Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Let's Talk About Relapse - Day 15 - A Final Word About Masks - Living Congruently With Our Truths

We have spent the last several weeks discussing the Masks of Relapse. We carefully examined the Masks of Denial, Disguise, and Detachment, learning about their critical roles as we enter into relapse and as we remain there. However, we also learned how to recognize their features and how to implement recovery strategies enabling us to remove them more readily and in a more timely way.  We learned that this is hard work; but that it can be done!  Relapse never rests; neither must we! As we conclude this section in our discussion of relapse, I want to leave you with a personal reflection.

For most of us, as we go through our days, we slightly alter our persona's (who we are and how we act) in order to accommodate others and the norms of our various environments.We want to get along with others, and we want to perform at the best of our abilities. This is natural and healthy. Even with these healthy compromises in our ways of being, we often feel tired, stressed, or worn out by the end of the day. Hopefully, most of us have the luxury as we conclude our obligations to unwind and to relax; but, most importantly to return to our place of truth - where we can be ourselves and be at peace with who we are. These modifications that we make in our persona's, however, are much different than the Masks of Relapse.

When I think back to my personal decline into relapse, I did not recognize the inherent danger behind wearing the Masks and their sustained impact upon me. I was not fully aware that what I was doing was much more detrimental and destructive than slightly altering my persona. What I did know, without question, was that each and every day I was slipping further and further away from my place of peace and healthy way of being.

 I remember saying, "I feel that I cannot breathe. I feel like I am suffocating."

Looking back now - I see that listening to and living in self- inflicted lies, pretending that everything was ok when it wasn't, and removing myself from the processes, places and people who were nurturing and supportive - all these Masks cut off my lifelines of truth; and thus, I could not live a life of authenticity or be at peace with who I am.

What I want to leave you with is this. Although I've named three distinct Masks, they come in so many different forms and faces. They can appear enticing and attractive. They can be subtle and they can be seductive. It is the role of Masks to move us away from what we each know to be good and true for ourselves. Therefore, we must remain grounded in our healing beliefs, tenets, or programs, or processes that serve us well. We must recognize when we are most vulnerable, or weekened, or when and where we need extra encouragement, support, or counsel. And when we fail or fall short, we must forgive ourselves and begin again.

In closing, I do know first hand that reclaiming, protecting, and honoring our truths is incredibly hard work. However, when we choose to do so....
Pealing Away The Bark - Finding Truths - Ch. 7

"...we begin to heal again; our thoughts clear; our minds open up; and our truths flow. We navigate comfortably as we live congruently with who we are and who we are meant to be. Life is meaningful and purposeful. The self is at ease; it is free." 

Remember, as you are reclaiming your truths - take it 
one breath at a time - and - rejoice as you reclaim yourself in the process!

From me to youAs we bring this section on Masks to a close, I would really appreciate your feedback.  Has this information helped you?  If so, how? What questions do you have?  What other topics would you like to see covered about relapse? 

*Special note:  Thank you so much to the over 450 people who have entered the Goodread's Giveaway Contest of Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding the Way Back...One Breath at a Time.  There are only 3 days left!  I wish you all good luck!  And, I can't wait to send the winners their personalized copies!  Thank you for making this such a great success!!  Holli Kenley

Homework: As you begin to reclaim your truths, answer and act upon the following questions.
  • What changes need to be implemented in order to create and sustain a healthy supportive environment?
  • What boundaries need to be in place and with whom?
  • What protective measures or controls need to be instituted?
  • What recovery practices, support systems, personal/spiritual beliefs or tenets need to be revisited or reintegrated into your way of being?  
  • Are there other measures that need attention?

Next time...we will tackle the topic of forgiveness of self...and releasing.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Let's Talk About Relapse - Day 14 - The Mask of Detachment

Today, we will address the final mask of relapse - The Mask of Detachment.  In the two previous blogs, we discussed The Mask of Denial (a mask of self-inflicted lies) and The Mask of Disguise (a mask of the false self). We learned about the roles they play in furthering our decline into relapse. However, by developing a new awareness of them, we embraced healing strategies that will aid us in our early recognition of them and in their timely removal. Let's move on to the third mask - Detachment.
The Mask of Detachment is dangerous.

