Lay There Like A Slug
The best coping skill I’ve ever learned.
Okay, maybe not the best.
But certainly Top 5 in effectiveness, so I feel that sharing it here might be helpful to some others struggling with addiction recovery.
I’m sure anyone who is actively fighting this kind of battle already knows that part of the disease is perfectionism. An all or nothing approach to life that, when applied, makes living with addiction sort of like to-the-death mud wrestling. At worst, you’re face down drowning in sludge. At best, you’re causing the inhalation of that sludge by pinning your opponent under the surface.
Either way, you’re covered in shit.
While I can only speak for myself, I know that it’s not uncommon for this perfectionism and the addiction to have a symbiotic relationship. They feed off each other and just set you up for failure — personal expectations set the bar so high that, when the addict is (understandably) unable to reach them, he or she says fuck it and then flings themselves body and soul back into to the disorder, because “why bother.”
Its a mentality that’s similar to cracking your phone screen. A healthy minded individual might drop their cell, see that it’s damaged, and take it in to the store to get it repaired before that damage gets worse. An addict, however, sees that bit of initial damage and thinks,
I’m such a failure, why even bother with fixing it when I just keep fucking up anyways,
And this thought causes so much frustration and depression that the addict gives up, smashes their phone into the sidewalk, and runs away.
It is this perfectionism that wrecks far too many recovery journeys, and is part of the reason why the process of making healthier choices is so difficult.
When we perceive ourselves as “failed,” and when we aren’t being run rampant chasing that lofty perfectionist ideal, what is there to do?
Well, actively participate in disordered behaviors, of course!
Or so the disease likes to say.
For me, sitting with the quiet, empty stillness of “free time” is toxic. Over the years I’ve developed an iron habit of launching into disordered behaviors as soon as I’m out of work; this helps take up every ounce of free brain space as possible in order to avoid obsessing over the concept that I’m not doing something productive.
The use of hobbies to cope with this is only helpful sometimes, because in my attempts to develop them I often get so discouraged and frustrated it just makes me more likely to doom myself to my addiction forever.
Again, more of that perfectionist cluster fuck.
So, while hobbies are all well and good, sometimes they flat out just don’t help. Even if you can find one that you enjoy, nothing will ever completely distract you from the siren song of your addiction . I’m generally pretty good at busy work, but it often doesn’t take long to exhaust all my other coping skills and I can only clean an apartment so many times before it grows redundant and wasteful if Lysol products.
Which is why, if I know I’ll have an empty few hours and if I’m really applying myself to making the healthier, non disordered choice, I give myself one job.
And that is to lay there like a slug.
On my bed, on the floor, it doesn’t matter. As long as I don’t move, I won’t be using my bulimia as a coping mechanism. I force myself to sit with the influx of pissing crazy emotions that run like a deluge through my brain in those quiet minutes of mere existing. And whenever I feel my thoughts turning back to the temptation of addiction I repeat to myself that I have one job.
To lay here.
Like a slug.
There is humor in it, which cuts through the sinister, tense aftertaste that lingers while resisting the urge to self destruct.
It refocuses me on the big picture of the hour, the evening, the day, the entire recovery journey.
It also helps to perpetuate other healthy skills that can help with the process of riding out negative thoughts and feelings. I often find myself on the floor, staring up at my ceiling fan, eventually cuing my brain into how my body feels and relaxing each muscle in turn throughout my body. I stretch, forcing myself to be present in this form I have been given by the universe or God or whatever it is you want to call It .
I empty my brain and meditate, basically.
Either that, or I end up frustrated and sobbing and unable to keep my chill as the seconds drag their lazy asses by. It could go either way.
Laying There Like A Slug is so simple in concept and yet it forces a level of therapy unrivaled in any clinical setting. It puts you in touch with yourself and forces you (me) to face all the quiet, still moments you (again, I) are so very afraid of.
This may be stupid, I don’t know. All I’m sure of is that it works for me, and if sharing this ends up helping someone else get through a tough evening as well then I can sleep peacefully.
And even if it doesn’t, there’s no harm in embracing your inner slug and trying to get back in touch with your body, even if it feels like touching a searing hot stove at first.
Its worth a shot, anyway.