Living in recovery is a lifelong commitment. Some days are easier than others, but a successful sobriety means that we have to remain vigilant to watch out for triggers, thoughts and actions that can lead us back to the dark side. I have a truly addictive personality and anything that I find to be a good thing can become an obsession. Money, food, shopping, sex, sleeping, exercise, relationships…you name it and I can over-do it.
It’s been two years since my relationship with alcohol ended and things have really been improving.
Physically, I feel and look better than I have in years. (See pictures below for proof) 👀😮 I used to wake up to a face that was so unbelievably puffy and eyes that were literally swollen shut, that I was unrecognizable. It was scary. My body ached from alcohol poisoning, no doubt; and my pores, eyes and nose leaked all day long. I sometimes wonder when I meet someone who’s constantly sniffling and has watery, bloodshot eyes if they struggle with alcohol the way I had.
I can actually pay my bills now because I have money. Which means I also have my own place and don’t have to rely on others to help me. Thank God. I never thought that paying my bills would give me such joy. Knowing I can make it on my own gives me peace and such empowerment. It truly motivates me to keep going in the right direction.
You can’t be rich and also be an alcoholic/addict.
In those days if I had money, I was buying a bottle. Never mind going to the bars. Who wants to spend $6 on a drink (that would last less than 10 minutes) when you can buy a whole bottle and be set for the night. I would rather sit at home by myself (with my bottle, of course) than go out and be social.
Which brings me to another point. Some relationships have improved, and others have disappeared. The people that are the most important to me, family and healthy friends, have grown to trust me again, and friends that used to hang out because I was a blast to be around when I was trashed, no longer speak to me. I hope that one day they will come around to a healthier way of living so we can have a healthy, sober friendship.
If you’re living in recovery you have to live by higher standards and priorities. Your sobriety, and everything it takes to remain there, being number one.
I have a home and nice things because I have money, and I have money because I can finally hold down a decent job. (Actually, I have two jobs, going to school full time, and have four kids.) And I have all of these things because I CHOOSE a life in recovery. BUT, I know how quickly that can all be taken away if I’m not completely committed to this lifestyle.
What do I mean by that?
Well, when you’re using drug or drink you don’t make the best choices, right? It’s all too easy to call in to work when you have a horrible hangover from the night before. Shoot, sometimes you’re on day number three of drinking/drugging with no sleep and then it doesn’t become a matter of whether you’re going to work the next day because, most likely, you’ll be going to detox.
When someone says “Let’s do a little day-drinking,” I assure you this is not what they mean.
The spiral often happens quickly. People don’t notice that you’re not doing well until it’s too late and things have gotten so out of control that what you have left for options will have serious consequences. It’s a lose/lose situation.
Lose a job.
Lose a house.
Lose your kids.
Lose your life.
So what is it that reminded me of how quickly things can go from great to gone?
Before I was an alcoholic I was addicted to pain meds. I’ve been on a maintenance medication on and off for over 10 years that helps me live a normal life, where I can go to work and school, be with my kids, pay my bills, and participate in my community as a contributing member of society.
This medication is controversial to people with opposing views as to what is sober and what is one addiction swapped for another. To me, this medication has saved me from living like a fiend – doing shady things just to feel normal. And although one day I hope to be completely free of all substances that are non-medically necessary, right now isn’t the time.
Over the past few months I have gone through many changes. I picked up my whole family and moved from one house (that had way too many issues to even start counting), to another. This new house is of much better quality, but with a much higher rent. This increase in my monthly expenses has pushed me to look for a part-time job, which I started awhile back. Add full-time mom and student to that list and I’m pretty strapped for time – and cash – and completely stressed out.
The addict in me thinks the best way to deal with stress is by adding something to my system that my mind and body think I’m missing. Logically, I know that stress is just uncomfortable, and being active or directly dealing with my stressors is the most responsible and healthiest response. Recently the addict way of thinking has won the battle.
