Monday, December 15, 2014

Quarter-game bandit

So I'm out east interviewing for residencies, and have been for a week or so and laundry day came. So I headed over to the laundromat wifey and I used when we were here last month and started a load of laundry and was about to head to best buy to chill while my clothes washed until I saw it - the quarter game that beat me last month.

Let me explain - this is a stupid little arcade-type game where idiots like me put quarters in with hopes that the quarters we put in will push previous idiots' quarters out into the reward bin. Last month I lost a dollar or so on this before tossing in the towel. BUT, right after I was finished, some yuppy walks up and puts some quarters in while simultaneously kicking the machine and DOWN come a ton of quarters. MY quarters. Jerk.

So this time I put 2 quarters in with no reward, and I remember the yuppy. So I decide to kick the thing a couple times. Nothing. so I kick a little harder - WEEEOOOEEOO. An alarm. There I was - a grown man, almost 30-year old almost doctor who just set off an alarm at a laundromat in front of 20 other people cause I wanted to make 75 cents, and fleeing from the scene. I was out of that place before 5 seconds had gone by.

So I walked to best buy for damage control. First, what in the same of sam hill did I just do? And second, why did I respond that way? And third, what do I do NOW? I thought... maybe I can just walk in, take my clothes out of the wash and walk out back to my room and hang dry all my clothes. Another idea was maybe if I put on different clothes no one will recognize me. These are honest thoughts that I had. Then I walked out of best buy to see a cop car parked outside and my stomach dropped. They were just hanging out though - not there to catch the quarter-game bandit.

So anyway, I walk out to my car to drive to target for a bit - maybe if I wait a while, the crowd will switch and no one will recognize me. As I'm driving away - and this is finally the part where I do something right - the VOR (voice of recovery) comes to me and says - "Hey Nate, you gotta be accountable." Touche, voice.

So I turn around and park. I walk in to the laundromat and the alarm isn't going off. No one comes to me or says anything. It seemed to have breezed right over without anyone caring. Phew, I thought. That was easy. Then VOR comes back and says, "That's not being accountable." Well played.

So I go and find the owner.
Me: "Hey... uh... is everything ok with that alarm?"
Owner: (confused look).
Me: "You know, with the quarter game... there was an alarm that went off. Well, I kicked the machine and it was stupid and I'm sorry and I just wanted to come and tell you and see if everything was ok."
Owner: "Yeah, that isn't smart. If you kick it and the quarters come out, then no quarters come out the next time you be throwin' quarters in there!"
Me: "Haha, yeah, that was stupid."
Owner: "Yeah, everything's fine."

It was humiliating. I felt like a 5-year-old. But it had to happen... and then I felt fine. And I told my wife later in the day so I could feel stupid again and hopefully learn something.

You see, this is probably a little thing. A really stupid little thing that I shouldn't talk about in public, but it's not like I relapsed or robbed a bank or whatever.

BUT. It is crucial that I am accountable for my actions. Secrets and lies are at the core of relapse. If I were to 'get away' with something here, what's to keep me from thinking I can 'get away' with acting out a little bit? Or telling a small lie? From keeping something else from wifey?

Being accountable and taking responsibility for poor decisions that I make is key for me to stay in recovery. No matter what they are, I need to address them and talk them over with someone (usually wifey) so I don't keep going down the secretive road. It stops the skid and keeps me honest.

What kind of things do I need to bring up? It took us a long time to figure out our system, which has swung to both sides of the pendulum of sharing too much and too little - both of which are extremely painful for both parties involved. Basically what I share comes down to 2 things: 1) when I make a poor decision that influences my recovery in some way, and 2) when temptations are especially difficult and I am struggling. That has worked for us and helped me to not beat myself up every time I have a temptation to lust or whatever, but to focus on my decisions and my state of being.

anyway, hopefully each of us can keep being accountable on our road to recovery. And hopefully that's the last we see of the QGB.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's possible and it's worth it

We had our 3 year anniversary the other day - and it was great. It's no secret we've had our difficulties and largely due to my decisions and weaknesses. We've often said if we lived close to family we're not sure if it would've worked out because it would've made it easier to throw in the towel.

This anniversary was our least elaborate - prior years were spent in an upscale hotel or a private cabin in the mountains. This one was spent as a night in our ghetto hotel we're staying in as part of the final 2 weeks of our recent 4 month cross-country excursion for residency applications.

Though less fancy, this anniversary was definitely our best because we are secure in our marriage. I have over 2.5 years of sobriety and we're trying for children and grateful for our present and looking forward to our future together. It wasn't long ago that none of these were the case. It almost seemed like divorce was inevitable and that we made a huge mistake. We've had some really really difficult days and long nights.

