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Beyond Blue

I’ve been feeling badly that I spend so much of my day fantasizing … about a place not covered in dirty laundry, and where sex is spontaneous (not scheduled), and backrubs and pillow talk come before and after. At this dreamland, I have no responsibilities, no little people to take care of. All noises are pleasant: the sound of hot, steamy sex against the backdrop of the waves of the Atlantic crashing on the beach.

Ahhh…. There I go again.

Is it harmless? Wasting so much of time in a place that doesn’t exist?

Yes and no.

It’s certainly better than getting hammered, having an affair, or attempting suicide. But I’m thinking it’s unfair to my kids to hang out in a place in my mind that’s not reality, because when I’m interrupted (“Mom, I don’t want to go to camp! Don’t make me go to camp!”), my fantasies feed a resentment that, in turn, feeds more fantasies. Before too long, I’ve bought a timeshare on “Fantasy Island.”

“Fantasies are wonderful in that they can transport you immediately from a house full of whining kids to a tiki bar in the Caribbean,” my therapist explained last visit. “It’s fast, cheap, and efficient–requiring no passport, no money, no babysitters, no real effort at all. They are not all bad. In fact, they can be very useful. The trick is feeding positive fantasies, that don’t take away from your reality.”

Moreover, fantasies are about trying to escape. From your life. Or the stressful parts of your life. Everyone needs an escape, a break from her problems. But coming up with the kind of escape that fills you up, instead of steals from you–that’s where you have to apply some creativity.

“I think if you directed your thoughts toward coming up with some positive escapes, then you’d spend less time fantasizing about potentially destructive ones (thoughts of death, binge drinking, etc.),” my therapist explained.

She’s right.

For the last week, I’ve concentrated on designing some positive escapes for me, and I’ve spent considerably less time fighting unhealthy fantasies (“I want to get drunk,” “I wish I were dead,” “I want to take off for Tibet and not tell anyone”). Also, as I told my therapist, I need to predict the times of stress where I’ll definitely need an escape and plan one before my unhealthy fantasies and destructive emotions get the best of me.

Example.

In August, we are planning to spend a week with my family in Michigan. I love my family dearly, and am looking forward to the week. But as a recovering alcoholic, I find it very difficult to be around so much drinking–and when everyone gets together, there is A LOT of drinking. By day four, I start to lose it, and my thoughts turn to self-pity: “Why can’t I get hammered too? I’m so sick of being sober…. I wish I could blitzed for just a night….I’m missing out on the fun ….”

I remember turning into a total grouch last year. So this year, I designed a positive escape. I got online and looked at the surrounding areas, possible locations where Eric and I could land that would be a fun break from all the drinking. I researched a few places at Mackinac Island, and found a lovely inn with a swimming pool that’s perfect.

Now I get to fantasize about that: which looks a lot like the first fantasy I talked about, except without the spontaneous sex (we share a room with the kids) and it’s on Lake Michigan, not the Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve also decided to work less and play more (at least in theory) so that I’m not always in la la land. My recent New York trip was a positive escape, as will be my visit with my guardian angel Ann in Boston and my writing mentor/foster dad in Connecticut planned for later this summer. In between those trips, I’m going to shut down the computer and go kayaking more evenings, and pump up my mountain bike tires so that I can try out some new routes.

And if my mind drifts to vodka, or thoughts of death, or escaping to a third-world country, I’ll know that it’s time for a new real adventure, even if it’s walking down to the end of my stress to throw rocks into Spa Creek.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to www.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

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