One day you’re a sober superhero and the next you’re stuck in a painstaking game of Operation
Recovery is complicated, an incessant onslaught of high’s and low’s. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing, you’re on top of the world, a Sober Superhero that can’t be tempted by even the most tragic hurdles. Next thing you know, making it through a single day without a drink is a painstaking game of Operation. Carefully, delicately, thoughtfully proceeding through each decision at a snail’s pace to stave off impulsion. You’ve been on the edge like this before and know how quickly everything can change if you aren’t white-knuckling everything you do until the clock strikes midnight.
For a solid year and a half, I was on a lucky streak. My life was no trip to Disneyland by any means but I was sober and I was doing it well. I was exceeding my own expectations and the nights were easy. I couldn’t believe this shit was sticking. I was doing “the work” daily, I was going to therapy, I was participating in the community, and I was exercising. Studying everything I could on addiction led me to creating Dry and Disorderly. I felt so fortunate, so grateful to have a chance to help others. I was ALL IN.
Having my shit together even started paying off. My relationships with others got better, I paid off my debt and I was making art. I even made the move from Texas to the PNW which was something I’d been trying to make happen for years. My first month in Seattle was difficult to no fault of Seattle but I was handling it.
However, not long after the move a familiar feeling was creeping up. It was this pestering anxiety that my past would follow me here. I had a fresh start in front of me. That’s all I ever dreamed of. A place where no one knew me, a place with no memories- only memories to be made. I became so terrified that I’d suddenly just lose control and my old self would sabotage this for me. I was having nightmares that my hands would just drive me right off the road without my brain’s permission. Like my body might walk into a liquor store as I screamed bloody murder at myself to go home, then I’d wake up weeks later surrounded by empty whiskey bottles.
I couldn’t shake this fear I had. So I dove deeper into my shadow work. I was determined to resolve this lingering trauma that was paralyzing my ability to enjoy this wonderful new adventure I was awarded.
I dove in hard, I ripped out the carpet, the floorboards, I carved out tunnels in my mind, searching for anything that I didn’t already attempt to rectify. I snatched up every old wound I could find and threw it into the pile. Bam, bam, bam.
Eventually my pile was looking pretty good. Like giraffe sized, maybe. I thought I’d done better at clearing this shit out earlier, but okay. That’s fine. I was ready to tackle it. I refused to submit to self-sabotage. I wasn’t going to let myself or my family down again. Not on my watch.
So I began tending to the mess. At warp speed. I wanted this finished, sanded, lacquered and bolted down so I could enjoy my life again. I tended to a minimum of five things at a time. Things were moving up and falling down at the same time, always in motion. I studied recovery, I journaled, I cried, I did what works for me.
That’s when shit hit the fan. I had too many things in the air at once. I was forcing myself to relive moments and face trauma I wasn’t ready for. I was pulling out memories I’d already packed away; I was making it worse. I was obsessively counting the days of my sobriety and comparing my journey to others.
Addiction is tricky because things quickly become an obsession for an addict. Most of us can relate to giving up our substance of choice and then getting super into certain hobbies, lifting weights, cooking, art, gardening, tennis, whatever. We also get obsessed with talking about addiction. We count the days, we tell everyone in our circle when milestones pass, we count our blessings every night. We just can’t believe we’re really doing the damn thing, it’s thrilling. A real high.
Doing this is really helpful…for a while. Consuming sober content, building community and collecting chips is constructive in early sobriety or any stage. But without balance it can become a waiting trap. It’s extra pressure not to veer off course, causing you to believe if you slip then it’s game over. You became too invested and now it was all for nothing. You’re pond scum and you have to start over as a failure.
Now I know this isn’t true and I’m the first to denounce it when others fall into a well of self-loathing after a bad day. A slip cannot take away everything you’ve worked through, it doesn’t erase the progress you’ve made and everything you’ve learned. But we all know how much easier it is to believe in others than it is to believe in ourselves when it’s us making the mistakes.
I became so obsessed with recovery that I wanted to be “the perfect alcoholic”. As if that will ever or should ever be a thing.
“I’d managed to turn my recovery into my drug of choice”
So when the shadow work swallowed me up, I knew I had no choice but to back off. I was trying to jump the line and force the steps I wasn’t ready for. I needed a time-out. I’d managed to turn my recovery into my drug of choice. Doing so was making me slip on my actual drug of choice. Didn’t I say addiction was complicated?
So I took some time off from the community and from posting on my website. I had to crawl out of the pressure cooker I’d created until I could trust myself to come back again.
Another lesson learned, and I’m back with a new mindset on how recovery will work for me. This process is fluid. What works in one stage of your life is not guaranteed to work in another. You go with the ebbs and flows, and you adapt with new methods and routines. You will hit some rocks on the way (hopefully pebbles) but you keep floating down that river. Don’t stop to fantasize about the destination, think about today.
I’ve never been any good at balance but it’s something I am working on through lots of discipline. I’m happy to be back. I’m happy to throw myself back into this work (steadily) and back into the hobbies that keep me motivated to keep doing the work.
Just keep trekkin’, babes. If you’re getting back up, I’m proud of you. That’s the hardest part of all. Just keep getting back up.
This blog post was originally published on my website Dry and Disorderly www.dryanddisorderly.com