Email therapy…?

A recent Email exchange (names and situations have been changed to maintain confidentiality):

Dear Greg,

 So, I feel pretty hopeless.  Another 90 days sober with the same hideous thoughts and feelings I’ve always had. Of course not too long ago I didn’t know that I couldn’t turn to drinking and drugging. Now I know I can’t do that because I become so destructive and all gets worse. When I’m sober I have my failure to contend with and regular debates about the point of all this.  I take the substances and the men off the table and I’m just left feeling isolated with no fucking idea where to find some peace and hope.  I get some from AA because it’s all I know, there are people there, and about 5 sporadically attending gay people. 

Any suggestions?  I read your blog in response to Milk which prompted this email to you. What could work for someone like me with my own homophobia, all the religion stuff in my head, having a major birthday this year, afraid that there is really no support network of people here and now outside of AA?  Maybe it’s not that black and white.  Perhaps there’s something in addition too what I’m doing now.  Something’s got to give though…,



Dear Frustrated,


Well, you’re maybe asking for a miracle here, but I’m happy to share some thoughts…
Sounds like you’re in a place where you feel you have given up control of your life to the idea that “They” or “It” won’t let you drink or use drugs or have gratuitous sex. That really leaves one in a hopeless place. It might be better to try and choose not to do those things that have proved harmful because you see the wisdom in that, rather than resentfully “have” to give them up. Sort of reminds me of a child whose parents won’t let them go to the dance…. 🙂
I say this with some experience. I’m not trying to be flip or glib, it’s just that until you really choose to live a life that works on understanding rather than resentment, you’ll continue to feel hopeless. And who wouldn’t? It’s hard to feel like you’re in jail, that you have no freedom, that you’re not trusted, or even trustworthy. I simply find it easier to look a bit more closely and find my own resentments- that’s what always gets in the way. And, generally, I find that it’s all about looking at myself with a whole lot of forgiveness. Really, that’s what internalized homophobia is all about- not believing your own experience in favor of society’s judgments. It’s a hard thing to come out of, but it’s even harder if you’re mean to yourself about it.
I believe we’re all doing the best that we can, and reminding myself of that has saved my sanity on more than one occasion. Reminding myself that “I did the best I could” or I’m doing my best from my own particular state of consciousness” helped move me beyond the homophobia ingrained into me by society and church and government into self acceptance…. And when you do something “stupid” or “childish” or whatever you might negatively label it- actively forgive yourself. Change is much more effective long-term when it’s accompanied by understanding and forgiveness rather than resentment and anger.
Also, remember: your body and brain are still recovering from the drugs- it can take a while to feel “normal” again. But again, through my own experience, it always gets better.
For most of us who’ve experienced addiction, recovery is mostly about the realization that using creates a false world- and therefore an unreal expectation of who I am. Reality is a bit more hardcore- especially for those of us who’ve spent most of our lives doing everything we can to avoid it. Go slow. There’s an old song that says “Take your time, do it right.” You might want to spend some time looking at your own impatience. The reality is, nothing ever goes as fast or as slow as we want it to. It goes the way it goes. I have little or no control over anything outside of myself. When I realized that, life immediately got better. My expectations changed, I became kinder to myself and others, and found purpose and love.
My advice? Get some help seeing yourself for who you really are- a capable human being worthy of love and respect. That can be therapy, AA, friendship, a hobby (or even a dog…). Sometimes when we’re in that hopeless place, we need the perspective of someone else, especially someone we trust, to help us get out of it.
I also believe in having a spiritual program -whatever that means to you- to find a way of connecting yourself to the rest of us. One of the fastest ways to do that is through service. If you’re useful to someone else, you’re less likely to think of “all this” as a terrible place, and your life as having little meaning or purpose.
One more thing may be to realize the falseness of your thoughts. The phrase “Is that true?” can help quiet your brain. Did you know most of what we think is either untrue or unprovable? Think about it. Most of our thinking is wrapped up in what could be or what should have been. It’s actually rarely focused on the moment. Once we get past some of that crap, we can focus on the truth, that is, Reality, or the Here and Now. All of the difficulty you spoke of can change through a simple, active shift in perspective. The shift is simple, the process of shifting may take some time to trust.
 You may also want to talk to your doctor about all of these frustrations and feelings. Medication (for a time) can often be the kind thing to do when you’re getting on your feet again. It can help clear away the distractions so that you can actually do the work. Again, that’s something to discuss with a medical professional.
I hope this helps some. Thanks for writing, and I’m happy to talk to you again.