Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Life, Mental Health, Musings, recovery, spirituality, twelve step

Being in Recovery

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Edit: Something I should definitely add, in the interest of not alienating people is this- there is 12-step recovery, and there are other types of recovery, as well. But ALL recovery means DOING THE WORK to be a better person than you were when you were using. If you are not actively engaging in the process of figuring out why and how you wound up where you are, then that is not recovery. If you are still using any substance to change the way you feel (and I’m not talking about anti-depressants here, to be clear), that is definitely not recovery. For ME, that means the traditional NA, AA, twelve step path. For you, it could be faith based or whatever floats your boat. But recovery is a specific thing, and you are either doing it or not. It’s not a halfway thing. THAT is the point I was trying to make.

Something that REALLY bothers me a lot is when people say they are “in recovery” when what they mean is that they stopped using a particular drug. Listen: You are not In Recovery if you stopped using meth or heroin but you still smoke weed or drink. You are not even in recovery if you practice abstinence completely, but you have never been to a meeting. Being in recovery (for me, for instance) means attending 12-step meetings regularly, and working those steps, with a sponsor. You can say you are clean, you are sober, or anything else like that if it pleases you. But don’t say you are in recovery, because you just aren’t.

Listen, I am not trying to downplay what anyone is doing to better their lives. If you can stop using hard drugs and find that you are someone who can drink responsibly, my God, that is GREAT for you, more power to you! But please, don’t confuse that with real recovery. It isn’t. Let me explain to you why that is-

Recovery is a lifestyle. It means committing yourself to something that is serious, time consuming, and really hard at times. My drug of choice was amphetamines. Do you know how often I toy with the idea that, because of that fact, maybe it would be okay if I drank occasionally? It crosses my mind a lot. Despite the fact that I have factual evidence that every single time I have been a responsible drinker it has eventually led me back to drugs at some point, I still continue to battle with these thoughts here and there. Maybe this is not the case for you, and hey, high freaking five on that. But it has been my experience that this is what we call a “yet” situation. I am not prepared to gamble with what I have earned.

Here’s the other thing: through my prolific years of drug use, I learned something really important. Addiction is not just about the drugs, and the shameful things that happen to us and because of us while we are using. It’s really about the people we are, the behavior we exhibit, and the deep seated self-loathing that basically all people with addiction issues have in common. People who have problems with addiction have problems with loving themselves. When you take away the drugs, the problems are still there. The drugs or whatever it is you are using to control the way you feel, and the way you show up in the world, are a symptom, they are not the real problem.

Recovery is how we get to the root of that problem. It’s like manual labor of a the spirit- there’s a lot of heavy lifting and digging, a lot of time spent in the dark with all of the things you fear the most. When you are in recovery, you make a decision to face all of the things you are terrified of looking at, and to do that, you have to dredge shit up, shine light on it, pick it apart, and learn how to dispose of it properly. And you do every bit of it with NOTHING to take the edge off, NOTHING to dull the pain, even when it sounds so good, you could almost cry.

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Let me tell you, it’s a struggle sometimes. Do you know how hard it is to date when you are in recovery? I don’t have the option of loosening up with a drink, and thanks to my general anxiety over who I am, this would be welcome on a date, let me tell you. Do you know how much of a weirdo I feel like when I try to lightly gloss over the fact that I don’t drink to a guy who just cannot compute the concept? “But why?” he inevitably asks, or “You don’t drink EVER?” And it feels like I have grown another head, but you definitely don’t want to lead with a horror story of WHY you really don’t drink. And yes, I could just say I’m allergic to alcohol (lies) but, you know, I’d rather just not.

My point is, recovery is a very specific thing. It MEANS something to the people who take it seriously. The ones who are fighting to grasp it, to hold onto it, to incorporate the principles into their everyday lives. We aren’t just trying to stay clean, we are trying to use a set of instructions to become the best people we are capable of being. And it’s HARD, but it is good work, and it has rewards far beyond what I ever expected to receive. So please, respect the word recovery. And now, I shall get down off my soap box. Carry on.

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Posted in Addiction, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, recovery, spirituality, twelve step

Two Years Later

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No, this isn’t a reference to how long it’s been since the last time I posted, although it does seem that way. I just checked, and my last post was a mere four months ago. It was about election related stuff, though, and unrelated to what my primary goal of this blog claims to be- stories about a woman with a drug problem, trying to get her shit straight. If you go allll the way back to the beginning of this blog (I’m not recommending you do this, there is a lot of embarrassing stuff in there that I don’t even like to read) you will see that I have had lots of struggle with addiction, times when I had the upper hand, and times when drugs were kicking my ass. It’s all there. One thing no one can accuse me of is shying away from the truth. What I can almost always guarantee you is that.

