I Panicked as I Wrote This (but I wrote it anyway)

My last post was basically one big cry for CBT to come help me.

What is CBT and how does it work?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behavior. … CBT can help you make sense of overwhelming problems by breaking them down into smaller parts.

I have negative thought paths trudged so deeply in my brain that it’s going to take a lot of CBT shoveling to cover them up and start new ones.  Believing I’m not worthy, I’m not important…believing that my presence in my family’s lives is not important—those are all such ingrained beliefs that I’ve got a lot of work to do to unthink them.  Those thoughts fueled a great deal of my drinking, whether I *knew* it or not.

Since I manage to do all the “mom” things even though my brain is telling me I don’t matter, my goal is to work on the thoughts, unlike when we need to change a behavior. I still am very active with my kids, involved all day every day,  nevertheless those thoughts of worthlessness persist. But by changing these thought patterns, I help to make sure I won’t fall back into old BEHAVIOR patterns, like letting feelings of no self-worth lead me to drinking, isolating, and being a hot, sloppy, bottled mess.

I need to figure out ways to stop those awful, demoralizing thoughts from taking over my days (and nights).  When I get really down–like when PAWS hits–I can feel completely unworthy of being here at all.  (And I just hit 4 months of sobriety, and I think I’m seeing some PAWS-like emotions and urges.)  It’s pretty awful.  My mind keeps telling me–as though we’re two separate beings, my silly brain and me–that I have no value, that what I do is unimportant, that I can be replaced with no repercussions to my family.   Having those thoughts running through my head, sometimes for days on end, is so draining.

Just sitting here, writing all this, I’m having an anxiety attack.  So uncomfortable.  But I will not turn off the computer and go hyperventilate.  I will not turn off my brain.  I will sit here and face this anxiety:  I am in no danger.  I am safely at home, where I am warm and enjoying a lemon/cucumber/mint water.  I am having sad and distressing thoughts, but I AM NOT MY THOUGHTS.   (If you could see me right now, my pulse is beating so hard I’m sure it’s visible across the room…and I’m doing 4-7-8 breathing like my life depends on it.  But I’m still typing.)

REBT is a therapy that can help us reshape our thoughts as we walk through sobriety.  It gives us a way to look at old, unhelpful thought patterns and change them for the better.  In REBT, there is  a process known as ABC, which Smart Recovery utilizes to great effect.  (REBT, as the linked article says, “largely laid the foundation for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.”)

(This is very paraphrased from here.) In REBT, there are three basic “musts,” which are unrealistic demands we place on ourselves,  others, and the world.  Which is your “must”?

  1. I MUST be competent, lovable, adequate, good, and always win or else I’m worthless, incompetent, and/or unlovable.
  2. Other people MUST always treat me with kindness and fairness; exactly  how I want them to.  Anyone who doesn’t do this is a bad person and deserves to be punished for how terribly he or she treated me.
  3. I must always get what I want when I want it; not getting what I want would be terrible, awful and unbearable.

My faulty thinking can be found in example 1.  I have a ridiculous vision of a perfect mother, and of course I’m never going to be that.  I also have some very deep-seated ideas about not mattering.  I have to work on changing both of those thought patterns.

The way I’m trying to work on those thought patterns is through a process known as ABC.  (I know, more alphabet soup). This is also paraphrased  from the above link:

In the ABC model, we find an Activating event (what occurred in your environment that you misinterpreted), then we notice our Belief about this event–our interpretation or misinterpretation of what that event meant.  And finally, we notice the Consequences of that Belief. 

So here’s an example:

(A) I went to a potluck and all of my homemade bread did not get eaten.

(B) “Nobody likes my food.  I’m a terrible cook.  Good mothers are good cooks, therefore I am not a good mother.

(C) I am devastated, depressed, and might turn to wine, quit baking, and/or isolate because I’m embarrassed and ashamed of my failure.

What we  have to learn, and REBT helps us get there, is that it’s not (A), the fact that my food didn’t get demolished, that really upset me.  It’s (B), my overthinking, and wrong thinking, that will lead me to (C).

So we dig further into the alphabet and find:

(D) We Dispute our irrational belief or thoughts;

and then we

(E) Engage in a new behavior or thought pattern.

In the bread example, I tell myself (D)New thought:  There was a ton of food there, and maybe some folks are gluten free now.

(E) Next time I’ll bring a mix of salad and bread, and I won’t bring so much.  And I’ll remember that a lot of the bread DID get eaten, and I even ate some, and it was good.

In this scenario, I’ve taken responsibility for my own reaction to a situation and stopped blaming the situation at all.

My goal right now is to apply REBT and the ABC model to my thinking about my role as mom and wife.  It’s going to be a lot of redirection, repeatedly telling my brain to double back and fix the problem.  But I have hope that we’ll get there in the end.


Whew, I’m still panicking.  I hate this feeling.  I keep forgetting to exhale.

Anyway, things are moving along here.  We had a yard sale today, which is a TON of work.  And we’ll have it again tomorrow.  After that, it’s a few things for Craigslist and everything else off to donation.

(BREATHE, Penelope!)

