splicing the vices

hi again, everyone. apparently i am not the most consistent blogger, but some things have happened the past few months that would feel incorrect for me to post about too much in detail. i will definitely be writing another more Spain-relevant post in the near future… but right now, there is some other stuff weighing on me i’d like to release and a to-do list to avoid. even though some weird things have been going down the past few months, in retrospect it’s honestly not all bad, and i’m even learning to see and learn how selectively delegating goodness and badness to things and events can be stifling. one of those things that logically i know but still, a lesson that gets relearned in my life. like the ouroboros, some great things are coming out of the bad things, and i am again reminded of the cyclical nature of literally everything.

trigger warning: addiction

***

a major concept on my mind has been addiction. though i’ve never been formally diagnosed with having a disorder, i have literally always struggled with feeling totally out of control and dependent on various things and substances. i’m currently struggling through the beginning of my second sugar detox, so here goes an ode to these vices of sorts and working through them.

***

i remember being young and scooping multiple spoonfuls of sugar onto my cheerios on Saturday mornings. eating canned frosting with a spoon, peanut butter/jelly mixed in a bowl, Nutella, brownie or cake mix, arguing over who ate the last chocolate chip cookie. never have i skipped a dessert of some sort after dinner if it’s been available… that’s even been my favorite part of the day at times! sugar has been my emotional comfort blanket for as long as i can remember (even apple juice and baby food is packed with sugar, so it literally starts when we’re babies). last summer i did a sugar detox for about two months, and let me tell you, it was insane. i can’t remember which journal i wrote about it in but my two-week long symptoms included migraines, fogginess, muscle cramps (??!!), drowsiness, irritability, energy crashing, fatigue, etc. after the hump, it got easier and i started waking up with way more energy, my skin cleared up, i stopped craving naps in the afternoon, etc. but i started realizing how much of a bonding activity it was to indulge in the sweet stuff with loved ones. every birthday party, graduation, anniversary, baby shower was filled with cake and cookies and ice cream and it was all so hard to resist. ultimately i got a job at a Mexican popsicle store and it was like being in a crack house…. i couldn’t hold out any longer and started eating sugar again, but with more mindfulness (for a time being). now living abroad, i am relying on sugar more than ever for comfort for when the weather gets cold, or when loneliness or homesickness creep in. i’ve developed this habit of eating full king-size Lindt chocolate bars every. single. day. and watching netflix at the same time to wind down after work. omg. so unhealthy, not to mention expensive as balls!!! 4 days ago a phone call with a friend actually inspired me to go on another sugar detox, and lord am i having some shit come out of my body… my nose has been constantly running, throat swollen, sneezing, mucous, buzzing headache, no energy, mood swings, crying… sugar is basically poison and i think we severely underestimate how much it contributes to our mental health. but… 4 days and counting (and one minor relapse!) of no refined sugar.

i remember late nights in college and the year or so after bonding over cigarettes and conversations on the porch. driving with the windows down at night and asking if someone had a lighter. there was so much emotional attachment to these activities, especially that they were shared with my friends. at one point in early college i was smoking a pack a day for almost 2 years, which depressed me because i had always been really active as a child and teenager. the process of quitting after smoking for 8 years was long and arduous, but damnit, i am really fucking proud to say it’s been almost 2 years since i’ve smoked a cigarette, and maybe 4 years since i was buying packs. what’s frustrating is that now even though i vehemently despise even being around them, sometimes a part of my brain still licks and laps for that little nicotine buzz. but i know i’m past the point of EVER going back to them.

i remember the buzz of taking (unprescribed) adderall, even resorting to crushing it up and snorting it off of mirrors at times. coupling it with pounding back three cups of coffee and espressos per day to finish last-minute papers. i’ve never enjoyed the haziness of smoking pot, as it would just make me paranoid and incredibly self-critical, but the high from a methamphetamine suited my personality perfectly. i don’t want to get into the hairy details of the event that made me quit taking it for good, but basically i ended up in the ER and still have unresolved heart pain even 3 years after the fact. after a long and tumultuous 4 year relationship with abusing adderall and copious amounts of coffee together almost weekly, i can say that it has been over 3 years since i have taken adderall or drunk any coffee. my energy levels have stabilized, and i feel way less manic and frantic.

