Perception, Recovery

“One Day at a Time”: Tweaker Edition

Miss me with that Cliché shit

“Glenn, we’re just going to take it one day at a time,” he suggested, clearly not understanding the gravity of my current situation. Meanwhile, I was sweating out a 6-month methamphetamine psychosis recalling the financial obligations I had…I don’t want to say neglected…maybe overlooked.

I was unamused with his simplistic approach to my complicated life problem, nor his lack of empathy regarding the validity the argument for why I couldn’t stay in rehab for 60 days.

We had to get this fucken show on the road!

These were priorities that transcended the necessity to hang out in rehab on vacation for a whole two months. That’s when I got irritated, probably from my 6-month hunger strike. The nerve he had, using that prehistoric cliché for someone more intelligent than the average drug addict.

Comparing me to someone who couldn’t pour their own bowl of cereal without fucking it up.

It’s half of a sentence, absent context, that sounds cute and makes for a ‘unique’ tattoo when you’re on your 32nd day in rehab.

Demonstrating a complete overhaul of sudden trustworthiness and responsibility, you acquire those coveted privileges; your phone and permission to cross the street without a concern of you testing positive for opiates upon returning.

Of course, you utilize that phone privilege without delay, immediately demanding $60 from your selfish parents, calling them ‘unreasonable’ for having the audacity to inquire what it’s for.

Until they get reasonable and give it up.

Obviously, after 32 days and an abundance of newfound wisdom, you’ve earned something. You, appropriately, label it a, “much deserved gift,” for your troubles and not acting like a complete piece of shit…for a whole 32 days.

What was intended for cigarettes or, perhaps, a bicycle so you can get to work and start making a little headway in life…if you’re ready though, no rush.

We don’t want you to get overwhelmed!

Work’s off the table, so now it’s gift money, logically. So now, instead of that unnecessary bike, as if to articulate their thoughts, “Hey! You’re an adult!

We’re just lucky you’re in rehab!”

Which is, likely a factual statement with pinpoint accuracy describing their sentiments about your current whereabouts; and so, you take that $60 on down to, “Mo’s tattoo shop,” because they are the home of the “rehab special.”

Shop minimum, no tip.

Without second of delay or consideration, ‘Slick Rick’ finishes your, “spontaneous,” and authentic masterpiece in 20 minutes all for the low price of just $60.

Finally, you’ve arrived at adulthood and get to evoke your right to visual independence, signifying maturity; consummating your identity as a unique individual with a boisterous, “Hey! Yeah, and fuck you too for sending me to rehab,” with a permanent but sentimental inscription that reads: “One Day at A Time,” In Old English.

Ensuring that everyone understands you’re a mature, forward-thinking individual; uniquely displaying your authenticity through your art.

Best of all, it was a gift due to unemployment, so you didn’t even have to use your own $60 to get it.

Your parents basically bought it for you to show their appreciation in your time of difficulty, even if they don’t understand it, they’re still proud of you.

You can explain all of the benefits it offers and how it will improve your quality of life.

Never mind the evident significance, the leg up you now have to stay sober, probably forever too since it’s permanent; but best of all it serves to visually confirm your identity, a former drug addict that has matured with a tattoo to prove it.

This will only help your credibility with the hiring manager when you’re finally forced to go look for a job.

Obviously, if they can’t understand those two, the third benefit will definitely be relatable. Think of all the money you’ve been saving them since they’ve shipped you off rehab. Come to think of it, you should be disappointed at their lack of appreciation. I think it’s outrageous they didn’t give you $120, honestly, considering you’re not pawning Mom’s $5000 necklaces for a $80 sack of heroin anymore.

Albeit ungrateful, you’re sober now and have to accept them as they are…so you can’t get another tattoo the next time you mercilessly beat out of another $60.

What you have just read is the exact speed at which my brain runs, daily.

