in being ANY kind of father.

Age 34 - Father died and 9/11 occurred. I started asking question like: What’s this thing called life all about? What am I missing? Decided (or was lead) to look at what my local church had to say on the subject.

Age 34/35 - Was struck with a thought during a panic episode and a decent sized hang-over: I was not created to be miserable. That’s it. It was that simple. And the direction of my life changed from that moment forward. But I had to SEEK answers. Not sit on the sideline and whine, being a victim. If you're anything like me, trust is something you do not accomplish with ease. For myself, by finding the right church and people who could show me what the Bible really said about me, I began a journey of trust with God. It was (and still is) incremental because of fear and trust issues. Since He created me though, He has a better idea of who I am than anyone. Even my own family members!

To sum up.....
It is incredibly freeing to find out just how "normal" I am. Sure, chronic anxiety isn't something people run into every day, but how do we know? I could have attacks right in front of co-workers for years and they never knew it. I was in hell. Miserable. Daily. I never said a word. How many of us self-medicate because we have no coping mechanisms and yet are petrified to admit we have an issue? Then the substance becomes another issue. Another secret. Sooner or later we find ourselves b.s.'ing our way through most, if not all of our lives!

That is not what we were created to be.
WA

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