Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Embracing a slump

I'm in a bit of a slump. Not in a specific area - in all areas. I'm unmotivated to train, unmotivated to work, unmotivated to socialize, unmotivated to get out of bed in the morning. I'm not talking depression-level unmotivated, but more like I'm seriously half-assing everything and feeling irritated that I can't get fired up about anything. It's been going on for a couple of weeks, and, to be honest, I'm pretty sick of it - that's right, I also have a bad attitude.

The thing is, slumps happen. Life's not all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns.  Well, maybe if we're talking this guy: 

But that's okay, because I've learned in my recovery that I have to get real if I want contentment in my life. And real is flawed. I like to think that in recovering from my addiction, I am also making progress in recovering from a bad case of perfectionism. For me, the two go hand in hand. It was never about being perfect; it was about looking perfect from the outside. It was about hiding the truth and projecting a socially acceptable image. It was isolating, because however impressed people may have been with what I projected, it was never real, so I was never able to connect with others in any sort of authentic way.

When I was very new in recovery, I was able to identify some of my perfectionist tendencies and make changes. Mostly, it was the obvious stuff - like holidays. It had always been my policy to go big with holidays, which is sort of a no-brainer for an alcoholic. Holidays were a great excuse to drink excessively - even normal people do it. But also, creating the picture perfect holiday, in my mind, was what made it special and happy for my family. Looking back, I realize that it was more about making up for the fact that I wasn't really "there" and about literally getting the perfect picture so we could all look back and believe that these were the happiest times of our lives.

What I have since discovered is that I don't give a shit about getting the perfect picture. Pictures are nice, yes, but making a legitimately happy memory is infinitely more valuable, whether there is photographic evidence or not. After all, what am I trying to prove and to whom?

This year, for my kids' birthdays, I let them have the parties they wanted. They weren't fancy, and they weren't the parties I would have necessarily chosen myself, but we all had a genuinely good time. We completely forgot to get party favors for my son's birthday. Guess what? He didn't notice. He still had the time of his life playing laser tag, and bonus - the other kids' parents didn't have a bunch of useless crap to throw away later. My daughter's cake was . . . well, this:

A bit of a ninja turtle green mess, but she and I made it together, and that's the part we'll remember - the part we would have missed out on a few years ago, when I would have stayed up all night making the picture perfect party cake, alone and drunk. These parties were real, stuff went wrong, the kids loved them, we were all happy, and we didn't get a single picture that was worth a damn. 

So I've started to ask myself about other parts of my life. My work, my relationships, my recovery, my training . . . what do I really want out of these things, and am I working toward that, or am I still just going for the perfect picture? It's complicated and I think one of the reasons for this slump of late. The reason I'm trying to embrace the slump is that I think it's nothing more than a sign that I'm no longer fully satisfied by the status quo, and some type of change and growth is imminent. If I'm open and honest and willing to delve into it. Which is exciting but also scary, and scary makes me feel more . . . slumpy.

A slump tends to make me withdraw, and I have to be on my guard about that. When someone asks me how I'm doing, and I reply with "fine", it's not a deep and meaningful conversation, and it's also usually a lie. While this is perfectly acceptable with the majority of people I come across in my daily life, when I start saying that to my friends and family, one thing is certain: I'm not fine. That response is designed to keep people out and keep me isolated with my pain and discomfort, which is not a safe place for me to be.

On the up side, a slump is real. There are no highs in life without the lows, and there is no growth without sometimes difficult self-reflection and self-examination. So I'll embrace this one and use the tools I've come to rely on in my recovery to figure out what it's telling me. I'll talk to friends and family and relish those connections because they're where I find some measure of contentment, even in a slump. I'll tell on myself for feeling irritable and sad and frustrated, because negotiating what's in my head on my own is definitely the worst possible call. I'll keep moving forward, even if I'm not giving it 100% right now. And I'll do my best to be real, because the picture doesn't matter to me any more.