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  • Writer's pictureGary Lougher

Reinvention, Not Resolutions, Day 8: Lose Yourself

Today marks the 17-year anniversary of the day I walked out of a psychiatric facility where I was being evaluated for my 20-year history of alcohol abuse. Many of you will have quitting drinking as your New Year's resolution. Some will have had that resolution their entire adult life. If you're struggling to get sober, keep going, knowing there's a whole new you waiting to be discovered...a whole new world of possibility. I've witnessed it firsthand and in others. It is NEVER too late.

I wrote the piece below in 2010, and I am choosing to re-publish it exactly as I wrote it back then...because it was raw and just poured out. I recall not doing much editing originally because I was emotionally spent from writing it and scared to death to publish it. Please note that this is my experience and that in no way do I mean to imply that bipolar disorder, depression, and other mental health issues a) don't exist or b) don't require medication or other forms of treatment to manage. My intention is to encourage you to challenge your inner story and the beliefs about yourself that have resulted in listening to it. As it turns out, I was psychologically wounded and a victim of my own self-sabotage. Most people are to some degree.

Originally posted Oct, 2010:

It takes a tremendous act of courage to admit to yourself that you are not defective in any way whatsoever, - Cheri Huber.

This quote resonates with me because I think it’s necessary for us to be honest with ourselves when we ask the question, “Why do I not have the life I want?” When we answer this question we too often blame others for our current situation or we blame it on false perceptions we have about ourselves. We blame it on things like: I’m not smart enough, nobody likes me, I don’t fit in, I’m not good looking enough, I’m lazy, I’m a procrastinator, or any other number of reasons. And why do we do that? Because we believe the stories that we, other people, standardized tests or psychological profiles have made up about us. Consider these scenarios:  a teacher says I’m lazy, so it must be true; a book I just read says I’m a procrastinator, “well nothing I can do about that, it’s just the way I am”; an aptitude test says I’m good at math but can’t write or comprehend a story very well, then I guess I’ll have to do something involving math for the rest of my life;  and let’s not forget the psychological profiles, which I absolutely detest; a test says I’m an introvert, so I guess I better start drinking because I’m surely not introverted then. I actually allowed these and all other kinds of labels to be put on me at some point in my life and guess what? I’m none of those things. It wasn’t until I summoned the courage to admit to myself that there was nothing wrong with me that these labels started to fall away and I literally stripped myself of my identity.     

   It started like this. On Dec 20th, 2006, after a drinking binge that started with a shot at the Olive Garden while buying a gift card and ended 4 days later in bed with a bottle of tequila, I decided I better go to the hospital. I hadn’t eaten, couldn’t get warm and was so week I could barely get dressed. Plus, the guilt, stress and anxiety were unbearable and I knew they were going to stick with me for a long time. They always did. This wasn’t the first time this had happened. I had a history of repeating these binges every 6 or 7 weeks, more frequent when I was younger, with not a drop to drink in between. Because I couldn’t drink just one drop. I told myself I was going to the hospital for physical reasons but I suspect I knew all along I was going to get psychological help. And sure enough, they put an IV in me for a while and told me I was alright physically but they strongly suggested I stay with them for evaluation. So upstairs I went and entered the facility and I’m walking past everyone and I could tell that some of these people had very serious problems. And it was very sad and I began to feel ashamed that I thought I had problems. Me, who has been blessed with so much. I went to get checked in where I had to call my mom, again that day, and ball my eyes out. There is only one thought that I ever allow into my mind that truly petrifies me. And that is the thought of where I would have ended up without that woman in my life.

    I got all settled in and remember how exhausted I was and how not even the high power meds they gave me could put me to sleep. That is just how powerful the stress and anxiety were. The next day, I was introduced to the others. I believe that we are drawn to people for a reason. I met this kid in there who was being treated for bipolar disorder. He was extremely thin, his eyes were recessed with dark circles around them and he appeared lifeless, but he would talk to me. He said he was in there because they couldn’t get his meds right. He said he felt worse than he did before they told him he was bipolar. I had suspicions about being bipolar myself. After all, I had all the symptoms and it seemed it would make a very convenient explanation for my behavior. But after spending time with him, I decided that no, bipolar disorder wasn’t really for me.

   Over the next four days I talked with some counselors who asked me a lot of questions about my childhood, my parents, my past in general and I got several thoughts on what might be wrong with me. I heard that I subconsciously sabotaged myself, I had daddy issues, I was bipolar, depressed, attention deficit disorder and a whole bunch of other things that “might” be wrong with me. Then on X-mas eve, I had to go see the psychiatrist for an evaluation and to see if they were going to let me go home. I sat down and realized that she didn’t even really want to talk to me. She just said that she thought that I drank to excess because I was either bi-polar, severely depressed or psychologically wounded, here’s the medication we’re going to put you on and here’s how many times and how often you’re going to need to come see me. Then it hit me and this was my defining moment. I said, “Or maybe I’m just an asshole”.  Now, I know “assholism” is not a medical term and I realize that doesn’t explain much but it felt very liberating to say those words because now I had defined the problem. And it wasn’t up to anybody else but me to fix it. I had plenty of support but in the end it would be up to me. It was that moment where I said I am not going to allow myself to be victimized by my stories about me or anybody else’s. The doctor kind of smiled and asked me what I meant. I just said I wasn’t willing to accept that I had any of those things wrong with me and that maybe I was the problem. I really think that stunned her a bit and she told me she doesn’t hear that often. I agreed to take a sleeping pill and a mild anti-depressant for a while in exchange for getting to go home. I took the anti-depressant for maybe two weeks. The amazing thing is that it wasn’t hard to quit drinking. No programs, no counseling and no urges at all.   

   I don’t know what got me to the point where I realized and accepted that I had nothing wrong with me and it doesn’t really matter. But I can testify to the power of it. I can testify to how it can radically alter our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. The Gary that walked into that hospital would never have been able to imagine the Gary that walked out. And the Gary that walked out of that hospital would not have been able to imagine the Gary today. Because he didn’t exist, he was created. When I don’t have labels or an identity that define me, I can become whatever I want. When we stop playing the blame game, we realize and unleash the strength within us to really take ownership of our lives. The first step is to stop believing the labels we’ve accumulated over the years and lose our identity. Becoming attached to our own identities is what keeps us from being who we want to be.  Don’t believe the lies!

   Every day, I debunk some myth about myself. Write after I hit the “post” button for this blog entry I will have debunked another one. The one where I would never find the courage to write with this much openness and just lay it out there. It feels great!

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