As I have mentioned previously, the three masks typically appear in the order that I have discussed them- Denial, Disguise, and then Detachment.  However, they can present themselves almost simultaneously or perhaps move fluidly from one to the other, depending on the relapse episode or the kind of regression into unhealthy patterns of thinking, behaving or feeling. Let's take a look at a couple of examples.  (The names and people I am referencing are fictitious.)

Sophia has been in unhealthy relationships most of her life.  However, her last boyfriend was extremely abusive. At 31 years old, Sophia finally found the courage to leave her toxic relationship where she found refuge in a women's shelter. After several months in the shelter, she felt ready to return home, where she was rooming with a healthy girl friend. Six months later, Sophia started getting calls from Henry, her ex-boyfriend. Missing him and listening to his promises that 'everything would be different this time', Sophia put of the Mask of Denial, listening to his lies and to her own. Against the advice of her roommate and other friends, Sophia started seeing Henry.  Every now and then, Sophia can see his anger flare up; however, Sophia puts on the Mask of Disguise, pretending that everything is ok and falling back into her submissive false self.  When Sophia's roommate finally confronts her about sneaking around with Henry, Sophia threatens to move out. As she does this, Sophia puts on the final mask - Detachment - removing and isolating herself from those who do not support her choices, from those who speak the truth to her. 

The Mask of Detachment is incredibly dangerous because it fuels and feeds our relapse by cutting off any outside healthy influences or support systems. We begin to suffocate in our denial and disguise as our lifeline to truth is removed. 

 Let's look at another example.              
Hiding from those who speak the truth.

Jack is recently divorced, in his early 40's. For the past year, he has been 'living the good life' - partying, dating tons of girls, hanging out with his old guy friends from college - just doing everything and anything to deal with his inner pain and feelings of failure. But lately, his choices have been catching up with him. He has a second DUI, missed several important appointments at work, and has started lying to his ex-wife, kids, and friends about what he has been doing. One of the most important aspects of Jack's life and where he credits  much of his recovery has been his faith. Because of his embarrassment and shame, he has walked away from that as well.  Although Jack remembers his troubles in high school and college with a wild lifestyle, he has been wearing the Masks of Denial and Disguise for some time, and now he puts on The Mask of Detachment - staying away from anyone or anything that reminds him of what he has become. Wearing The Mask of Detachment, Jack distances himself further from facing, hearing, and breathing in his healing truths.

The Mask of Detachment is The Mask of  Suffocation

At this stage of  relapse, most often an intervention on some level is required. Or, there are times when the consequences of relapse dictate imposed or self-imposed treatment. As I have stated before, for the purposes of this blog, it is my intention to provide knowledge about The Mask of Detachment so that we can recognize it for what it is, understand its role in relapse, and again, remove it more readily and in a more timely way, helping to shorten our stay in relapse.  Or better yet, not adorn this mask at all!

In order to deal with The Mask of Detachment, answer the following questions. Be brutally honest as you take this self-inventory.

  • As soon as you start slipping into relapse or regression, what healthy or healing practices or realities do you detach from? These can be physical, spiritual, familial, professional. etc. List them all.
  • Whom and what do you avoid?  Why?
  • What else do you do to isolate yourself from your truths?

By recognizing our detaching behaviors, by admitting their role in our relapse, and by owning their negative impact upon us, we are better armed against this deadly mask that shields us from coming into contact with truth - and with our return to recovery!

When we find ourselves wanting to camouflage our thoughts, behaviors and feelings behind The Mask of Detachment - to isolate and insulate ourselves from facing our truths - we will implement the following 5 step battle plan:

1. Recognize your failures, mistakes, or weaknesses!  Name them!
2. Reach out for help!  Turn to trusted individuals who have invested in you! They are there for you!
   You are not alone!
3. Re-surrender to your higher power, or belief system, or healing ritual that has been part of your
    recovering program or practice.
4. Release your shame, embarrassment, guilt, self-blame.
5. Reject the Masks of Denial and Disguise that will be working overtime to draw you away from
    truth! Repeat #'s 1-4, again and again!

As with the removal of all the masks, this too is hard work, but the work is worth it! Free yourself now!  And feel yourself...

Listen to the Voices of Truth and Live in Them!

Stay close to the voices of trusted individuals.

Homework:   First, answer the questions above.  Take your time.  Be strong and be honest. Then, practice the 5 step battle plan

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Let's Talk About Relapse - Day 13 - The Mask of Disguise!

