September 26, 2015

Who owns addiction?

I used to think my addiction to drinking had control over me, that it ruled me. I saw it as an unsavoury force in my life, dictating my behaviour. It was something to curse when I woke up in the morning with a hangover. It was almost as though I’d personified it … identified it as something external.

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[Qualifier: I manage my ‘addiction’ within acceptable social boundaries. Many would argue I’m not even  ‘addicted’. I believe I am though as drinking is an almost daily practice, it’s challenging to stop for a period, and I find it hard to imagine stopping all together.]

Last December I read a book called Be by Design, How I be is up to me by Christine McKee. I don’t normally read self-help books but I happened to meet the author and we exchanged self-published  books. I’m so glad I did, because reading that book changed my life.

It made me realise that my addiction was not some external force controlling me. ‘How I be is up to me.’ I have an addiction, bad habit, whatever you want to call it, because I want to have it. I drink because I like it. It’s great social fun, relaxing and tastes good. There is no external force controlling me. I’m controlling myself.

The good thing about this shift in perception is that it is the first step towards change … taking responsibility. If I have this habit because I choose to, then I can choose not to have it. Simple … or is it?

My research into neurology for my second book Mind Minders taught me that addiction is a learned habit, a series of neural pathways well-developed, matured and strongly defined. The brain gets used to the influx of foreign particles, the drug, and neurotransmitters become reliant on the chemical transaction, making them lazy and unproductive on their own.

When you stop consuming the chemical, whatever drug, your body still demands it. It must be coaxed, persuaded by another part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. If commitment to change is strong enough, the prefrontal cortex will override the cravings, enabling us to endure the transition to health again.

In time the neurotransmitters recover and begin to produce their own dopamine and serotonin, restoring the feeling of well-being and satisfaction with life. But that takes time and many addicts relapse before this transition occurs.

The longer we desist in the behaviour/habit, the stronger other neural networks become, including the network which enables us to say ‘NO’.

There is always hope for change if we can just click the override button into gear and when we do, the neurological transition can take place. The really great thing is that we all have this neurological capacity!

I think it helps to understand the mechanics … it gives me hope.

September 16, 2015

Quirky things about cows

Cows have their own greeting ritual – touching noses. Some can’t be bothered.

Cows have best friends. If one gets let out of the yards before the other, she will wait patiently for her before going off to find food and water.

When a cow is enjoying talking to you, she will shake her head and blow out of her nose.

When they are happy they kick up their back legs and twist their bodies in excitement.

I’ve even seen them, on occasion, stick their tails straight up in the air like a flag. I’m still not quite sure whether this signifies alarm or joy. Either way, it’s quite funny.

Often one cow will care for another if it is sick or lame. For example, she will wait for her friend, nudge her, call and encourage her. Others aren’t interested.

If one cow is a different colour from the rest, other cows will reject her. They will push her away by head-butting and chasing her.

Some cows are bullies and will push others away from feeding bins, hogging it for themselves.

 

Any chance these behaviours remind you of someone you know?

 

 

August 14, 2015

The fragility of life

While travelling around North Queensland recently, camping, I had cause to reflect on the fragility of life.

Exploring the Undara lava tubes made me contemplate the insignificance of human life on the planet. We are at the mercy of the elements … the power of a volcano to erupt, a typhoon to destroy, a tsunami to smother, an earthquake to swallow. The planet forces are unstoppable and devastating, despite our misguided confidence that we rule the planet.

We feel safe in Australia, protected and superior. But other peoples have woken one morning, only to be set upon and murdered by their neighbours in an ethnic cleansing rampage. I wonder whether our sense of security may be nothing more than a thin veil of misguided trust in human nature, especially as we have failed to successfully integrate diversity within our nation.

I heard a doctor, who works at a medical emergency facility, recently say I must tell my family I love them … that I never really know what a day might bring. This day could be the day a loved one’s life is changed forever. Leaving Cape Tribulation on our way to Cooktown, we were the first on the scene to a vehicle burning out of control, the owners safe but panicked and distraught. They had invested their life savings in their motor home … and lost everything.

Yet more. It’s possible that even a few words spoken can have the power to change our life … perhaps devastate a relationship we considered safe and secure.

Life is fragile and each moment of each day must be valued for itself.

June 18, 2015

Are you Pedantic?

We are all guilty of being pedantic about something … maybe even a little obsessive compulsive at times?

I like to snip the grapes into little bunches so that you don’t have all those sad little stalks sticking out like dead things, when people eat a few. It’s weird I know, but that’s my thing.

Am I pedantic because I believe it is the best way? After all, haven’t I refined this process over a long period of time?  But if I’m honest, I have noticed a reluctance to change even when I can reason that change might be an improvement, I just don’t want to do things differently. But … isn’t there always room for improvement?

For example, if I get used to driving a certain route between two destinations and even though I know there might be a better way due to changed traffic conditions, road works, new information etc., I am reluctant to go a different way. It’s comfortable traversing the well-worn path, safe.

Interesting … but does this make me unteachable? Perhaps, unless I’m open to changing cultural perceptions and new technological developments that could make life easier for me.

My Mum taught me to iron the tea-towels. (I’ve heard some people even iron their bed linen.) But my daughter pointed out that ironing the tea-towels is really quite pointless. After (quite long) reflection, I had to agree. I don’t iron them any more but it took me a while to give myself permission to stop, to decide that it really wasn’t worth the effort.

A friend was talking recently about the use of a delay cycle on her washing machine. You can put a load on but set it to start first thing in the morning, for example, ready to be hung out when you get up. Useful feature in a busy household. When she was explaining this to her mother, her mother refused to use the capability, even though her washing machine provided it and it would improve aspects of her lifestyle.

Irrational? Unteachable? Maybe. It’s easy to stand in judgement, but I know I’ve been guilty of dodging change in order to stay feeling safe.

I’ve even heard peers, on occasion, boasting about not taking up new technologies (e.g. refusing to have a mobile phone). It’s interesting the stories we can tell ourselves at times to justify our resistance to change.

It’s like a constant battle inside … change or not change. But I realise that if I don’t change I’ll get left behind and become an irrelevant, irrational, pedantic old lady. As much as I try though, I actually probably already am an irrelevant, irrational, pedantic old lady. Sigh. It’s an on-going work in progress.

( Confession: I still iron the pillow cases … oops!)