While this has greatly benefitted me in areas of life where creativity is important, it has caused me a great deal of distress in others; and for most of my life I had no systematic way of separating the information in any meaningful way and processing its relevance.

As a result, I found myself taking on tasks I had set unreasonable expectations on, frequently finding myself frustrated with its incompletion in a “timely manner.” It had never occurred to me that the task, as a whole, was not the problem; instead, it was simply, the way in which I went about perceiving gratification of the completion.

What I truly had was a fundamental flaw relating to expectations and accomplishment which would ultimately cause me to either perceive it as a self-fulfilling problem that would vanish or ignore it due to the impossibility of immediate gratification due to the unfeasibility of instantaneous completion; and this was a problem.

If you had a hard time following there, don’t worry, I did too. Let me elaborate below.

“One Day at a Time”

The gem of gems was, once, nothing more than my interpretation of a seemingly primitive and negligent way to approach anything exceeding the responsibility you’d entrust a 10-year-old with.

My thoughts, albeit judgmental, were that most drug addicts were simply, stupid; but not me, obviously because I’m the one writing about it. So, rationally, critical thinking had to be dumbed down to a more…archaic level because the critical part was missing from the thinking, clearly.

There had to be a way for our friend in rehab, in the above story, to comprehend that drug use was not an appropriate response to their parents being unafraid to tell them, “No! You ungrateful little shit, pound sand,” every time he wanted $60 and didn’t get his way.

Tantrum Recovery.

I always regarded it as silly concept with no context, designed to be comprehended by a mind that needed simplicity, not mine.

I felt I was a little more evolved than the guy who had never done a load of laundry or was incapable of comprehending the etiquette in aiming for the toilet bowl and why we lift the seat up. I was of the opinion that a cliché of this sort would, undoubtedly, assist that ‘kind of person’ with an understanding that making their bed was not a bi-monthly event; but for myself, I already had these skills and an ability to chew gum and walk at the same time, so it was, therefore, irrelevant in my case.

I had no idea how incorrect my perception was, but I was going to find out in short order exactly how applicable this concept was in my life and the consequences of my failure to implement it.

“You can’t see the forest through the trees.”

Another curious quote I heard frequently, usually from my father. We would be mid-conversation, usually at a juncture with me describing an approach to an overdue task; and he would say that forest quote to me and receive a signal indicating my complete understanding; a signal you can interpret, with complete assurance, as a sign you’ve lost me and I’d appreciate an end to the current topic.

Nodding my head in agreement, displaying a false acknowledgement in an attempt to conclude the conversation to process how I was going to complete a task that was prioritized improperly with an unrealistic expectation of the time frame.

When my expectation was not met with my perception of success, as it frequently was, I would completely disregard it, leaving it incomplete and ultimately adding it to the pile of, “Shit I didn’t finish.”

When this said pile of incomplete tasks would build from negligence, I would continue ignoring it until it seemed so insurmountable that, I would begin to attach it to the value of my self-worth.

As if that wasn’t bad enough already, I’d eventually make an impulsive decision to feel better; usually something unproductive and self-sabotaging, like relapsing with a rationalization of, “poor me.”

I learned the clichés true value, backwards…of course.

Generally speaking, unless it was within my first 60 days, recovery and its pertinent obligations for successful maintenance were not prioritized in an appropriate manner.

Shocker, I know!

Referencing my story above, the position I took was one of sobriety being a means to repair the neglect displayed in my obligations or the wreckage I had caused. Simply put, it was an enormously irrational decree of:

“I’ve fucked up my life for 6 months with excessive intravenous drug use that required me to reprioritize all of my obligations as secondary to addiction, at best. There are serious consequences now because of my addiction that need to be fixed immediately because now it’s a priority. It’s a top priority now that I have 2 days clean, never mind the last 6 months it wasn’t one. This recovery shit’s not going anywhere, so we can worry about it after this, but right NOW, I need to act and fix all of this today.”