I spent a LOT of time writing through the bad times, but for some reason, I slowed way down when things got better. I have been thinking lately that that isn’t fair. Everyone who struggles with addiction knows how it feels to struggle. Not everyone knows what life on the other side of that looks like. Here, I have the perfect opportunity to share my story with people, and I have been keeping it all to myself. Maybe no one gives a shit, I don’t know…but maybe one person will read this and feel a little more hopeful, and a little less like giving up.

After years and years and years of yo-yo recovery (she’s clean- nope, she’s relapsed…wait, clean agai-noooope, etc.), this past May, I picked up my two year coin. Over the past two years, I have struggled with many things, but the desire to use drugs has never been one of them. I have thought about drugs- I think about them in a myriad of ways, probably daily- but I have never wanted to use them, not once. I am going to just go ahead and admit right now, though, how little this has to do with my likelihood of using them. Many times I have relapsed with zero desire to use, but, finding myself in a particular state, gripped by the need to feel something other than the way I currently felt, I have, against my own will, gotten high. I know how crazy this sounds, but that’s kind of how you know you’re an addict. Your whole life is a series of events where you keep doing shit you have no desire to do, or even a burning desire not to do them. That’s just another fun filled day in the life of an addict.

So, as relieved as I have been to no longer have the desire to use, I had to change a lot of other stuff so that I didn’t find myself in that particular state that made me likely to use against my will. What are the things I had to change? Oh, just everything I hated about myself. No big deal. With no idea how to go about it, or even what it was, exactly, that I really hated. I had a few things to go on- one thing I finally realized the last time I got clean was that my behavior towards others, and even towards myself, was keeping me sick. Every time I screamed at my kids or tore down my ex, every time I looked at myself with such loathing, I was perpetuating a terrible and negative cycle that was keeping me sick. I wish I could say that I had this epiphany, and BOOM! I changed over night. That isn’t really how this works.

What I did do was, I stopped giving up just because I “failed”. Can you imagine if everyone gave up on everything the first time they didn’t get it right? Yeah, that’s not how most humans operate. Except, I’m an addict, always looking for immediate gratification, so this did not come naturally to me. But I kept at it. In the beginning, to be honest, there wasn’t much improvement besides the fact that I wasn’t high as a kite anymore. That’s because my drug of choice is a neurotoxin, and my brain was…how can I put this delicately? Fucking fried. I was still yelling at my kids, finding it hard to cope with life, unable to manage my finances, overwhelmed by things that came easily to other people. But I had hope, and I kept trying. Eventually, I started to be able to hear myself, and catch myself, and stop myself before the trouble started. Let’s not get the wrong idea, here. I still have a temper and a mouth that is faster than my rational brain, but it’s much, much better.

It took the better part of a year- maybe longer- for my brain to heal adequately so that I could relax and start really enjoying my recovery. Of course, I felt incrementally better month after month, I didn’t wake up one morning and discover I was human again. Recovery, in whatever form you do it, takes time. During that time of learning to manage my behavior, I was also dealing with the immediate wreckage my drug use had caused in my life and the lives of those I loved. Rebuilding trust with my kids. Dealing with my own guilt and shame. Learning how to move forward in spite of the pain I carried- and maybe will always carry- around with me.

But there is more, and I suspect, there will always be more. You clear away one layer of debris, and there is so much more work to be done, a whole new layer underneath. The most significant change in all of this was my attitude. Because I learned, through trial and error, and through working with my sponsor, that it feels so good to deal with the issues popping up- I find myself willing and eager to keep at it.

In the past year, I have started dealing with other things- my finances, my credit, my household, my parenting skills. I am learning how to have boundaries, and how to respect myself. I have even finally learned, at 42, how to take care of my body (not, like, shower. I have always done that, thank you), as in eating healthily, and exercising. I continue to work on my meditation practice, and pray daily. I go to meetings, and I have a support group I can turn to outside of meetings.

I could not have imagined, at the beginning of all of this, that I could have come this far in just two years. When I finally waved the white flag the final time, all I wanted was to stop hating myself, to stop letting that hatred spill out on the people around me. That was it. What I wound up getting was so much more. I might not always adore myself, but I am certainly not ashamed of myself on a daily basis. I don’t lay in bed at night filled with regret over everything I said and did in the day behind me. I am more loving, more patient, more aware of what I am putting out into the world.

So, if you are just starting out, keep going. Two years is not that long, in the bigger picture, to get your life back and then some. And the journey is amazing. Keep going. As they say- Don’t leave five minutes before the miracle happens.