This week I’m going to continue the thread of my recent blog posts geared toward those people who got clean and sober on New Years Day, for anyone new to recovery, on a relapse, or those who are about to embark on this crazy voyage called life without drugs.
I love being stimulated and challenged and lose interest in anything that gets boring.. Having said this, I’ve yet to become bored with being in recovery. Life stays interesting and quirky enough to keep me engaged.
My first year clean was, by far, the most surreal. I had to experience everything: from learning how many pots of coffee a day were too many, to figuring out what my taste was now that I had money to buy clothes, to having sex without being loaded. Sure, I had to feel rejection, insecurity, and all the shit I’d rather avoid at all costs but I also got to forge bonds with people who are still my closest friends, act out scandalously in public, figure out who I was underneath my many personas and coats of armor – but really what turned me on the most was that for someone who’d experienced every aspect of life under the influence of something from 12-28, being off drugs was a lot like being on acid. It’s the equivalent to what an acid trip would be like for someone who’d never taken acid before. It made me laugh to realize that I, Patty Powers, was choosing not to use drugs over the option of using them. If anyone would have ever told me that this would be something I would choose, let alone want, I would have said they were crazy. Twenty-three years later, it still makes me chuckle. So, if you are just getting clean, enjoy the ride because life without drugs is often like a cross between a John Waters and a Fellini move. Our life is really the only thing real that we have – so why not experience all of it – the good, the bad and the ugly!
It’s the 21st as I write this. Hopefully you’re still here and celebrating 21 days clean and sober.
If you relapsed, don’t let guilt, shame, and remorse stop you from starting over. Although relapse is not a requirement, it is a big reality with addiction. Relapse rates are high for addicts regardless of what avenue of recovery they pursue (and I’m talking everything from harm reduction to 12 Step Programs and everything in between). I come from the school of “never give up” because I have watched people struggle for years, constantly relapsing, and then one day they start putting time together and end up with years clean. Everyone has their own path, the main thing is to never give up hope that you can recover and have freedom from active addiction and alcoholism.
What happens to addicts after they relapse is that they torment themselves in a way that no one in the world could ever torment them. All those thoughts – how you fucked up, how bad you are, how you disappointed the few people who helped you in the program – are created by and are fueling the disease. These thoughts are set up to make you feel so bad about yourself that you’ll believe that only drugs can bring relief. Eventually, the drugs are no longer quieting your head. Other negative thoughts start creeping in and they’re all shame-based, dark, and really personal. They’ll keep tearing you down (inside your own mind) until you start feeling like you don’t deserve anything good. Remember – none of this stuff in your head is real. It’s how the disease operates. No different from one addict to the next. Trust me – if you go to a meeting, put up your hand and say you relapsed the negative voices will quiet down. In fact, if you start counting days clean again, chances are most of those thoughts will start disappearing within a week. The noise they are making right now is a mind trick to keep you using. The antidote to relapse is to call someone in recovery and tell them the truth.
Go back and reread my last two posts and try to follow the suggestions 100% and see if you don’t get different results this time. It’s worth a shot, right? What have you got to lose?
For those who have 21 days clean and sober today, congratulations. You should be getting some sleep by now. Feeling physically better. Your complaint, if anything, is probably that you’re exhausted from being so busy. You’d really like to take the weekend off from all this recovery stuff and lay in front of the TV. Go ahead, add some down time into your routine this weekend but still maintain the basics – eat well, get some fresh air and a little exercise, go to a meeting (or two). Call up some of your new friends in recovery and see if anyone wants to come and watch a movie and order pizza (or get a movie and spring the idea when you see them at a meeting).
Alone-time is great and everyone needs some – but addicts REALLY like alone time. Its easy when you’re new to suddenly be in front of the TV with the phone off for a whole day but after an entire day alone with your mind you’re suddenly too comfortable to go to a meeting. “I’ll hit two tomorrow” is usually how the rationalizing goes. Then it gets easier to just take the whole weekend off meetings. I mean – you’re home and not hurting yourself or thinking about getting high, right? Beware: this is how a lot of relapses start.
I’ve been known to watch 9 hours of Breaking Bad in a day so I get that whole “I just want a day to myself “ thing but early recovery is a whole different story. You are sort of in “recovery training camp” right now. Sticking to a regiment now will pay off later – because clean and sober, you’ll be free to choose whatever kind of life you want. Recovery will be part of your life – you won’t be standing at the shallow end of the pool learning how to swim.
Let’s review the past week – what have you been slacking off on and what are you doing about it this week? It’s really important to be putting in time with people you’ve met in meetings. If you haven’t been meeting people then you need to raise your hand and say that you haven’t been reaching out and need phone numbers. Don’t rush out the door when the meeting’s over. Linger. Let people talk to you. This week you should be feeling people out to find a temporary sponsor. The suggestions I made in the earlier blog posts will help you to have balance in your life, to feel more grounded, to feel healthier faster, and to keep you from having too much time in a dark room alone. It’s going to be the 12 Step fellowship you attend, the people you meet, and a sponsor who’ll take you through the steps that will keep you clean.
Diet and exercise alone will not keep you clean year after year, nor will a new relationship – so this week grab your cell phone, your email, your face to face encounters and really make an effort to connect to others and start building up friendships with people you can hang out with outside of the meetings. Nothing’s worse than a day off when you’re feeling a little lonely and the only people you know are ones you got high with. It’s up to you to make sure this doesn’t happen because it’s a bad set-up for relapse.
Everybody looking back knows how hard they worked for that first 30 days. You’ve been earning every single day you’ve been clean and sober. The odds to succeed, they say, are stacked against us but we do recover. We are the proof.
I also have a blog of personal stories. They are updated less frequently. http://www.pattypowersnyc.blogspot.com