Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I still struggle....there, I said it

When I first started considering sharing my story publicly, I really had to work through "outing" myself, and rid myself of the fear of what others would think of me. I have been able to share some pretty personal/incriminating/embarrassing things from my past here (and believe me, there are MANY more to come).  But, what I didn't anticipate was how difficult it would be to share what I am currently going through.

When I completed my second 100 day inpatient treatment program, I transitioned right into a six-month graduate program/internship at the same facility.  This was, in essence, a fail-proof plan for me to stay clean.  I had a sponsor, I had counseling, drug testing, and accountability at every level.  It was still mandatory for me to do all of those things.  My days and nights were so busy that I rarely had a spare second to think about my drug of choice.  I finished that graduate program on October 27th, and, by this point,  had already moved back home with my family.  I was anxious to get back to a regular life and just hoped to kind of drift back into some type of normalcy.

Normalcy was not what I got. Rather, I ended up having a major neck surgery (more, well much more about that some other time) on December 17th, experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction, then continuing with a slow and painful recovery at home.  Many times I just wanted to give up....to just throw in the towel.  But, with lots of encouragement and support, I somehow made it through.

Over the past couple of months, I have noticed some changes in myself.  I have been isolating, losing focus and motivation, and just kind of drifting backward.  I lost interest in doing things that I love, including singing at church and writing.  I lost interest in doing housework and laundry.  I lost interest in putting on make-up and fixing my hair.  I lost interest in wearing real clothes. I lost interest in getting out of bed. Quite frankly, I lost interest in life.  I let my guard down, and, not surprisingly, tempting thoughts began flooding my mind.  I do what we addicts do best and took a trip into that comfortable place we call denial.  Yet, when I tried to lay my head on the pillow at night, I felt such an uneasiness in my soul that sleep wouldn't come.  My days turned from actively participating in my kids' lives and the lives of others, to days spent lying in bed trying to sleep away the cravings and avoid the reality that I was struggling.  I just couldn't admit that.  I wanted to share with people what I had overcome, but I dare not tell anyone that I was wrestling with the 'old me.'  I noticed resentments starting to arise, and trivial things that I was more than capable of handling became overwhelming.  My life looked just like my laundry room. Too many loads to do, and I wasn't sure where to start; so I did the logical thing and just closed the door.  Tried to pretend the mess wasn't there.  However, when no one had clean underwear, the proof was hard to refute.  

I knew that I needed to talk to someone about this and face it head on, but I was just so afraid of inducing panic upon my friends and family.  I didn't want anyone to doubt me, didn't want my husband to think that he had to worry about me, and I certainly didn't want people to think I was a ticking time bomb.  

I was leading a small women's recovery group, and I felt like I needed to appear to have it altogether for those ladies. Somehow I had skewed the definition of a leader to someone who is perfect and has it altogether, sinking me further into denial. However, a new precious friend of mine in our group had the God-given boldness to tell me that she was worried about me.  I broke down and told these girls that I was worried about myself, that I just felt like I should be further along in my recovery.  My pastor's wife/friend said the words to me, "Who is telling you that you should be further along?  Do you think God is saying that?  Because I don't.....I think He's telling you that He is proud of how far you've come, no matter how much further you have to go."  I went home that night with a myriad of feelings.  I felt relieved that I had opened up and could truly see where I was; yet I felt overwhelmed that I had no clue what to do about it.   I don't currently have a sponsor, and I am no longer in intensive outpatient, so I was just at a loss.  How could I get through this rough patch without relapsing?  Because, to be completely honest with you, this is the point in my recovery that, in the past, I would have given up and resigned myself to being a slave to my addiction.  I wouldn't have fought.  I wouldn't have made it.