But here we are, happily married despite our weaknesses. Sure we still have tiffs frequently and things aren't hunky dory all the time. We are still very much a work in progress - we are still young and early in recovery and there is still much to do. But we are out of the worst of it, and we know we'll work it out together and be fine no matter the situation.

Anyway, I just wanted to say this because I read blogs and see so many people still in those early stages of confusion, depression, anger, and hopelessness. I just want to put our experience out there so people can know it's possible to work through it and that it's worth it. Not saying that every couple should work it out or that if you don't you've done it wrong. Not at all. Just that it's possible in case you're thinking it's not.

Best of luck to everyone. If you want to get in touch with my wife or I, we'd be happy to talk through things. We're no counselors and still have our many issues, but we can offer help based on experiences we've had.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I don't think I have full-on OCD, but I do have tendencies toward it. There's no doubt that genetics plays a role in it, but I also think that being LDS in Utah has contributed to certain obsessions. I feel like I have been so nit-picky of myself and others for much of my life and that has caused me to become somewhat obsessed with being good, or with having a good appearance. And the fact that I have weaknesses, in this area in particular, has caused me INCREDIBLE amounts of shame.

The hallmark of OCD is having unwanted or intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that cause anxiety and the actions (compulsions) that one must do to relieve the anxiety. I don't know if I have any true compulsions, but I think that I have perhaps made some aspects of recovery a compulsion. I think the only thing that came close was when I was trying to figure out what was appropriate to disclose to my wife and when. I became ill if I thought I might have something that I should tell her but didn't, and therefore told her every single little thing that could possibly be considered related to the addiction every day. I felt so sick so often during those times. I'm glad we have found a system that works for us that has evolved as we have evolved.

I would also get obsessed with recovery at times when I'd go into "control mode" after a relapse. I'd obsess over everything I did and come up with the "master plan" of everything I would do to be perfect at recovery and never have a problem again. This quickly would fade, I'd lose motivation, and burn out and get frustrated.

I feel like a portion of the reason I became addicted is because I would obsess over my problem. It consumed my thoughts. And the more I thought about it and had anxiety over it and grieved over it, the more power I gave it.

This was a problem particularly with lusting. When I got out of the initial cycle of acting out, I was left with dealing with my tendency to lust. I was obsessed with not lusting, so much that I began to lust over people I would not normally lust after. I was such a mess.

Anyway, there's a branch of obsessions that is sexual in nature, and it deals with unwanted, intrusive sexual thoughts. Now, everyone has the occasional fleeting sexual thought pop in the mind at times. The problem is that those with OCD or intense religious background put too much weight on those thoughts. At least I feel like that's how it was for me. I felt like I made the insignificant significant. I would take the urge to lust as a sign that I was bad, that I wasn't attracted to my wife, or that I wanted to be with someone else other than my wife. I would obsess over ANY time that I found myself looking where I shouldn't, or ANY time I found anyone else attractive, or was even tempted to look. And it drove me cray-zee. I'm almost feeling crazy just typing this.

I'm not a great writer and I don't know if what I said above makes sense. I don't even know why I'm writing all this honestly. I just feel like obsessing over not lusting and acting out caused me a lot of grief, and gave the addiction more power than it took away. Only after I calmed down and realized that it's ok to have those urges, it's normal to have the urge toward those thoughts, it's ok to think others are attractive, and it doesn't have to mean ANYTHING. What matters is what I choose to do with those urges and thoughts. What matters is that I don't use my agency to sit and linger on a look or a thought, or that I let those thoughts turn into inappropriate actions. That's what counts. 

And I am obsessing less now. A couple of days ago I had a pretty hard day because of a fight wifey and I had. And that sometimes makes temptations worse. So while I was at work the temptations started coming and I actually audibly said to myself, "Allright Nate, so it's gonna be that kind of day today, huh?" And just recognizing that the temptations and whatnot was coming from my feelings of sadness and didn't mean anything more was very empowering. I took away the power from them, and they didn't mean anything to me and didn't affect me, and I just forgot about them as the day went on. 

If you feel like you are obsessing over recovery/lust or whatever feel free to get in touch with me and we can talk more. Best of luck amigos!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Raw spots

I've been reading the book by Sue Johnson called 'Hold Me Tight.' She's one of the pioneers for a type of therapy based on attachment issues, called emotionally focused therapy (eft). Anyway, it's a great way of looking at recovery and I've gained a lot from it.

I feel like I am relationshipally handicapped, in that I stink at establishing and nurturing deep relationships. I am pretty awesome at small talk and having superficial everything-is-awesome type relationships with people though, but those don't really do me much good in the long run.

Anyway, in the book Dr Johnson talks about raw spot. Raw spots are essentially spots that have been rubbed raw from previous experiences, and are now disproportionately painful when touched. I've got em. My wife's got em. We've all got em.

