Monday Mornings

 

Monday Mornings

I didn’t hate my job. Not since I worked for an alcoholic landscaper one summer in high school have I ever hated my job. He was cranky in the mornings (hungover) and short tempered in the afternoons (drunk). He was OK at lunch, my one respite from hand weeding gardens at some big, corporate office complex. That job sucked. I was too much of a wimpy people pleaser to quit, so I pretended I had mono for a couple of weeks, then they just sort of forgot about me and got some other teenaged schlump to pull weeds and take the mild abuse.

 

As an adult, both before and after I crossed the invisible line into alcohol addiction, I really got into my jobs. I could see the path for career advancement and business growth, and I pursued goals with passion. I didn’t hate my jobs.

 

But I hated Monday mornings.

 

They are still abnormally hard, now seven years into sobriety. In fact, I think it is my current challenges with Monday mornings that informs the catastrophic challenges with Monday mornings I suffered at the end of my active alcoholism.

 

Overall, I love my jobs. I coach high school soccer, and I research and write about behavioral health. Both jobs are about gaining understanding about human nature, and helping people reach their potential. It is uplifting and inspiring and fills my deep curiosity about what makes us all tick. It was a long and winding road to reach this career destination, but I am incredibly blessed to be where I am.

 

But still, the transition from Sunday evening to Monday morning is hard. Which convinces me that when the same transition, during my active addiction, was steeped in deep depression and debilitating anxiety, it wasn’t really about the alcohol. It was about me.

 

So what is it about me – a guy who loves his jobs, has a healthy and intact family, a nice house and paid-off cars in a desirable town, and the best wife who I love completely – that makes Monday mornings so hard? What is wrong with me?

 

Another lesson of long-term sobriety is that I am not alone. This is a common topic in our SHOUT Sobriety group for high-functioning alcoholics seeking recovery. “High functioning.” Sometimes I get pushback from readers and listeners for using such an arrogant term. The inference is that I think I am better than “regular” alcoholics – like there is some upper echelon of addicts, and the rare few of us have the secret access code to the executive alcoholic dining room. Nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t think of “high functioning” as an elevated status. To the contrary. Those of us who are high functioning are just putting one of our addiction’s most influential underlying causes on full display. To be high functioning through alcohol addiction is not a source of pride. It is a spotlight on the insecurity we feel the need to medicate.

 

My wife didn’t understand my alcoholism. She was once a moderately heavy drinker, too, but she never felt the euphoria from alcohol that I have often described – that blissful feeling I would get while drinking my third IPA. For so many years, I thought the euphoric feeling was just a chemical reaction taking place in my brain. I was only partly right. It was more than release of the neurotransmitters in my brain’s pleasure and reward center. It was also a fading of self-inflicted pressure to reach arbitrary goals. It was a release from my own feelings of inadequacy – the ingrained knowledge that no matter how hard I tried or what I achieved, it would never be enough.

 

Why did I bring my wife’s initial inability to wrap her arms around my alcoholism into this? Because there is another interesting contrast between how my wife and I trudge through the world. She is often content. Imagine that. She spends much of her time satisfied with her contribution to the world. She is enough, and she almost always knows it. So she didn’t get the same euphoric feeling from drinking alcohol. Maybe it didn’t create in her the same dopamine and serotonin release it created in me. But also, she didn’t need the alcohol to make her feelings of inadequacy fade away. She didn’t feel inadequate before she started drinking.

 

I get that just about everyone with a traditional work week would prefer it to be Saturday or Sunday morning rather than Monday morning. It would be easy for you to dismiss my assertions as me just being mentally soft or emotionally immature. Maybe you think I just need to put on my big-boy pants on Monday mornings.

 

I do that. I carry on. Mondays are tough, but I make them happen like most people. That humans would prefer to be off work rather than at work is not my point. My point is that for some of us, we don’t clock-out eight hours after we clock-in with a feeling of satisfaction. Enough is never enough. A temporary feeling of pride in our accomplishments is nothing more than incentive to climb higher, run faster and dream bigger. Recognition only serves to make us thirsty for further acknowledgement.

 

We seek a never ending stream of external validation to fill the black hole of internal insecurity.

 

Where does all of this come from? Is it genetics? Is it about how I was raised? What about societal expectations? Is there a gender component? I think the answer is: all of the above. I don’t know a lot about genetics, but as a human behavior researcher, I can confirm that environment, gender and culture all played a role in forming me into a nervous-system-dysregulated, at-a-boy seeking, walking pile of unworthiness. What is really interesting is less about how I got this way, and more about how I stay this way despite my understanding of the predicament I am in.

 

When I take a step back from my daily pursuits, I can see how arbitrary and unimportant so many of my goals are. I used to procrastinate. Somewhere in my development, procrastination gave way to a sense of doom about deadlines. Like so many of our readers, I am extremely busy. I don’t have the luxury of waiting until deadlines approach and cramming to get things done. My life and schedule is a series of windows of time. I choose what to cram into any one of those windows, but when it doesn’t all fit, I beat myself up for using another window to complete the same task.

 

I have a ton of empathy and understanding for the players I coach. I write my story in hopes that people with similar struggles will have someone with whom they can relate. I am genuinely and consistently kind to others.

 

So why do I work so hard to find ways to be unkind to myself?

 

And that’s why alcohol gave me such a euphoric feeling. It is partially about the release of brain chemicals, but it is also partly about toxifying brain function. I felt like a greyhound chasing the mechanical rabbit. Alcohol didn’t help me catch the rabbit. Alcohol made me forget I was hungry for rabbit meat.

 

Don’t get me wrong. Don’t use this essay as an excuse to keep drinking because of the glorious medicinal properties of alcohol. Alcohol made everything worse. Booze took a manageable condition – something about which I am now curious and trying to solve – and made it debilitating and impossible. Alcohol was a maladaptive coping mechanism that masked the real problem from my consciousness. Alcohol was like trying to swim wearing cement shoes. The deeper the water got, the closer I came to drowning. Sobriety wasn’t my solution, but it was a prerequisite to my current mission of discovery.

 

So what do I do now? Alcohol is no longer making my insecurity impossible to manage, but I am still rarely self-satisfied. Rarely is better than never, so I have to celebrate the win without beating myself up for falling short of perfection. One thing is for sure: working harder is not a solution. Working harder is a big chunk of what got me into this jam. Like with so many things recovery related, self-esteem is the solution. And I know self-esteem thrives in an environment of authenticity and vulnerability. That’s why I chose to put all of these thoughts down in writing on a Monday morning (to be published the following Wednesday). I feel better. I really do feel better.

 

Now that you know you are not alone, how do you feel?

 

If you are ready to share your insecurities and build some self-esteem while you pursue recovery, we hope you’ll join us in SHOUT Sobriety.

SHOUT Sobriety

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4 Comments
  • Reply
    Kyle
    April 24, 2024 at 11:57 pm

    I relate to this post so much. thanks for sharing Matt!

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      April 25, 2024 at 8:40 am

      It’s great to hear from you Kyle! You and I have a lot in common for sure.

  • Reply
    Anokhi
    April 28, 2024 at 8:27 pm

    Great post. It reminds me of the Yung Pueblo quote: “I was never addicted to one thing. I was addicted to filling a void within myself with things other than my own love.”

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      April 29, 2024 at 8:59 am

      I love that quote. Spot on!

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