Sitting on the beach at Puerto Vallarta with my dad, watching the waves come in and out, fighting off local vendors and splashing in the waves, it’s easy to imagine life could always be like this. Those days in the sun are easy to embrace. Why can’t they last forever?
The real world is far less memorable. I don’t take two hundred pictures of my normal Monday to Friday. Weeks, even months, can come and pass without nothing of great significance happening. Get up, get dressed, go to work, come home, cook and clean, talk and watch tv, chores, hygiene, bed. Over and over and over again.
The real world is boring. I have mentioned before that one of the hidden issues with addiction recovery is that the real world is mundane. Addicts are used to spending most of their waking hours fantasizing about highs, planning and financing their addictions, getting and imbibing, coming down, burning out; not a boring day. Stopping drinking or drugs or whatever is only a small part of your battle. Dealing with a life-view and lifestyle is far more complicated and difficult. Learning to settle with what you have, where you are, and what you are doing is not natural. Television and movies tell us all the time that life should be a series of orgasms and car chases.
People who have little experience with drugs or addiction often ask me why people get high. The reason is, drugs are awesome. At first. People get high and drunk because it’s really fun. For a while. If there were no negative ramifications to chemicals many people would get high all the time. The temptations to escape from a boring reality is extremely tempting. When you are inebriated you don’t have to worry about the day-to-day hassles and problems that never seem to go away. And therein, lies the rub.
They don’t go away. Ask anyone who has come back to work after vacation. Nothing has resolved itself, there is usually no break. Often, after a day or two back in the real world it is almost hard to imagine you were ever on that beach in Cabo. Problems and pressures are a part of life and trying to escape from your persistent reality only prolongs the issues. Procrastination has no healthy payoff.
We love to pretend. Pretend we are not getting older, pretend that our relationship will magically fix itself, pretend that we will reach our goals in spite of doing nothing. We pretend that our addictions are not hurting us, our anger issues are no so bad, the way we treat our partner is not abusive. We pretend that we don’t need counseling or that our childhood trauma, if we ignore it long enough, will stop affecting our lives. We pretend that we are happy. We pretend that we are not afraid of death. We pretend that we can continue to ignore our problems, skim through life without passion, buy useless crap and consume, consume, consume and this will bring us lasting contentment and joy.
I don’t believe in magic. I don’t believe you can wave your magic wand and everything will be fine. I no longer believe that all you need is faith and your problems will cease to be your problems. The real world is messy. It will ask of us more than we want to give and take from us more than we want to let go. In counseling we often talk about cognitive distortions, those distorted ways of thinking that help us cope with a dysfunctional world. Unfortunately those same coping mechanisms keep us from moving forward. It is only when we embrace the chaos, wade through the quagmire, and refuse to become numb that we find wholeness. Getting healthy takes guts, and bandaids.
Welcome back to the real world.
- Obsession (scott-williams.ca)
- Distorted thinking: one of the main causes of unhappiness (bryang1blog.wordpress.com)