i remember the first time i got a Myspace, and then later on a Facebook. this feeling of being able to exhibit facets of myself that i was too shy to do in person was like a mysterious, intriguing game. the sort of window it gave me into viewing other people’s lives fueled this desire to improve upon myself. i made close friends that i only primarily talked to online. i spent hours going through the photo albums of people i never even spoke to in person and imagining enveloping myself in their happy, candid moments and friend groups. analyzing their writing styles and what that meant about their personalities and their history and how i could be more like that. pouring through old Photobuckets and crying nostalgically at moments i could never get back. i became so hyper aware of everything i put out virtually… editing, re-editing statuses and picking every song or video or picture to be perfectly random and coincidental when in reality i couldn’t have thought more about them if i’d tried. how stupidly addicting social media was in college, and how it is for others! i can truly and literally say that i never finished a paper or book for school ahead of time. everything i wrote or read was last minute for lack of concentration, for being distracted by an internet persona i wanted to perfectly capture and cultivate. i compulsively checked the internet all the time (and honestly i still do, though it’s gotten better). i spent about 3 years compulsively deactivating and reactivating my facebook before i finally reached a fed up breaking point, and last month, i deleted my facebook permanently. i NEVER thought i would have enough willpower to do that, but i fucking did it. i feel like i have re-entered real life again. it has been a weight off my mind to separate from scrolling through mindless crap. i see now how unnecessary it was all this time. i am now struggling a bit with compulsively checking my fave yogis on instagram, but i know i’m taking the right steps towards have a comparison-free peace of mind.

i remember the first time anxiety and depression hit me hard at the end of high school and how taking solace in an ex-boyfriend brought me a feeling of security and safety i hadn’t before experienced. i’m not going to hash out the gory details of my previous unhealthy relationships ’cause i’ve spent way too much time doing that in the past, but suffice it to say, i am learning everyday what it means to be aware of co-dependency and how it tends to manifest in my behaviors. how to avoid situations where i might be around triggers of falling back into old patterns of just wanting quick, gratifying comfort despite a lack of respect on part of the other person. how to avoid situations with people who don’t really make me feel good! and i am practicing everyday becoming comfortable with being alone instead of fearing it. i have recently downloaded a meditation app called Insight Timer in hopes of developing a practice, and i have already meditated three times this week for 5-10 minute intervals! and instead of choosing to focus on how i could have done it more, i choose instead to see this as a personal achievement.

***

last month, my second cousin passed away from a drug overdose. she was living in a halfway house and was making progress with her addictions, but had a relapse and her body could no longer handle her previous tolerance. it opened my eyes to how stigmatized addiction is, like they’re just nasty little habits that one could easily stop if they really tried, instead of an (often predetermined) behavioral pattern. but it’s not. and you just can’t compare your actions to somebody else’s that seemingly has it all together. for some people it’s easier, and for others much harder to break their cycles.

i have finally begun to stop blaming myself for these vices in taking some of the weight off of my shoulders and recognizing genetics for what they are. after learning that my biological father struggled with substance abuse, i am understanding more and more that a) i am not held captive by my flaws, b) i am not defined by any traumatic experiences in my past, and c) i can let go of all the ways my guilt associated with poor decision-making in the past manifests itself. and on the flip side, i am also taking accountability for what IS in my control. i am so happy and grateful to be in a much better place than i was years ago, struggling and flailing with these bad habits. it first started with separating myself from triggering environments and surrounding myself with people who didn’t live with these behaviors as being normalized. and now i think my continuing success with overcoming these patterns has been because the power of my desire to be a healthier person became strong enough to overcome the addictions themselves.

best of luck and love to anyone who is struggling right now. i just want to say that even if it feels dark right now, it is totally and completely possible to push past and overcome. people have faith in you.

xx, Caroline

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