No Smoking Field Report, part 9, 4 months…give or take!
There are a few ways to describe the chains of events the past month and most of them aren’t suited for the eyes and ears of children and weary souls. As you may know – I slipped! And I actually slipped twice. So this leaves me to wonder if I can actually allow myself to call it 4 months, and not rather reset the time and go with…well, zero seconds.
I chose not to though – because essentially the decision still stands and this will work and quitting, while some can do it overnight, is usually a process.
The Quick Recap
It all started when my father-in-law took a turn for the worse with his cancer, a turn that led to his death. Not only did I slip, cigarette-wise, but also as far as drinking goes. I don’t do well with strong emotions and paired with this mind of mine, things just got too overwhelming for one little aspie to cope with. Then I quit again last Tuesday and kept it until Monday, where I for some, yet unidentified reason found myself with too few spoons in my hands from the get go. You can read some thoughts about that in my Medium only post, “But I have no spoons left to give”.
After Monday, I planned to go clean again, but on Wednesday I had to say goodbye to my recovery mentor, as I am currently doing so well at work and have found a good support in my contact person there. In which case, the social service mentor has to be used somewhere else, with people that are in greater need. And I get that. But I’d grown to like her a lot and I got really sad, plus goodbyes are so hard.
So essentially I’m still not quite free of my set back. And while it annoys me immensely that I can’t write another post going “yay, still smoke-free”, I remind myself that set backs comes with lessons learned.
So did this one…!
Behind the Veils of Coping
What I have discovered this past week is a particular pattern, that repeats itself as far back as I can remember. In fact, I feel pretty dumb, not having spotted it sooner, but alas, I guess it wasn’t meant to be – or maybe, mentally, I was just not ready to fully comprehend it.
As said, I don’t deal with emotions very well. For one, I have far too many of them for my own good. I love too passionately and I hate with the heart of a devil. I find myself jumping and dancing internally with joy and raging with spit coming out of my mouth. Internally. Because, I keep it under lock and key – especially the negative parts – for no ones eyes to see. Well, I think I do, but I’m pretty sure that people can tell that something’s off still.
Secondly, I very often find myself oblivious to dealing with the emotions of other people. Not knowing what to say or do or if I interpret things right – or actually understand things correctly. I think it boils down to my social skills and lack thereof. So I freeze or flight when facing negative emotions of other people for that simple reason that…
Thirdly, I am scared shitless off making other people feel sad or angry. I don’t want to be the cause of that kind of feelings – inevitably, by lack of action, I sometimes cause them anyway.
I overthink things and find myself standing between two points, not being able to decide which way to turn. It’s like a computer that searches for your latest request, it takes too long, so you push some more buttons and suddenly the screen comes up with an error.
In times of error, I try to restore the inputs, essentially by trying to work my way back through the mess, but it seems like I can’t do that without help.
Without coping mechanisms.
My coping mechanisms are however not the best tools in the tool box. I smoke, I drink, I over-eat compulsively and I self harm.
The daftest thing is – it works!
It clears the fogs (well, maybe not the alcohol, but it does numb the pain) and can take my mind from a place, where I want to put an end to everything, to a place where I can be a little more constructive and work out ways to NOT take that road down hill (and yes, we are talking about suicidal thoughts).
I have always looked at the four coping mechanisms as four different issues, that I would have to deal with one at a time, which has been quite the mouthful to deal with. But this past week it occured to me, that they all derive from the same core:
The lack of being able to deal with emotions. The inability to regulate strong emotions constructively.
It is somehow linked to the autism, but I would be amiss if I – with the knowledge of the things that have transpired in my life – thought that it was only due to autism.
It should be an epiphany. I should be all “Oooohhh, so that’s what this is” – but from my way of responding to those thoughts, I think it is something that has marinated in my subconscious for a while. Maybe even years. It’s not an epiphany – it’s clarity.
And with clarity comes the responsibility to make the right choices.
Doing the Right Thing
While I can be quite indecissive on emotional levels, clarity is something I can work with. It permeates every dark, twisted corner of my brain and sort of de-clutters my harddrive from all the malware. Things get easy when they make sense. Emotions very often don’t make much sense to me, they throw themselves at the walls of rationality and cause confusion.
But it makes perfect sense, that I try to do what I can to stay alive. It makes perfect sense, that these four mechanisms are my go to’s because they affect that “reward” center of the addictive brain. And it makes perfect sense that when I am knee deep in emotional confusion, that I seek out some sort of outlet.
So, what is the right thing?, you might ask.
It’s very simple, really – not easily done, but simple.
I am going to call my doctor for a consult. It scares the shit out of me, but I have prepared some notes that I can cling to, if I choke up in the consult. I am going to explain this clarity to her, that I believe these four issues to be linked in unhealthy coping mechanisms, due to lack of emotional self-regulation. And I am going to ask her for a referral to a psychologist or a psychiatrist – or any kind of help that could work. Not to deal with e.g. alcohol misuse or any of them isolated – but to take on the task to dive into the self-regualtion part. How can I train emotional self-regulation? How much can I train it? How much of it stems from autism? How much stems from trauma – ultimately leading to the possibility of having to deal with those traumas – which is why, this is not going to be easy.
I am fairly sure that working with this will cause a lot of tears and a lot of pain, which is scary because, as said, I don’t deal with that very well.
I am however also certain that I won’t just lie down and take it, accepting that this is just how it is.
I don’t work that way.
I didn’t get to where I am today without a fight.
Knowing how I can postpone things that are unpleasant, I have made back up arrangements. I have told both my social service counsellor in charge of my case AND my contact person at work that when we have a sceduled meeting on February 26th, I will at minimum have made an appointment with my doctor. I have asked them to hold me to it and to scold me, if that is not the case. And I am pretty strict at keeping my appointments and promises, which means that by the time I hit my next No Smoking post in March – I promise YOU that I will have news on the matter.
See? Simple! Not easy, but it’s simple. It’s rational.
I can work with rational.
All of this doesn’t mean that I’m just going to keep up the occassional smoking until then. I don’t regard this as a sort of green card to remain in status quo, because waiting lists for treatments on mental issues are long. It does however mean that I am cutting myself some slack. Not beating myself up on potential future slips, but rather focus on collecting the lessons learned – just like I have this time. Doing some research on addictive behaviour has so far led me to another hard fact: loneliness increases addiction.
In that sense it’s a good thing that I am starting to come out of my shell a bit more, slowly building a sort of network, although so far it is no where near sufficient. But again, it doesn’t explain everything. And at this point, I am yet not able to identify the things not yet explainable. Hence the acknowledgement of getting help.
So this is the status of the No Smoking project – a bit on my knees, but no where near beaten.
I am however crossing my fingers, that when I get back to the field report in March, I will be able to share some better news. No, scratch that, no room for uncertainties:
When I get back to you in March, I WILL have better news to share.
The No Smoking project is STILL on!