Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

The Comeback

Published in Blog.

“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” —Alfred A. Montapert

Progress is what life’s all about, right? Progressive love, progressive thought, progressive living… All thing considered, I’m probably doing (just) okay in terms of following such pursuits. For the moment, at least. Right now I feel good. I feel like the Me that I believe I should be feeling like. But that could change a month, week, day, or even an hour from now, and I’ve come to learn that about myself. And that kind of sucks. But on the other hand, learning and embracing the fact that I’m not well in that way has also helped me become the person I am today. And it’s this process that has led me here, searching for what I feel might be a more progressive life.

Last August I started a project that I’ve since labelled The Book. At the time I’d developed an idea regarding how I might publish it, and who might read it, but I hadn’t really figured out what it was supposed to be about. To be honest, I still don’t know. I hoped to reflect a bit on some of my experiences thus far in life, but I dreaded the idea of taking myself, or what I was writing, entirely too seriously regardless of how serious the actual subject matter might be. Drunk, Fat, and Sad (Life Lessons from an Unemployed Addict) is about as close to a funny title that I could think of (I guess it’s more wry than humorous) while still translating my aim with The Book; that being a look at despair, depression, and dependency in my own life and the world around us. Witty or not however, my situation has changed greatly since I first started.

Between last summer and now I’ve gone from being marginally self-employed to largely unemployed to partially employed before landing in my current state of employment which, I suppose, can be described as tentative (though a strong prospect of full-time employment lurks on the horizon!). There’s been a lot of good that’s happened to me during this period of time, but a lot of bad things have happened along the way too. I can’t bemoan anything too much though as nearly all of the negatives can be traced back to a single source: myself. And it’s because of this reason that I’m continuing on with The Book this week. There’s a key change though as, at least for now, The Book is going to have to be a blog.

When I laid down a series of goals last month my aim was to grow a bit throughout the year and take aim at a better Me, but as has been the case many times in the past, whenever I’d tell myself to act accordingly I’d typically fall flat on my face. Over the years I’ve become heavily dependent on binge eating and drinking as some sort of coping mechanism, but along the way those vices began to warp and re-shape my reward system. Having a bad day? A reward should be in order to help survive. A good day? A reward because I’ve earned it. And more times than not that reward has been destructive rather than productive: an entire pizza for dinner rather than a night treating friends to a good meal or a blackout drunk in front of the TV rather than a relaxing night with music and a book. Since the summer of 2008 I haven’t had a nine-to-five so it didn’t really matter too much if I slept in until noon or stayed up all night drinking and eating because, hell, the consequences were usually little more than a hangover an upset stomach. An upset stomach and a sense of regret, actually. Well, this past month I fell once again, and I fell hard. So hard, in fact, that my dad took it upon himself to come and stay with me for nearly a week while I dried out. During our time together we worked on developing a plan to honestly evaluate where I’m at and build toward some kind of feasible goal. It just so happens that this plan includes continuing with my writing.

Much like a rocking horse that realizes it isn’t really going anywhere, I feel like I’ve been trying for a long time to make progress but any advancement I’ve made to this point seems marginal. The situation being what it is, now I feel like I’m ready to actually get on with my life and progress to that next step however, and a large part of that is taking the first step and beginning to let this project unfold. Until now I’ve failed at honestly allowing myself to move forward as a person, and that failure to learn who I really am has only brought about a false sense of who I’m not.

In that respect, my aim with pursuing The Book is twofold. On one hand I want to keep exploring my mind and the world around me as I continue to battle the aforementioned three D’s and make an attempt at some sort of progress in my own life. On the other, I’m doing this because I can’t remember the last time I really Tried at anything: I have a hard time remembering actually trying to ever build a legitimate romantic relationship; prior to my new position I hardly ever tried when it came to work; I haven’t really tried to watch what I eat or lose weight for any considerable length of time; and it feels like it’s been ages since I’ve tried to stay sober. During my most fragile moments it’s often felt like the only thing I have left in the world is my own voice, but over time it’s started to feel like My Voice carries with it so very little personal value because of all this. Now I’m trying to change this.

“Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.” —A. H. Weiler

Proving one’s identity is a strange task, but a more complex task, I feel, is proving identity to oneself. Right now I’m trying to prove to myself that I am who my inner voice tells me I am. Do I really want to live a virtuous life or am I content with just getting by? Part of solving this puzzle is going to be found in exploring each of the parts that I’m going to cover in The Book. While I’ll detail despair, depression, and dependency, the underlying theme of everything I look to cover is actually happiness. This process is more about a search for happiness — and ultimately recovery — than anything, and it’s one that I will be confronting on a personal level: Not only will this journey explore a personal journey, but it will hopefully challenge various traditional recovery methods and academic findings.

One of the key reasons that I want to delve into academia and the world of recovery is because it’s often the case that those who are covering these important issues are those approaching them as outsiders. Perhaps not as complete outsiders, as most are well studied, but outsiders in that they’re approaching the subjects as professional thinkers and not participants themselves. When assessing findings in the world of recovery, so much analysis is crafted by those who either haven’t had a history with the issues themselves or consider themselves “healed.” I was apprehensive of going forward with this project for fear that it’d be misconstrued as something of a self-help guide — a label itself which is cringe-worthy — but rather than coming at the topics from an angle of a healer, I’m still looking at every one of these subjects as someone who seeks healing. After all, a self-help guide from someone still struggling with so much internal conflict would probably mean about as much as a book written by Paris Hilton espousing the merits of hard work. It’s not that I’ve been there, but that I’m still there today. This isn’t 404 Ways Reasons to Smile or a step-by-step guide to recovery, but an exploration of my own trials related to a wide range of studies and resources that have helped me learn more about the process.

I hope that none of this reads as me unloading my own issues or confessing for the sake of simply feeling better — the last thing I personally want is to bear someone else’s problems or guilt — or taking a contradictory stance for the sake of argument alone. As preposterous as I might think some steps toward personal recovery, discovery, and progress are, we will each find power and happiness through different methodology. (It happens to be that through my research I’ve taken quite a bit of comfort in the teachings of positive psychology.) Rather, I’m hoping that this becomes as transparent an exploration of self as I can offer in relation to various constructs surrounding how to simply live a happier life. Maybe by the time I’ve finished I’ll have even figured a few things out for myself, as well.