A shot from the beach here at Playa Del Carmen
My story Around Social Anxiety & Coping Mechanisms – Particularly While Traveling
I’ve been hanging out at Playa Del Carmen for over a month now. I may or may not have originally came here for a reality TV show pilot that may or may not turn into a total success and blast me into stardom. Only time will reveal these things… For now we’ll jump into why I wrote this article.
So What’s Going On Brah?
I decided to stay here after the pilot, and I really love this place. However, as of these last few weeks I’ve discovered myself falling back into familiar patterns. These patterns turn every place I live into a form of prison. A prison where I isolate myself from any real connections to others, and actually start getting anxious at the idea of interacting and being around most people. Then I have a list of behaviors I go to in order to make myself feel better from this isolation and my general sadness and unfulfillment. These behaviors are eating junk food, drinking alcohol & being promiscuous.
While I’ve built more and more awareness around these behaviors and their catalysts, it’s still incredibly hard to break the cycles long-term. For those following my journey around dating while traveling, traveling to run away from my problems, remembering why I stopped caring, etc. you’ve seen how long I’ve been wrestling with these things.
Awareness of these problems is certainly the first step, noticing the impulses I have has been huge and I know that’s going to move me in the right direction, but it doesn’t fix them. I still have this internal drive everyday to eat a bunch of junk food, and drink alcohol alone in my hotel room with the blinds shut. Fortunately, I’m not as disposed to the sexual urges anymore, but the food and alcohol behaviors are hard to break. A part of me really loves the idea of this form of self-destructing. Of locking myself away and stuffing my face with food and alcohol until I pass out, then waking up an hour or so later and doing it all over again. However, the more I feed this drive, the more it wants to drag on from one day a week to two days a week, to every afternoon after I’m done working, it’s never enough.
Where Do These Behaviors Come From?
There’s a great quote I heard on Duncan Trussel’s Family Hour Podcast.
“The addiction to Maya is [in order] to not feel the inherent suffering of having a body”Arthur – Jason Louv
Maya in this case refers to the Hindu term, meaning the illusory world around us. The world of sensory pleasures and sensations that lack any deeper meaning*.
*This is likely a gross oversimplification, you can get more info about Maya here.
So what does this quote mean to me, and what does it have to do with this article?
This quote really spoke to me because it gives me a source for the inherent suffering of life. Living, just being alive has some inherent suffering. I believe it’s this inherent suffering that drives me to isolation, and the general sadness and unfulfillment I am trying to avoid with my destructive patterns.
From the time I was a kid food was always a comforting thing for me. Furthermore, I played football growing up so overeating was actively encouraged. The more you ate, the bigger you got. It wasn’t until I was even 19 or 20 years old, when a friend started mentioning how much I ate that I even realized I had such an insatiable appetite. My first diet I went on was when I was 12 years old, so I’ve struggled with weight for a long time. However, for a long time I could blame my weight gain on genetics, while neglecting the huge role my relationship with food played.
Around 21 years old, when I could buy alcohol myself, I started using alcohol as a way to comfort myself too. I wouldn’t drank to black-out alone or anything, but I would buy high calorie, high alcohol percentage beers and after drinking a few of those I would feel better. Then after feeling better, I would usually go to sleep which I think is the ultimate place to be when I want to run from my feelings. Sleeping gives you a great escape from that inherent suffering I spoke about above. I write a bit about this in my article alcoholism & the darkness.
Then at 24 years old I discovered how effective promiscuity was at masking the sadness, and I had periods of time where I would line up multiple dates in a day and fill the void that way.
Food was always my go-to though. I would go back and forth on using sex or alcohol, but food has been a constant source of comfort for most of my life.
They’re Always Going To Be There…
The tough part is how I can have wins then after time slowly begin to fall back into the patterns. When I first arrived here in Playa Del Carmen, I was doing a good job of keeping from seeking comfort in food, alcohol or sex. I even went out on a date with a woman I found attractive, but un-engaging and had a thought at one point “I really don’t like this woman, but she is attractive so I’m gonna sleep with her.” and immediately afterwards I was like “no, no you’re not man.” that was a huge thing for me. Just the conscious awareness of that thought alone was totally novel to me. Then, despite her pretty aggressive advances at the end of the night, I didn’t cave in. I felt so proud of my self, like I had come so far!
However, the drive to fall back into old patterns is super tough and I can feel myself slipping back into them. I was speaking with a sage friend of mine who told me “Yes of course, it’s easier to fall back into the old patterns. Imagine trying to blaze a new trail and having to cut down a tree to make a path versus just going down the well beaten trail you’ve used for the last 10 years.” I think this is some solid imagery, and while I need to be honest when I do slip up, I also need to grant myself some grace. The old path is always going to remain there as a tempting option, and therefore I may have some slip-ups.
Studying psychology in my undergrad I learned that it’s always easier to replace old habits with a new habits, rather than trying to simply rid yourself of the behavior. I purchased Netflix a while ago with the logic that even if I waste my time with mindless television, that’s better than filling my time with one of the negative behaviors above. Unfortunately, Netflix hasn’t really worked all too well, it’s generally not engaging enough for me, I think what I need is in person connection.
So What’s My Game Plan?
I am going to do 2 social things a week. That’s either hanging out with a new or existing friend, or going to an event. I will commit myself to 30 minutes at these events that way if it is boring or still uncomfortable, then I can leave after the 30 minutes. I do have one Mexican wine tasting event this upcoming Saturday, so I have one knocked out already! What is going to be my other one? There’s a party at a kickass bar today for what would’ve been Notorious BIG’s 50th birthday. I’ll go to that one too, if I’m bored after 30 minutes I can leave, but I’m going to give it a try.
In the end, my old patterns are always going to be tempting. It’s going to take a lot of mindfulness to keep them from swallowing me alive, but I have more tools and awareness now and I can make a change. I want to thank the sage friend I referred to earlier in this article. As much as I want to tell everyone in my life about her, due to certain circumstances I can’t. If you’re reading this I love you, and my life will never be the same after knowing you. The depths in which I am beginning to understand myself and others around me is directly attributable to you. I know you know this, but I’ll remind you anyway :).