"The road is long, with many a winding turn........."
Never have truer words been spoken - especially when it comes to substance addiction recovery.
When we first decide to crawl out of the darkness and take our tentative steps in the light of sobriety, it's an amazing experience. We begin to feel stronger and our reasoning abilities become a lot clearer.
......then the emotional crash, the "honeymoon" period is over.
Perhaps you have experienced this and know what I mean. The "high" of making the decision to clean up and detoxing has gone. You are now back in the community and facing it on it's terms, learning to cope.
You may be alone, isolated in your pain that "normal" people can never understand. You grieve for your lost "friend", even though that friend was actually your worst enemy. You become irritable, uninterested, depressed -perhaps even suicidal. This can lead to a "bust", a bust you may never recover from -remember, that if we are addicted we cannot control our substance intake. The "just one more time" may seal your fate. And as we all know, there are worse things in life than death -the insanity of addiction. You may not be lucky enough to die the next time.
Many of us have experienced this phase, the "emotional roller coaster". For me, it was as though all the colours of the world were washed away. There was no point to anything, my mind constantly went back to the dark days. I was guilt ridden, self-pitying and unmotivated. I was very hard to be around. While others who knew me congratulated me on my efforts, I saw only failure as I didn't feel "right". I felt the same way I did at the age of 13 when my hell really began.
There is a reason for this - in a lot of ways, I was still 13. When I began abusing substances, a great deal of my emotional growth stopped, the substance was my coping mechanism. At the age of 24, it began again. There was a steep learning curve ahead.
But don't worry, this phase does not last forever. For me it was one year. For you it may be a few weeks. It depends greatly on your network of support and more so, yourself.
-If you are experiencing this, it is imperative that you build a network of people around you that understand what you are feeling. These people are the recovered addicts. They will know when to hug you and tell you that everything will be OK, and they also know when to kick your butt and tell you to "get over it"....tough love, but necessary.
-If the environment you are in threatens your sobriety, leave it. I am serious...whatever it takes, get the hell out of there! You may be saying to yourself "I can't leave, I can't afford to" or "People are relying on me to be around". It doesn't matter - remember where you have just come from. If you finish up back there again, you may never re-emerge.
-You may have friends who are still practising addicts/alcoholics. Stay away from them if they do not respect what you are doing to improve yourself. It is in the nature of people who have the disease of addiction and are still practising to influence you in subtle ways. In a great deal of cases, it is not on purpose, but more a subconscious thing.
-Start putting routine into your day. I'm not suggesting too much, too soon but keeping busy is a great way of keeping your mind off things. As you become more productive, your self-esteem increases.
-Re-establish a sleeping pattern. Your body has been through hell and back. It needs rest, and your brain needs to sort things out on many levels. Be prepared for nightmares involving the past and use of the substance. Even though you may have no apparent cravings, your subconscious yearns for another hit and expresses this in your dreams. The nightmares are alarming at first. There were many times that I woke up in a pool of sweat. Even seven years down the track I still have them, but I accept them for what they are.
-Eat regular meals. I am a fine example of a toxic waste dump when it comes to things of a dietary nature, but I learnt early in my recovery that cravings could be lessened through eating something. The advice given to cigarette smokers about eating healthily when quitting is sound and good, but it is my experience that when withdrawing from other substances it is wiser to satisfy your food cravings with what it wants, including fatty and sugary foods. Alcoholics will probably find that they will develop a sweet tooth because their bodies are used to high amounts of sugar. So, if you wake up at 3 in the morning and eat a quart of double chocolate chip ice cream smothered in fudge, don't feel guilty! It's better that than what you were using before!
-If you find yourself feeling angry a great deal, this is also normal. It is important to examine the anger and not just lash out using whatever situation you are in as a scapegoat. Whatever is going on, it will pass. Breathe deeply and think.
Some of the points above may seem fairly drastic and harsh, but this is a life and death situation. And unlike some other terminal illnesses, addiction destroys everything in it's path as it destroys you - your family, your friends and anyone you come into prolonged contact with.
The advice above is not mine; it was given to me and I now pass it on to you. The easy way to remember the points is the HALT statement
The 4 Don'ts:
Good luck to you in your recovery, there are people out there who care about you, even if you don't know them....
"You alone can do it, but you cannot do it alone"