Recovery requires courageous remodeling of the pleasure-reward pathway. This mesolimbic system, in neuroscience terms, is a pathway of neurons that we rely on every day. It’s what drives the mouse to forage, the frog to call out for a mate into the night, and prioritizes our pleasure-seeking lifestyles. The pursuit of happiness. Typically, this sets up a system of checks and balances of pleasure and pain that motivates us. And it works, until something easier and faster comes along.
Chemicals have hollowed out an unhealthy trench of neural circuitry in my brain that seems like an obvious way to numb out stress. More convenient, too, because it’s path of least resistance. Sobriety is like carving out a new route with a spoon. Positive experiences in sobriety fire off new neurons or reignite old ones, slowly creating new neural networks to redirect the stream of life away from the trough of addiction. I’ve fallen back into that pit many times. Somehow, I thought it will be comfortable. But where I expected a goose-down mattress I found a craggy bed of rocks.
I am learning not to let my failures define me. Success starts when I wake up and decide what kind of day I’m going to have. Setting it up right seems to be key. Before engaging with any technology, I set aside time to perform little rituals to keep myself in the right state of mind – making the bed, meditating, eating a good breakfast, etc. That keeps the chaos of the outside world from dictating my thoughts and emotions. I don’t always need to see someone else’s depiction of life – sometimes reading the book myself is better than watching the film. It also leaves a little room to daydream. That’s how this star-gazer sees it, anyway.