We are into the third week of discussing the 3 Masks of Relapse.  Last time, we learned about the Mask of Denial and its powerful messages of self-deception!  In fact, I wrote, "The Mask of Denial is a Mask of Lies - Self-Inflicted Lies!" We learned how difficult it can be to arrest these toxic messages, but we learned that it is possible - with hard work. Utilizing the 5 step battle plan (described in the previous blog), we can discard the Mask of Denial and defeat the self-imposed lies before it leads us down the self-destructive path of relapse.  And as we do so, we can reclaim our truths. Let's now move on to The Mask of Disguise.

Mask of Disguise - The False Self

As soon as we are triggered by someone or something, the Mask of Denial typically is the first mask to present itself.  And immediately following, the Mask of Disguise shows up.  However, they may appear almost simultaneously. Think about this example. (The names and people I am referencing are fictitious,)

Marcus has been clean and sober for over two years.  Recently, he ran into an old drinking buddy who asked Marcus to 'come and hang out sometime'. Feeling lonely and missing his friends, Marcus begins to entertain the messages of self-inflicted lies as he puts on the Mask of Denial. As Marcus begins to make plans to visit his old friends, he then adorns the Mask of Disguise - and the pretending begins. At this point, Marcus begins to slip further into relapse, contacting his drinking buddies and setting up a time to meet. Wearing the Mask of Disguise, Marcus must now start lying to himself that what he is doing is ok, and he must start fabricating stories to cover his tracks. All of this takes incredibly energy; all of this moves Marcus away from his healing truths and into a false self. 

The Mask of Disguise is The Mask of the False Self.  

Wearing The Mask of Disguise is depleting and draining.

As we continue to slip further into relapse and the longer that we adorn the Mask of Disguise, the more resources it will require to maintain the false self.  Whether Marcus is covering up lies with more lies to his family and healthy friends, or not showing up on time for work, or having his wallet stolen while passed out, or having another fight with his girlfriend over his unexplainable absences, wearing the Mask of Disguise will eventually drain and deplete him psychologically, physically, financially, and relationally. And just as Marcus believes, all of us want to believe that the Mask of Disguise is preventing others from seeing the turmoil that is wreaking havoc within. Hiding behind The Mask of Disguise, we know it is all a lie; and we know we are drowning in the shame-filled mess we have created. 

How do we move forward; how do begin to reclaim our true selves again? Depending on the kind and/or the severity of relapse, obviously the interventions will vary accordingly. Sadly but most often, it isn't until the resources and energy to keep the false self alive have run out or the false self is left in ruins, that an individual is ready to re-embrace recovery. Remember, recovery from relapse is always present; it is always possible. It is always waiting for us. It is my hope and intention with this blog that we recognize The Mask of Disguise for what it is, understand its role in relapse, and just as with The Mask of Denial, arrest it in its tracks before we are in a full episode of relapse. We must begin by taking a brutally honest inventory of what happens to each of us when we wear this mask.  Start by answering these questions: 
  • How do you present the "false self"? Who are you? What do you become?
  • How do you act when you are pretending that your life is fine?
  • What lies do you tell yourself and others?
  • What unhealthy behaviors do you return to or acquire in order to hide your decline into relapse?

By identifying the features of our false self, by admitting their role in our relapse, and by owning their impact upon us, we equip ourselves for an ealier recognition of The Mask of Disguise the next time it presents itself, and we are armed for its immediately removal! 

With our  awareness and knowledge, as soon as we find ourselves face to face with The Mask of Disguise, we will implement another version of the 5 step battle plan!
  • Recognize the features or behaviors of the false self! Name them! 
  • Reject them! Call them out!
  • Replace them with features or behaviors of the true self! Be honest, real, and authentic!
  • Reclaim that true self. Act upon your healthy choices.
  • Repeat the process, as many times as necessary!

It is hard work, but it is worth it! Keep going! Feel yourself getting stronger each and every time you...

Reclaim and Fortify Your True Self!

At ease with the Tue Self
Next time, we will tackle the final mask - The Mask of Detachment.

Homework:  Complete the self- inventory by answering the questions above.  Take your time. Be courageous and be brutally honest. Don't allow this mask to rob you of your truths any longer.  Then, practice the 5 step battle plan! 

Special note!  Goodreads  Giveaway is still in progress!  20 copies of Mountain Air- free!  Easy to enter! Easy to win!

Thank you to all who have entered!! 249 and counting!

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