I haven’t lost any pounds in the last month, but I also haven’t gained, and my favorite pair of capris are almost too big, so that’s a yay.  🙂  I’m working on remembering to eat a little bit every two hours, rather than waiting until my poor body is screaming for food.  And I’m finding my concoction of lemon/cucumber/mint water is keeping me fuller than otherwise, and hydrated to boot!

I did a fun project two nights ago:  I took the metal lids that come on some scented candles and cut pictures of the kids to fit inside.  I hot glue-gunned them in there, then put strips of magnetic tape on the back. For good measure, I mod-podged over the pictures, as well.  Voila’!  Instant magnets that are adorable, and big enough to hold lots of Little One’s artwork.

You probably don’t even need a glue gun; I’m sure superglue or double-sided tape would work, as well.  And mod podge is optional. 🙂  It just protects the picture from tearing better.

I’ve been doing a lot of watercolor and crayon resists.  It’s so much fun.  Just get some crayons and draw on a piece of Bristol or watercolor paper.  Then use watercolor and brush over the whole piece.  It makes for beautiful watercolor cards and envelopes.

More crayon resist

I also did one piece with plastic wrap:  Basically, using watercolor paper, you paint several colors close to one another all over the paper; then, while still wet, cover the whole thing with plastic wrap.  Let it dry like that.  When you remove the wrap, you have a beautiful painting in its own right, but you can go further and fill in each space made by the plastic wrap with the color that goes there.  It’s a fun one, and easy for kids.  Plus, the equipment is basic!

Watercolor and saran after taking off the saran wrap
Watercolor and plastic wrap

OK, I’ve typed a lot.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday, and keep kicking that brute addiction’s ass!





16 thoughts on “I Panicked as I Wrote This (but I wrote it anyway)

  1. I really want to reply to this properly, but I’ve just written an epic myself and need to go out now. Later. I’ll come back and give your blog the attention it deserves. Love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Time and time again you craft such brave, well written posts Penelope! Honestly, your wisdom helps me soooo much. I totally identify with a lot of what you wrote.
    I’ve been grappling with some anxiety too but I feel better already after reading your post. And your artwork is so uplifting. I also think baking bread is soul nurturing for the baker and for anyone around while it’s baking. It is a hugely nurturing activity even if it doesn’t get eaten!
    What if you created a book of comments, from all of us here in the sobershere who love and appreciate you, that you could flip through when your brain is trying to convince you that you are unworthy? It could be your next fabulous art project?
    xoxo 🍞❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! I agree that baking nurtures the soul.

      The book idea is wonderful. It’s like a Relapse Prevention Plan for self-worth. 🙂 I love it!

      Whenever I post pictures of my artwork, I am so afraid of getting told they’re too juvenile or simple (and they are simple and they are juvenile!). But you guys are *always* so supportive and positive. It makes my heart swell.



  3. I’m sure there are people who would say, “Penelope, snap out of it. You are being silly.” I hear my grand mother’s voice. Not me. I have a full understanding of your self demoralizing thought patterns, having lived them myself.
    There is at least a full generation of years and experiences that separate our identities and struggles, yet your words speak to and for me. I appreciate your interpretation of the pathways to unraveling harmful thought processes. I don’t want to do the research, so I will benefit from your experience, strength and hope.
    In short, you are a treasure. I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time, even though the words are not mine and have become cliche’.
    Kathryn Stockett — ‘You is kind. You is smart. You is important.’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If my mom sat around doing art projects with me when I was a kid, I would have been the happiest kid alive! What a gift for them. 💕

    And FYI, I love bread, like everyone on the planet, but I don’t eat it because of the Grain Brain diet, and all the other low grain diets that are popular in the U.S. It’s caused a lot of people to go almost grain-free. (Sigh.)

    Have you ever tried any of Louise Haye’s books? “Heal Your Life” is a free online movie as well, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was thinking exactly that! Everyone thinks that bread is so bad these days, carbs have such a bad rap!
    I am underweight and eat tonnes of bread, pasta an all things carb (plus protein etc).

    Sugar is a killer in large quantities and also animal fats, however am not vegetarian.
    I bet heaps of people went home totally jealous that they can’t or don’t cook their own bread, I know it is hard and you are amazing to not only do this but get into art at home.

    When I started cross stitching with my 12 year old over the holidays it brought us closer together and now we are doing a chicken embroidery together.

    Go you!
    Sending you loads of hugs and support
    Michelle xx
    PS guilt and dredging up bad thoughts is something I have battled with for 35 years (now 50) and this process of giving up alcohol and being conscious has really helped me put those feelings where they belong – in the trash! They are pointless and rubbish – I used to think guilt helped us keep on track but all it does it throw us off the rails and bog us down in a hole. We are not our thoughts – you are so right. We are our new ideas x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your post gives me the courage to take another look at getting my blog going. Those negative feelings keep getting in the way for me, too. I sit down to type a post or work on the nuts and bolts and the anxiety creeps up. (Breathe, dammit. Positive thoughts….) I find the things you do amazing. Please keep posting. Keep moving forward. You are such an inspiration for me. So glad I found your blog.


    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is an interesting approach and I find myself having to talk myself out of downer days. It’s hard but with art I will be great! Thanks for the crayon tips and the self help. It’s weird because I was and am going through this in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

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