There are many things I still haven’t covered on this blog so until I run out of new things to share and say a post will keep appearing, probably on a weekly or two weekly basis, depending on what’s going on. Plus I know myself well enough now to know I won’t be able to keep my big mouth shut about any major news story that breaks in the alcohol and public health worlds!
So today is about psychological escape velocity (the minimum speed needed for an object to escape from the gravitational attraction of a massive body). I had a headf*ck experience recently where I was given the opportunity to see photo’s of a house I lived in when I was a girl. What was really spooky and serendipitous about this was it was via a nursing colleague who had lived in this house about 20 years after me, had taken photo’s and had recently been sorting through them and happened to have them with her in the office then and there that lunchtime! Weird right?
What she didn’t know was that I have really distressing and traumatic memories of this house and time and have spent a good amount of time in therapy talking about it so seeing those images triggered an avalanche of memories. What was so reassuring was that although the memories had only been experienced in the last 5 years (which fuelled a massive amount of drinking back then) my recall of that house was EXACTLY right. Every detail that I had summoned from 40 years ago and discussed was spot on – so if my memory of the place was right so was my recall of the events. This was a major revelation because at the time when I tried to tell someone I hadn’t been believed and I had therefore doubted my own experience and had questioned whether it was all just in my head – that my nightmare’s were just that horrors in my head not real life. Although seeing the photo’s caused intense psychic tremors I was okay and I was able to regulate my emotions and handle the triggered distress. This felt like massive progress to me and as if I had enough emotional and boundary depth to not be pulled back into the psychological pain of that time. These events no longer defined me – I had reached my psychological escape velocity 🙂
When I told MrHOF he said this was not just the end of a chapter but the end of a volume in my life and he felt it was no co-incidence and a sign from the universe (because I believe in such stuff) that that experience and how I managed it marked closure both emotionally and mentally for me and that I wasn’t doing a geographical by planning our move to Australia.
That same day I was contacted by Regina Walker at The Fix who is a psychotherapist. I was reading her writing archives when I came across an article about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) a technique used in the UK mainly to treat those with borderline personality disorder. Thanks to my research assistant experience with a Clinical Psychologist who worked with this client group it was something I knew about, knew it was a successful and valuable therapeutic approach and learned from this discovered article that it is being used and applied in addiction!
Here are the key excepts that link my experience recounted above and this technique (the whole article is well worth your time in reading):
“The goal of DBT is to acquire skills to deal with the mental anguish the sufferer experiences and create a life worth living. The tools offered in DBT are meant to aid in the achievement of these goals.
DBT, for people struggling with substance abuse problems, is a way to achieve self-acceptance while simultaneously accepting the need for change. There are four basic aspects to DBT: mindfulness, interpersonal relations, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance.
The emotion regulation aspect of DBT teaches how to identify, regulate and experience emotions without becoming overwhelmed and acting on impulse. The skills aim to reduce vulnerability and increase positive experiences.
The fourth area of DBT is distress tolerance. This area is focused on the development of skills to cope with crises when emotions become overwhelming and the individual is unable to immediately solve the problem (a death, sickness, loss of job, etc.) but needs to persevere and live through the crisis without making it worse by impulsive actions (for example, getting high or drunk).
Dr. Linehan acknowledged that the self-harming behavior she saw in suffering patients made sense and had a purpose. But she also recognised that this had to change and that the person had to accept themselves.
She referred to this as “Radical Acceptance”—acceptance of life as it is, not as it is supposed to be; and the need to change, despite that reality and because of it. These seem to be opposites: on the one hand, you have to take life as it is; on the other hand, that change is essential for survival. But for real change to happen, both self-acceptance, and acceptance of the need for change have to come together. This blending of two seemingly opposite views is called a dialectic—and it’s the vision behind the name of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.
So after 3 years of living life sober, and ‘in the raw’ as Mrs D would say, I have both accepted myself and what happened to me as a child and shown myself self-compassion. I have taken life as it is but recognised that change was essential for my survival. My psychological escape velocity from my past, and as part of that alcohol, has reached a critical juncture 🙂
In the past those photo’s would have rocked my world in a very negative way and triggered the most almighty bender. Now I just feel peaceful and content that I can trust myself to take care of myself as I tried to as a young girl.