To tell the truth, I can't really sit down and tell you what mine or my wife's are because I just don't have that kind of brain. However, understanding the concept of raw spots has been golden in the last few months. I have often found myself getting so upset over something and not realizing why, take it out on my wife. I have also been SO confused/upset when my wife would "all of a sudden" blow up or get really emotionally charged over something that seemed like it shouldn't be that big of a deal.

But since learning about raw spots some of these have made a little more sense. The other day I got ticked off because my wife disagreed with something medically I said, which obviously is totally fine. But for me, it insulted my intelligence for some reason and made me feel like she doesn't respect me or think I'm smart. Then I realized that my mom always questioned my dad's medical judgment and I have this intense fear that my wife will do the same to me for our whole lives and that scares me. I was able to tell my wife this and we talked it over and now she understands me better and the day didn't end in me being secretly ticked off and openly indifferent. Also this helps me to avoid getting in a bad place where temptations are strong, as temptation is often linked with anger and depression for me.

I've also had a few experiences in the past few weeks where I was able to be a little more patient and understanding with my wife as she had some raw spots prodded. Especially since I have found that I am often the direct cause of those raw spots. There has also been times where I didn't do quite as well, as I have problems with humility and patience. But I feel I am doing better. There is so much emotion as we learn this new dance of recovery together.

Either way, now when I or my wife gets overly-reactive about something, or a situation all of a sudden gets really emotionally intense, I think, "what raw spot is being rubbed here?" And often times I'm able to think of one, and it sheds some light on the subject that gives my wife and I power.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Alive and well

It's been a while since writing on my recovery blog. Just thought I'd post a quick update on where I am in case anybody cares, or just for the sole purpose of self-reflection. Life has been quite successful for the last few months. My wife and I seem to have found a good groove that works for us. I feel like I am in a good place with our relationship - I am learning. I feel like I was so incredibly immature when we got married... I wonder if I was some sort of outlier or if everyone is as immature relationship-wise as I was. I'm probably worse than the average bear. Either way, I have flashes of immature-ness, but for the most part feel like I have a good understanding of my emotions and feelings.

One thing that has really helped is the book, Hold Me Tight. I'm not finished with it, and honestly not being that diligent about reading it. However, one lesson really helped me calm down - the idea of raw spots. Everyone has raw spots that are raw because they have been shaved and rubbed down through the experiences of life. My wife has a few particular ones because of me. She has some because of others. I wish I could write mine down now but I'm never that good at remembering things on the spot - it's just important for me to remember that a situation can quickly become emotional seemingly disproportionate to the situation because it rubs an existing raw spot. I remember this principle often and it helps me calm down when my wife seems really upset about something for "no reason," or when I suddenly become really angry/moody about something.

Anyway, the wife and I are better than ever. I love her very much and appreciate so much what we have. She's an angel to me. She is so funny and has so many little quirks that make me laugh. I even helped her dye her hair recently. Twice. Yup - things are good.

Anyway, we are currently on the road traveling to various residencies to rotate at them for application purposes. We're in a new place every two weeks - pretty exciting. We've had a hoot on our weekend excursions and also trying all the fun restaurants wherever we are. We've also struggled to find the right balance, as my wife is currently unemployed and sometimes at a loss of what to do while I'm at work. Yesterday was a harder day. Those happen and that's ok. It's a hard situation. But we also have a lot of really fun days.

Recovery has been great, as far as sobriety goes. I'm coming up on 32 months next week. Being free of that life-cancer for almost 3 years feels great. I still feel tempted - it often comes in spurts, based on how I am doing emotionally, or sometimes it just seems random. I often have a few days where temptations are a bit more naggy, or thoughts of things I have done in the past recur with a little more strength - had a day like that yesterday. But I am able to work through it.

One area of recovery that has decreased is my closeness with God - which is really at the core of it all so it's kind of weird. I guess it hasn't dropped as much as I think it has, I'm a lot harder on myself about this than I should be, which is a trend in lots of areas of my life as I'm sure it is most addicts. We're way harder on ourselves than need be and we almost relish it. Anyway, my personal studies are sporadic and my prayers are ok. I guess I should just say my daily connection with God isn't that fabulous. That's really the point. I reach out to Him occasionally and sometimes feel like God is there and hears me. Other times doubt and fear creep in. It's been a lifelong struggle for me, but I'm happy to keep moving forward.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. I still have a long ways to go and I'm happy to go it. I feel like I'm out of the original pit I was in, and therefore feel I have a duty to help others in any way I can - feel free to contact me and I'd be happy to help. My wife has also been through loads and would be willing to talk with any wives that want another friend who will understand. Anyway, I'll try and write occasionally. Good luck to us all!

Nate Q

Friday, April 4, 2014

Benefits of reaching out

When I think about keys to my recovery, right near the top is reaching out. I struggled in silence for years, pleading with God to "take it away" and "help me change," I talked with many a bishop about my struggles, but somehow went through my entire collegiate experience without telling one of my roommates, family members, or close friends.