It started off as taking an extra dose once a day every once in awhile, on days that I was having an especially difficult time coping. Then I was taking an extra dose every day. It added up quickly and I noticed that I would be out of meds a week early.
Panic set in and I start frantically looking for a solution.
I call my doctor to ask for help. Hoping for a miracle, I think maybe they will be able to prescribe me an extra week of meds? As a medical professional there is only so much they can do legally and my doctor kindly, but sternly, says I’ve put myself in a position that will have consequences. I will have to get through this next week sans meds.
The instant I hear those words I feel myself hit withdrawal. Cold sweats, bubble guts, irritability, increased heart rate, panic, nausea, yawns, bone pain, preoccupation with how to get more… How can this be possible when I still have the med in my system? Psychological dependence can wreak havoc, if you let it.
My addict brain then kicks into high gear and I start thinking about all of the possibilities I have before me:
- I could try to find some on the street (ILLEGAL)
- I could get an alternative to my med (ILLEGAL)
- I could try to see a different doctor and get more of my med (ILLEGAL and will also mean I lose my current 3+ year relationship with my Dr.)
- I can ride it out and keep myself busy so I feel less “symptoms” (LEGAL/SAFE/TEACHING MOMENT)
I don’t know anyone or anywhere else to get it on the “street” and I’m too chicken to do that anyway so that’s out. I don’t want to go back to pills, that’s not an option, and I’m not going to throw away the past 3 years with my current doctor not to mention I don’t know if there would be consequences outside of that. It’s not worth it to even take that chance.
The only viable option I see is to deal with the possibility of withdrawal until I’m able to pick up my next prescription.
Now that I had made the decision to get through the next incredibly long week with literally ONE remaining film/med, I had to psych myself up, make a plan and stick to it. I divided my remaining film into four and hoped for the best.
>>FAST FORWARD ONE WEEK>>
Other than being slightly uncomfortable and a small tendency towards mental and physical depression, I made it through. I stayed very busy with work, family, and a lot of housework. (My new house had tons of yard work that had been neglected from the renters before me, and I got about 3 years of work done in 3 days!) I stuck to a quarter of a dose for four days and skipped two days altogether to make it through that week, but I did it!
When the pharmacy called to tell me my prescription was ready for pickup I felt like a long distance marathoner crossing the finish line.
Closing that week-long gap wasn’t as tortuous as I expected, but it was still mentally and physically taxing, and the whole time I was kicking myself in the ass thinking, “Why couldn’t I just stick to my dose like a normal person?” This all could have been avoided if I would have been on my game with my commitment to recovery.
What I did learn is that, like life, recovery ebbs and flows. Being prepared and catching yourself as soon as you spot a slip will save you from a lot of future trouble, but the best course of action is always staying true to your high priorities and standards. Doing the right thing is always the best thing.
Now that I know my body can operate normally on such a small dose I feel like I can finally start taking steps to taper down, and eventually taper off completely.
Although this has med has been a positive factor in my recovery, I feel that continuing to take it leaves too much room for my “addict brain” to get crazy with it. This encounter could have cost me everything I gained over many years, and that scares the $h!t out of me.
No matter how much we think we’ve conquered our addictions, we really never know when that sneaky little rat will rear it’s ugly head. I’ve put a lot of time, energy, love and emotion into this site and blog, hoping that I may help others struggling with their demons, and here I am still struggling with mine.
I guess experience really is the best teacher.
It’s a powerful reminder that no one is beyond failure in recovery. I’ve seen people who have 20+ years in recovery relapse. Some have picked themselves up and started over again, and others, sadly, lost their battle. I refuse to let addiction win, and good or bad, I’m here to tell my story. If I can help even one person, then I’m satisfied.
For anyone that is struggling with their own demons, push through. You have a purpose. Life may seem dark and too hard right now but if you put time and distance between you and that substance, light and warmth will fill your heart, mind and body once more. Reach out. Help is available, but you must make that first step.