Alternate Routes

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I read Marc Lewis’ book Biology of Desire when I was 8 months sober. It was the last of many books that I read that year on the topic of addiction and recovery. The interesting thing about Marc’s book was that unlike the other books I read it did not inspire me to stay sober but explained the awsome, unexpected growth that I was experiencing in recovery. Or as I began to call it, Discovery.

Biology of Desire explains how our brains evolve and change if we break the isolation of addiction through compassionate connection and service. Reaching out creatively to evolve in sobriety rather than curling in. I learned from reading Biology of Desire how my brain was growing and evolving through the science of neuroplasticity. As I read the book, rather than looking forward to the possibility of what Marc was describing I responded YES! That is exactly what’s happening right now!

I was thinking about Marc Lewis’s book and neural pathways recently while driving around Lisbon.

Lisbon

Lisbon is an ancient European city built on seven hills long before cars were even imagined. The streets in the old city are
a tangled maze of dead ends and one way streets leading up and down and back to no where. Even in the modern areas
surrounding the old city you can get lost for hours if you take a wrong turn.

Getting around Lisbon before GPS meant memorizing routes and turning on your mental auto pilot. Something that I am
very good at 🙂

Mental Auto-pilot. My addict brain.

Lisbon

I’ve been happily driving too fast and as far as my imagination could take me since I was 15 but when I moved to Lisbon it
was Six full months before I was brave enough to start feeling my way around in a car. Fast forward 24 years and I usually do a
better job of figuring out how to get where we’re going then my husband who was born here .

Just this morning I figured out an alternate route to taking the kids to school that cuts 15 minutes off the trip.

My husband does not trust alternate routes. I thrive on them .

As powerful as the habitual routes are in my brain, my auto pilot, I’m flexible as well.
I grew up in the United States during an era of heady freedom and independent thought. My husband grew up in a fascist
regime.

In 1974, he was 16 when he placed a red carnation in the barrel of a gun to celebrate the peaceful overthrow of the last
dictatorship in western Europe. As a child my husband had learned that there was one way to do things. A right way. The way.
And no matter how many books he reads and different countries he visits and no matter how many international friends
he makes there will always be that core in him of rigidity. The core of rigidity embedded in a childhood spent in a fascist dictatorship.

As a woman who was a child at the same time in the United States, I am his opposite.

I have found since I hit my last rock bottom with drinking four years ago that my ability to think flexibly has served me well. Searching and learning and finding alternate
routes until I reach the place I want to be.

If you have the ability to learn a behavior that becomes an addiction you have the ability to change that behavior.

It’s all about how you train your brain. These are two of many posts that helped me work it through along the way

How to Quiet that Thirsty Little Voice in Your Head-

and

If Somethings not Working for You Fix it, Change it, Direct It


How did Alvaro Salazar keep the Portuguese people under his Power while the rest of Europe overthrew their dictators one by one in the mid-twentieth century? He denied them education and ROADS.


Almost twenty years after the bloodless revolution in Portugal, when I moved to Lisbon in 1993, there was one major expressway running North/South for about 2/3 of the length of the
country. Most travel was still done on National roads where if you got stuck behind an orange truck you could spend hours
getting nowhere.
Many of the parents of my husband’s generation had zero education. None. Not even primary school.
Most of them never left this tiny country even to go to Spain. They didn’t drive. They never owned a car.
They ” knew” the world through the glossy “reality” of their television and the teachings of the Roman Catholic church
Salazar kept the people trapped by denying them the tools to develop alternative routes.

Finding alternate routes to recovery from addiction. One unique individual at a time. That’s what we’re trying to do here.  

It’s all about freedom.


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