Once I started going to group, I slowly but surely understood the importance of reaching out for help. I have been amazed over and over again how supportive people are when I reach out to them. Even when they don't know how to respond, they always find some way to show encouragement or support. 

Since then I've discussed my struggles with almost every one of my family members, my grandparents, one of my brothers-in-law, old roommates, friends, someone in my ward, and I'm not sure who else. I try and be as smart as I can to discern the right time, place, and person I reach out to, but each time I do it reaffirms a few things to me:

1 -  I am not a terrible person. Occasionally I get in monster-mode and feel I'm not worth dirt. However, when I reach out I find that those that care for me support me. They don't suddenly think I'm a horrible person. If anything it seems their love and concern for me grows. On that note...

2 - I am loved... last person I opened up to was my oldest sister. A couple weeks later she wrote me a long email expressing her love and encouragement. She also sometimes asks me how I'm doing with it in our conversations and it gives me an opportunity to be accountable. 

3 - It puts my addiction in perspective. Don't get me wrong, my addiction has caused an immense amount of trouble and pain, and it is a big deal... but I also tend to magnify that shame and trouble and very often let it define me and dictate my life. Sometimes reaching out to someone helps me see when I am doing that. 

4 - I don't need to struggle in secret. Whether it be because of misunderstandings about life or because of pride or shame, we often decide to struggle alone in secret. After I reach out to another person, it breaks down that pride/shame and I feel hope and love. It's always been good for me. 

5 - Other people have struggles. When I let my walls down, other people are suddenly willing to let their walls down, sometimes at that moment, sometimes later. But I'm always surprised and grateful at what comes out of people's mouths when they all of a sudden feel safe telling me what is really going on. One of my best friends in my current ward came about because I opened up to him about my struggles randomly after church and he shared with me some of his. Fewer walls is a good thing. 

How to do it? I don't really know. I find myself thinking about my addiction often in conversations with people, and a lot of time it's just using those moments... just start talking. The more build up there is the more difficult it will be. I don't think there is ever a struggle to find a time to do it, there is always a time to talk about inner feelings in every deeper 1 on 1 conversation with anybody, it's just a matter of going with them when they come up. The first few times are incredibly scary, but it gets easier. 

Anyway, I hope I can continually find ways to reach out to others for help. Each time it takes some courage and is a bit of a leap of faith, but I've yet to have a negative experience, on the contrary, reaching out is a vital part of recovery. It shows that I am letting go of the pride and shame of addiction and willing to do what is necessary. Happy conference everybody, hope we can all take an opportunity to reach out to those around us and see the great things that result. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Big changes a'comin'

So it's been a little while - you can tell how busy my rotations are based on how often I write in this blog.. but honestly my last rotation wasn't that busy, I just have been busy with other things. I'm at that point in a med student's life where I'm at the 20-pronged fork in the road after the first 20-pronged fork in the road. So I've decided on a track in medicine and have a back up cause my first one is a bit of a stretch.

So there are some HUGE changes coming: moving earlier than we thought, a future move to a completely new place somewhere in the US, my wife leaving her profession for a temporary job, being apart for 4-5 months while I'm on rotations, and that's just off the top of my head.

With big changes come opportunities: in many ways it is a new fresh start. My wife and I have had some hard times down here because of me, and some great ones. It has been our humble and difficult beginning. In our months in Utah and years wherever I match into residency, we will have the opportunity to start new good habits, continue current good ones, make new memories - there is also the potential for old habits to sneak in. I have a good 'safe zone' worked out down here - a good system - and a change of scenery brings with it new ways to get caught off guard and the necessity of being able to adapt more than usual.

I think the keys to surviving changes are 1) continuing good habits that have worked before and 2) evaluating early and often how the efforts are going, being aware of potential threats and weak points in the armor. I am pretty aware of my weaknesses and destructive beliefs/habits, so I will be on guard.

We're sad to leave this place behind... I think when I look back to Phoenix later in my life, it will be with reverence.

Other updates:

1) I had an interesting situation last week where justifying acting out would have been... well... almost justifiable. I won't do the details, but I was proud of myself for not even getting close to those old habits. Those victories go a long way and give me faith because not long ago I don't think I would have been so strong.

2) Mile-a-day 2014 - still going strong. I kind of missed one day, but am sure I walked a mile that day to and from places we were so I'm going to count it. up to 116 miles ran this year. Also haven't missed flossing a day yet, which was my 2013 goal. Setting and keeping these goals has been a great strength to me and my integrity. I think it's important for everyone to have 1-2 things that are non-negotiables that they do no matter what. We've all got numerous things that theoretically we should do daily, but miss here and there and life goes on. But I think picking 1-2 of those and doing them no matter what over the long term brings great strength to a person. Making other decisions seems a tad easier.