Don’t play life on hard + a mixtape
Valuable lessons learned from being chased by a killer alien.
It’s February?! I had a flu and then a cold (I’m fine) but it delayed my newsletter schedule. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans and also your baby keeps bringing home viruses from daycare.” I may be misquoting. Anyway, onto the horror/recovery stuff!
Playing life on hard
Many video games give you the option to choose the difficulty level, usually easy/beginner, medium, and hard. However, Alien Isolation—an already challenging and scary game—has “Nightmare” level, where the Alien learns new ways to kill you as you go along.
I’m not sure exactly when I started using the phrase “don’t play life on hard,” but it’s become a motto, and honestly it’s been pretty helpful. We don’t get to choose the difficultly level in real life, but it is possible to make something that’s already hard more difficult. And why give the Alien more chances to kill you?
For example: quitting drinking is hard. In early sobriety, it varies day to day and from event to event, but it’s fair to say that overall, getting sober is challenging. Yet I’ve seen people make it even more difficult by doing things like deciding to give up smoking and sugar and caffeine at the same time they are trying to quit drinking. I get the impulse—you want to really clean house and change your habits, and if you’re getting rid of alcohol, why not get rid of all the other shit, too?
When you’re dealing with addiction, not using alcohol is going to take up most your energy. In order to quit for reals, you need to really focus on building a solid foundation. Get good at not drinking. Get to a point where you’re cool with it. Then you can work on ditching the other stuff.
I relied on coffee, cigarettes, and sugar that first year. I have zero regrets about that, because I’m sober now. There were one or two times that I went into a bodega ready to buy beer, and walked out with a Twix instead. If you’ve got Mark Wahlburg levels of self-discipline then maybe you’ve already ditched all of your unhealthy coping mechanisms, in which case, that’s great! But if you haven’t, it’s ok to do quit them one at a time, starting with the most important one, which is alcohol. And don’t beat yourself up if it takes longer than you want it to, because…
Judging yourself is how you play life on “Nightmare” level. I did this for such a long time that I didn’t even realize I was doing it. If I was angry, I’d say to myself “You shouldn’t be angry. You shouldn’t let this bother you.” For sadness, it was “Stop being a baby about this. You shouldn’t be sad. Get over it. So-and-so doesn’t act like this.” And so on and so forth for every single unacceptable emotion I had, which really just made everything worse. If I wanted to drink, it felt like a massive failure, and I beat myself up so badly that a few times it did lead to me actually drinking.
Finally I switched my internal monologue to, “This is how I feel right now. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just a feeling.” I realize this sounds like something you’d teach a toddler, but it has actually come in handy when I’m shame-spiraling. Comparing yourself to others, judging your emotions, these are great ways to invite the Alien to come eviscerate you. And you don’t deserve that.
Life is hard enough already. Go to your options menu and switch to “easy/beginner”. I went to curry restaurant in K-town that had different levels of spiciness you could choose, and from what I heard, the highest level was essentially inedible. They named the lowest level (no spiciness) “Baby Level” and I loved that so much. Not feeling great? Having cravings? Switch to Baby Level for a while. Turn off the judgement. With my recent annoying illnesses, winter blues, and the remnants of postpartum depression, I’m currently on Baby Level. Shit’s spicy enough as it is.
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Loneliness is no fun, but spending quality time away from other people can be wonderful and restorative, especially if you’re an introvert. Since being solo tends to get a bad rap (and that dumbass Hallmark holiday is coming up) I made a mix of songs celebrating going it alone.
Take it sleazy,
I focus on alcohol addiction since that was my main problem. If drugs are more your issue, just substitute whatever substance(s) when you see the word alcohol. My view is, addiction is addiction. The chemical make-ups are a bit different, but the principles of recovery remain the same.