People, places and things

People, places and things.

If you’re like me, those words transport you back to elementary school. I can hear the teacher asking, “What is a noun?” Hands shoot up across the room, but the teacher, with her back to the classroom, says, “Just shout it out if you think you know it.” From across the room different children holler out: “Person!” “Place!” “Thing!” In the quiet while the teacher writes on the board, some brown-noser in the room whose older sibling has been feeding them information to make them look smart timidly ekes out the words, “and ideas.”

People, places and things.

People are triggers. Places are triggers. Things are triggers. Some people, places and things are always going to ‘make us’ act out. It’s something they said or how they make us feel or what they remind us of. It’s that this is just how I act or who I am when I find myself with them or whenever I go home to visit my parents or before I go participate in this activity or in conjunction with this or that. It’s like how some people “only smoke when they drink.”

At least, I feel like it started that way.

I needed an excuse. Of course, that excuse could be as simple as that I was home alone and could get away with acting out. It never did take much. Nonetheless, people, places and things became an integral part of who I was and why I acted out and how I acted out and where I acted out and when I acted out.

That’s true of so many of us. It doesn’t matter what our addiction or compulsion of choice or fix or hit or poison is. Addicts, alcoholics, codependents, gamblers, workaholics, those with eating and emotional disorders, and everyone in-between – we all have something in common:

People, places and things.

That’s why many singer/songwriters have written lyrics about what it means to remove ourselves from people, places and things. If we want to be new…if we want to be different…if we don’t want to keep living that way…we must change the people, places and things in our lives.

Van Morrison expressed it this way in his song Don’t Go to Nightclubs Anymore:

Don’t get around much anymore
The smoke has driven me out the door
All night I used to walk the floor
Don’t go to nightclubs anymore

Don’t see my old friend Mose
I don’t run into Mr. Clive
I cut out all that off the wall jive
I don’t go to nightclubs no more…

Alcohol was too big a price
That why I said hey no dice
When it comes to men or mice
Don’t go to nightclubs no more

I had to cut ties. I had to sever relationships. I had to stop doing certain things – going certain places. I had to change the way I saw and interacted with the world. I’m still working on me. In some ways, I miss those people. I miss those places. I miss those things. They were a huge part of my life. It’s like something that was a part of me for so long is missing. I grieve that loss. Just thinking about everything I left behind makes me feel sad. Vulnerable. Inadequate.

I think about what was, and then I realize that I’m looking at it through rose-colored glasses. I’m glorifying my disease. I’m looking at it the way I look at past romantic relationships. All I see, all I remember, all I want to remember is the euphoria. The good times. The boost. The pick-me-up.

I don’t want to remember the grief. The guilt. The shame. The sorrow. The depression. The withdrawals. The lies. The deceit. The cover-ups. The manipulation. The pain. The hours wasted. The false hope.

The truth is that euphoric feelings was negligible. It lasted such a short time compared to how much time and effort was put into getting that next fix – that next hit. If it came at all…

People, places and things.

To get away from my demons. To begin to figure out who I really was. If there was any hope that I was going to change – that I was going to get better – that I was going to become a different person, then I had to be willing to make sacrifices, make different choices, and make changes in my life. Most of all, I had to come to terms with changing…

People, places and things.

– Alex Walker

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