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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

09-09-15 | By

Which Came First, the Alcoholism or the Impulsive Behavior?

Understanding Impulsive Behavior

I’ve been impulsive for as long as I can remember. For the purpose of this article, “impulsive” implies acting without forethought. It began as a kid in a tree. My brothers would climb high enough to stress my mom out, and I would have to climb even higher than them, not only to beat them but to stress her out even more. I didn’t realize that I would get so high in the tree I couldn’t come down on my own.  This is so relatable to addiction and recovery that’s it’s almost a pun.

Impulse control is probably one of my worst character defects. Don’t get me wrong, impulsive decisions have brought me to some really great things in my life, but being impulsive means I went about it the hard way because there was no initial planning. I remember my impulsive behavior cravings started in middle school with smoking and drinking. The impulsive cravings became worse in high school with drugs and sex introduced. I didn’t have an easy childhood and impulsive behavior through partying became my escape for the moment. I would also impulsively skip school repeatedly (to the point the teachers didn’t realize I was in their class when I did decide to show up). I wasn’t really even addicted to the substances at the time; I was addicted to the thrill of the bad behavior

All these things gave me a rush, but why did I end up in alternative ed. (where they send the “bad kids”), and why did I end up knocked up and miscarrying my senior year while others were doing the same impulsive things? Why did I have to go overboard every single time I decided to be impulsive? Is this what makes me an “addict” or an “alcoholic”? Was it because my cravings for impulsive behavior were more powerful than others, or did I lack more self-control than others because of my personality? Is this what makes an “addictive personality”, the constant barrage of impulsive behavioral decisions? Why was it so much harder for me to control myself than other kids?

I had no plans for college, and never even took the SAT/ACT. I got in over my head with pills and clubs and ended up moving back in with mom at 19 to straighten my life out. I had one call from an Army recruiter one day and signed up the next day to ship out ASAP. Impulsivity can be a good thing. Being from a small town, I knew this was what I needed to keep me away from the people who supported my impulsive behavior. I made another impulsive decision to marry at 20 years old and it happened to be the best decision of my life, don’t get me wrong, we really had to work through some bad times, but it was worth it in the end, we’re still together 13 years later.

So here I am now, successfully sober, with a college degree, working a professional job, blogging about life in my spare time, still serving my country in the Reserves, mother of two amazing children, got a good marriage…and the list goes on. Here’s the kicker – I’m still as impulsive as ever! When I’m lagging in recovery or my anxiety is high I spend the day lost in my head, playing out all the hypothetical impulsive behaviors I would love to participate in at the moment.

Some impulsive behaviors are socially acceptable and encouraged by society.  Spending money on things I don’t need is impulsive (I am a shopaholic at times, no denial here). I have 38 pairs of shoes in the closet and yes it’s a problem, but the high I get from finding one new pair on clearance with an additional coupon is so satisfying I can’t resist. How about working out and “clean eating” impulsively?  I admit it – I have no predetermined workout regimen and most days my regimen includes nothing more than scrolling the internet for hours. But…..when I impulsively go all in, I sign up for gyms I never attend, and I sign up for classes I never complete at said gym. I start yoga but not just any yoga – hot yoga – and go every day for a week then quit for two months. I’ve been known to indulge in eating everything unhealthy imaginable on a bad day – all day long – then switch completely to a juice fast for days out of guilt and an impulsive need to be healthy. My poor kids never know if the pantry is going to be filled with organic all natural snacks from the health store or if they are going to get little Debbie’s and Fritos this week. How about tattoos? Getting ink can be impulsive – but I absolutely love it, and oh the tattoo high fills in all kinds of voids. I have a serious wanderlust problem too. I think Facebook just told me I’ve been to 26 different cities this year alone. I can spend hours, literally hours, browsing online for my next adventure with my family. All these impulsive things take me somewhere….anywhere but here in the present for the moment.

What keeps me from losing control of the situations mentioned above? The intensity of the cravings for impulsive escapes hasn’t changed from the time I was climbing higher than my brothers in that tree. In fact, it seems to be getting more intense with age. Now that I’m living sober, how am I not penniless with bad credit, or overweight/underweight, how do I manage to remain a responsible adult with a real job without deciding on a whim to move to a foreign country to feed my wanderlust? How do I keep all these constant cravings under control? The answer is simple….one word….accountability.

When I discovered recovery a few years ago, accountability was a huge light bulb moment for me. We are not meant to do life alone….being accountable for decisions eliminated the self-blame and regret that was associated with making the wrong impulsive decisions. I have different accountability friends for different areas of my life. Everyone has their own strengths because every journey is different. I tend to ask those with a particular strength to help me along the way with it. You have to do what works for you though. One person may be able to cover it all for you, and if so that’s fantastic.

What’s filling that void, the itch you can’t scratch? Is it healthy? Do you have accountability for it?  Anything done in excess has the potential to be an issue. The purpose of all this is to get you to think about the impulsive behavior and how it relates to alcoholism or addiction, and to let you know you’re not alone. It’s not weak to have cravings for some adventure you’re lacking in the present, in fact, it’s completely normal for those in recovery. Some in recovery discover talents they never knew they had or potential they never knew they possessed because the impulsive behavior is redirected to something healthy instead of using.

We live in a society that constantly tells you to do what feels good. They tell you not only how to fill that void, but they’ll sell you something to fill it with. It justifies just about any habit that’s picked up in place of a “bad” one and it’s all for profit. You’re stronger thank you think and more determined than you realize. You’re not living in denial like the rest of mainstream Society. You have the courage to go against the mainstream toward sobriety. You are a healthy rebel and that’s pretty awesome.

Stay sober my friends.

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