Notwithstanding the thought-provoking lesson I had learned, crystal meth is bad, I unconsciously disclosed a flaw in my prioritizing capabilities.

Simply, active addiction had priority over paying bills, but came secondary to my recovery on a scale of relevance. Logical, I know!

Let me give you a perfect example of how, “One Day at a Time,” fits into this. Stay with me.

I had accumulated over a decade of neglected financial responsibilities. I would look at the mess in its entirety, determining that $30,000 was out of range for any possibility to reasonably expect anyone pay off by…tomorrow; and because I cannot have the immediate gratification I expect for completing it in a satisfying (tomorrow) manner, I neglect it with the deceit that I will return to it and it will ultimately fix itself, perpetuating the extent of that same mess.

When I began my current path to recovery, I was told to begin making financial amends, immediately.

The first several days I looked at my credit report and the corresponding debt as insurmountable and therefore not a priority, presently; followed by a reassuring lie that, one day, I would magically have the necessary $30,000 to make restitution in that moment; but right now it was irrelevant because I only have $8000, which will only serve to not only make me poorer, but also without the gratification associated with feelings of “accomplishing or completion,” of this task.

Better known as, “All or nothing.”

This was my problem and the culprit behind why I never got better. My irrational expectation of an accomplishment, associating its validity as a victory with the feelings of instant gratification. The same mentality I had when I was using…I want to feel better, NOW!

But I couldn’t comprehend that, yet. So, I said, “Fuck it. I’ll do it later.”

Luckily, the man helping me did not share my sentiment on the matter, requiring me to meet attainable commitments that were set in an effort to dissolve the challenges I had, perceptively, mutated into insurmountable obstacles that I continually neglected under the guise they would, eventually, just take care of themselves; further perpetuating the extent of the messes until, rationally, I justified a meth binge as a fair exchange for the satisfaction I lacked from an inability to set reasonable expectations and execute on them.

I recognized this statement as a fact when I had, in just 90 days, successfully honored all of my debts from a decade of irrational fear and irresponsibility by doing the best I could one day at a time.

I could see the forest through the trees, finally, with the understanding that progress is all that is required; for the proceeding few months, I would wake up every morning and write out reasonable and actionable steps I would be taking that day to further the different aspects of my life and circumstance.

What I’ve found is, the gratification received from an accomplishment requiring consistency in a course of action over an extended period of time massively outweighs the brief satisfaction obtained from immediate gratification.

You appreciate it more and experience it more frequently.

Behold! The answer to the riddle of how to approach all my fucking problems…and a primitive one at that!

Immediate gratification is a dangerous measurement of success.

This simplistic cliché has become a major cornerstone of my life and recovery, assisting me in the rational organization of my thoughts, the appropriate actions relating to them, and a reasonable measurement of the success associated with them.

Staying current is a continuation of this practice lest I find myself thinking this way again. It has given me the ability to distinguish immediate gratification from achievement and the ability to prioritize according accordingly; it has, truly, given me a mechanism for coping with situations in leu of the paralysis that left me with a life of hopeless neglect and a necessity to escape it.

Accomplishment is relative to the 24 hours ahead and my conscious effort towards the ultimate goal, the betterment of my life.

It is my belief that with the awareness of this flaw, you can take massive action, moving towards a level of personal satisfaction and achievement that is unlimited.

Although I learned its value backwards, its relevance holds the same significance in my recovery; which is a daily commitment requiring me to remain current and consistent in its maintenance.

There is no finish line, nor days off.

The quality of recovery is not measured by the accumulation of days past, but rather the recognition of relevance in the actions we take today.

As a friend of mine says, “You can’t stay full on yesterday’s hot dog,” and truer words have never been spoken.

Quality of life is substantially better when lived with an ability to stay in the present and discern realistic from unrealistic in a constructive manner.

“One day at a time,” is not only a solution to a self-defeating life problem, but the essence of the manageability we have sought for so long.

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