The next morning, I got out of bed and stayed out of bed (something I hadn't done in awhile).  I tried to keep busy throughout the day, but I simply felt like I was going insane.  Those troubling thoughts held my mind captive, and I felt so weak.  I finally decided to message a friend who has helped me tremendously in the past.  I met up with her, explained what I've been going through, and she asked me to take a drug test.  After being completely honest about my current mindset, I acknowledged that I was way too deep in the danger zone to safely stay there, nor did I want to stay there one minute longer. We talked about what could be causing this, then made a list of goals/things that I could do to try to get back on track. Listen...this was not a difficult list, nothing unreasonable.  In fact, mostly it just consisted of getting up and living; of doing things that would benefit my mind, health, and my family; of removing things from my life that were causing me to struggle; simple little things to keep me clean.  That's the key to sobriety for me:  doing those daily little things that bring me joy and sanity at the same time.  The very next day, I got out of bed and made it immediately (so that I wouldn't crawl back in it), took a walk as I listened to music and prayed, did some gardening with my husband, and then jumped in our huge fishing pond.  I went to dinner with my oldest daughter and some of our best friends, then went and bought a journal. I doodled some charts in it to keep track of my progress and to keep me motivated and accountable; and then I went to work.  On living.  On experiencing moments.  On enjoying, rather than merely tolerating, sobriety. Because, sometimes you have to work at those things.  In my journal, I kept track of goals I had met for the day, but, most importantly, each day I recorded what I would have missed if I had been either emotionally or physically absent. And you know what was on that list? Things all of the money in the world couldn't buy.  Things I can't believe I would ever choose to miss out on.  

When I first started going through this rut/rough patch, or what I like to call "prelapse", I decided I would not publicly share any of that.  As a matter of fact, I hadn't originally planned to share it with anyone!!  But, I figured out that if I only shared the good times of recovery, the grateful ones, and the ones where everything seems to be falling into place, I would be painting an unrealistic picture of what true recovery looks like.  True recovery is full of ups and downs.  Sometimes you might be walking through a spiritual waterfall, while other times you find yourself in the middle of a desert with no water in sight; yet, other times, you are somewhere in the middle.  Recovery is like that. And if I didn't share that this is true in my life, I would be doing both you and myself an injustice. I read in a book this week that people benefit more from hearing our struggles than they do from hearing our strengths.  

If you've been in recovery, I'm certain you have experienced this a time....or two.  If you are new to recovery, I'm forewarning you that you will probably feel like this somewhere along your journey.  If you are a recovering addict with any length of sobriety, you may be going through this right now, and if you are, I have something to say to you.  Don't grow faint of heart. This phase WILL NOT last forever. If you push through it, there is joy/sobriety/serenity/growth/healing/life on the other side.  Sadly, in the past, I had never pushed through to find that out.  But, this time I plan to and I encourage/persuade/beg you to do the same.  Don't give up.  Don't be embarrassed about what you are going through.  You are not a failure, and you don't need to just give up.  Sometimes recovery/sobriety is wearisome, but, trust me, it is one-hundred percent worth it.  Find someone you feel safe/comfortable with, and share what you are feeling. Addiction thrives on secrecy, and it will lure you into the trap of hiding your true feelings/thoughts/emotions.  But, once you've said it out loud, it gets so much easier.

Find a person.  Make a plan. Change your path.  It is truly that simple......if you take care of it at this early in the game.  

I am doing everything I can to not only maintain my sobriety, but to progress in my recovery.  I may have had a minor setback, but my eyes have been opened and I have found new motivation/purpose/strength for my recovery.  

I'm sure there will be times along the way when I, bluntly put, just want to get high.  Similarly, if you are a former smoker, you might occasionally get the urge to smoke a cig.  If you are a recovering alcoholic, you may want a glass of wine so bad you can taste it.  If you are a workaholic, you may regularly feel that compulsion to put in an eighty hour work week. Or, if you are a former foodie turned nutrition/fitness nut, you {should} routinely crave a big slice of pizza or chocolate cake. That's par for the course.  But, that doesn't mean we have to succumb.  I have learned many things throughout this week, but there is one major revelation that I am completely grateful to have had.  Are you ready for it?  Here it comes.  Just because I want to get high, does not mean I have to.  And you know what?  The same goes for you.  

Because I pushed through probably the hardest week of my recovery to date, I can proudly say that today I have 473 days/11369 hours/682197 minutes/40931877 seconds clean and sober.  And do you know how I did that?  One second/minute/hour/day at a time.  And there were many times in those moments that I felt like giving up.  But I didn't.  And I have no future plans of it either.  But, if I ever even think about it, I vow/pinky promise/swear to tell you all about it.

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful.

    "I think He's telling you that He is proud of how far you've come, no matter how much further you have to go". Opening up can sometimes be more enlightening for us than for the listener!

    I haven't been an addict but I find all your posts extremely inspiring. Kudos to your honesty and your way with words! I'm sure you'll find the strength to face any challenge which life throws at you. Wish you the best!