Today marks my first full week out of rehab.
I thought I’d share what my week has been like, and the range of emotions I’ve covered. Unsurprisingly, they’ve been all over the map.
I know I find comfort in hearing and reading other people’s recovery stories because it reminds me that I’m not alone. Other people have been down this road. Hell, I’ve been down this road. I just hope this is my last first week.
Here’s what it was like for me:
So much fear. I needed to sit outside in the courtyard, chain smoke and write affirmations just to bring myself to leave rehab. No one came to pick me up, I had to walk to the train station on my own and that was terrifying. Was I going to have to come back? Am I going to get it right this time? Where am I going to live, now that I have been asked to move out? How am I going to hold down a job if my first day back to work caused me to relapse? What if Mrs. M leaves me for good? Who can I turn to when the feelings overwhelm me and I need to talk? Am I strong enough to do this?
I was also scared to walk back into the rooms of AA and admit I had gone out and done some more “experimenting”.
Yeah, there’s been a lot of fear. Anxiety. Worry. The good news is that those feelings haven’t lasted for any length of time; a silver lining of the swinging emotional pendulum, I suppose.
This has usually kicked in as a result of the above-mentioned fear. I know that if I allow myself to stay scared, I’ll drink.
Writing down affirmations over and over again may sound silly, but somehow they work. So does writing down a list of things I’ve been grateful for.
On that last day of rehab I wrote “I can do this. I am strong” over and over again in a notebook. At the time, all I was thinking about was getting from Cassiobury Court to the train station, and then from the Tube stop to the flat without stopping in a shop for vodka.
And I did.
I am 14 days sober and have done half of those days outside of rehab, with no one around to stop me from picking up. Somehow the affirmations worked, and the gratitude list reminded me of why I wasn’t going to drink.
Another useful trick, courtesy of my friend Coriden: telling myself that I could drink, just not today. The trick is to remember to tell yourself this everyday.
It’s a different version of “one day at a time” but it resonates more strongly with me. It takes the level of resolve I feel I have to muster down several notches. Every sober day I have makes summoning said resolve that much easier.
My latest (last?) relapse isn’t without its consequences. Mrs. M and I are separating and the grief and full weight of remorse has hit me hard. It has been very easy to feel sorry for myself because I love Mrs. M with all my heart – I really do.
I have cried buckets of tears knowing that my alcoholism may have finally driven her away for good. There are plenty more tears to come.
They need to.
Drinking is a fantastic way to avoid tears, but it’s also the best way to screw up your life. I say, let the tears flow.
Bet you weren’t expecting that one, but early recovery isn’t all bad.
After I got over my fear of admitting my relapse at an AA meeting, I had my first little taste of joy: strangers gave their phone numbers, invited me to join a WhatsApp group of locals who are also in recovery.
I was getting help and support.
I am not alone.
I am also focused on the bright side of my separation: the time and space to make myself a priority. On opportunity to recover for myself. I wasn’t doing that before.
Until I learn to approach relationships in a healthy, non-codependent way, another relapse will always be on the horizon. Some time apart means I have no one to worry about other than myself and my recovery. So maybe this will be my last relapse.
I’ve heard enough chairs to know that throwing myself fully into recovery will make a massive difference in my life. Happiness is not beyond my reach, it’s just waiting for me.
I am questioning everything. Is it okay to escape the flat, or am I avoiding how I feel? Is it okay to avoid those feelings…for now?
Is eating pizza every day an acceptable way to stay sober, or should I try and take care of my body a bit better?
Am I thinking about Mrs. M too much? Am I still trying to recover of “us”? Where is the line between considerate and co-dependent?
Is AA healthy? I do question this sometimes. Especially when I hear “old timers” talk about still needing meetings. Surely after 10+ years sobriety you should be able to handle life without a meeting. Shouldn’t you?
Am I doing the right thing by changing therapists? Should I just get myself back to a full-time job and put some structure in my life, or take it easy and focus on my recovery?
The list is never-ending, and I have no answers. Yet.
And so much more…
I’m angry. Resentful. Remorseful. I feel lost. Completely and totally lost. Then sometimes I feel calm. Productive. Confident.
It truly has been a roller coaster of a week.
Mrs. M comes home tomorrow and then things will be awkward. When we talk, It’s amicable, sometimes even tender and loving. On the one hand I’m relieved, and on the other it makes our situation even more sad.
My family keeps texting me to make sure I’m okay. Sometimes it annoys the hell out of me, and sometimes I am proactive and text them to let them know what I’m doing. They’ve done so much for me, and yet I am happy there is an ocean between us.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I suppose the most important thing in early recovery is recognising that you will feel a lot of things very intensely, and that’s okay.
It won’t be intense all the time.
Every sober day is a step in the right direction. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
I’m telling myself this as much as I’m telling you this, because I suspect the feelings will continue well beyond week one.
I can do this, I am strong.
You can do this, you are strong.