Recovery, rebirth, confusion!

braveheart

So, it has been a few weeks since my last post and anyone that knows me knows that I have been going through…well something.

Since I am very well aware that my addiction is not unique, maybe some of you out there are going through or have gone through the same thing and can give me some input.

So, the basic description of what I feel like is that I crashed. Crashed not relapsed! Right on the heels of some major accomplishments in my recovery and right on the heels of some new life revelations and growth. I can’t even give you an accurate word for what it is that I feel. It’s like I have been reborn and have no idea what to do next…where to go…what direction to head. It’s almost as if I woke up on a beautiful beach somewhere, feeling healthy, wearing nice clothes, clean shaven…but at the same time, groggy, displaced, and having no idea who I am or what my name even is.

If you have followed my story, you know that at the end of May I passed my one year sobriety date. Sounds great right? Well, what it did was send me into a complete tailspin. I had put that date out there in my head as “major goal”. It was a box that I wanted desperately to put a “check” in. So that’s what I did. I checked the box. I marked it off, “Complete”. I set a goal, I poured my every effort and focus toward that goal, tightened my chin strap, went into battle and came out victorious. It reminds me of a scene in every “Braveheart”-type movie. The hero enters the battlefield with a rage and intensity that is full of pure adrenaline. He fights and slashes wildly dispatching every foe with ever-increasing intensity, fighting his way through the chaos until he reaches the other side…then, after the battle is over…our hero looks around the field, sees no more enemies…blood soaked and exhausted he falls to his knees and weeps. That’s what it felt like to me anyway. The physical and mental exhaustion of the fight had taken its toll. I just wanted to isolate again, to pull back, to rest. The victory did feel like victory. It felt like a big empty hole. Because I know that there is no rest. Tomorrow is another test, another enemy, another battle. They will just keep coming.

I have also been focusing on the physical part of my recovery. Years of alcoholism had taken its toll on my body and I wanted to take it back. I checked into rehab at 230 pounds and was, as you would expect, very unhealthy. I not only wanted to be sober but I wanted to be healthy and fit again. So, I set a goal of completing a Sprint Triathlon with a side goal of 50 total lbs of weight loss. I set those goals as way to put a period on the end of the sentence. To achieve those goals, for me, would mean that I had not only recovered spiritually (sobriety), but that I had recovered physically. For the past four months, I have trained hard to get my body where I wanted it to be. I exercised or trained at least five days a week, sometimes seven. I monitored my food intake, ate healthy and lived fitness. Again, I did it! Friday I weighed in at 180 pounds and Saturday I completed my first ever Sprint Triathlon. Great right? I guess, but so what really. Now what do I do. This battle continues also. Time to set a new goal. Tonight I packed my gym clothes again, threw some protein powder in my bag, and dusted off my running shoes.

Now, to complicate things even further, my brain doesn’t work the same anymore! I have noticed many changes on this side of sobriety with the way my mind works. Some of those changes are largely predictable. It makes sense that, once you stop putting 750ml to a liter of 80-100 proof through your body everyday for nearly 20 years, some changes are bound to occur. Most of those changes came about pretty rapidly. After a few months in rehab, I noticed that my short-term memory was coming back. I didn’t have to write things down as much. It became easier to retain things that I read and studied. Then old memories started coming back. Things that were long forgotten began to find their way through the fog. This process has continued over the past year and reached a plateau about four months ago. I looked at the world though different eyes. People seemed different to me, less burdensome. I perceived the thoughts and actions of others with more precision and perception. The world itself seemed brighter and more full of life. Revelations about my own faults, flaws, and character defects came in bursts. It was a time of great discovery and change. I thought that process was over.

Then at the end of May and into June, I noticed more changes happening in my brain. I told a friend of mine that it was like my mind was still “waking up” after years of hibernation. These changes were less predictable and actually quite confusing. I described it as being hyper-self-aware. I’m not sure what to do with these new feelings and perceptions of the world around me. Thoughts, ideas, emotions are flooding my mind daily to the point that sometimes it’s hard to focus. “Was all of this here before”, I often wonder.  I have been starved and am so hungry to taste life for the first time. Where do I even start? I feel like I a kid in one of those old-time candy stores who looks around and is amazed by all the colors and choices, eyes wide open, jaw dropped…frozen still by all that he sees.

Now, let’s add a little more seasoning to this crazy recovery stew. I have still been working 8-10 hour days at my job, attending meetings, leading a bible study, attending another bible study, reading books, personal devotions and studies,  volunteering at the homeless shelter, and mentoring (for lack of a better term) other people in addiction. (That last part is pretty funny after reading the content of this post, I know. Lately, I seem to have more questions than answers.) All these things helped me get sober. Without God I would be a drunken mess, so it’s not like I can just quit. So you get your bible back out and study for the next class, you schedule your next meeting, you make that next phone call or send that next encouraging text.

You know when I hit that one year date, I used it as a time to reflect on where I was, where I am and where I’m going. What I have discovered is that I don’t even know who I am anymore. Not in a bad way, like I have been someone I’m not. It’s more like, I have never really known who I was to begin with. I feel as if my addiction ran my life and made my choices and now it doesn’t. I am, who I am, and where I am based on choices I made when I was someone else…someone controlled by their surroundings…controlled by approval seeking behavior and the opinions of others…controlled by a very limited world view and lack of purpose and direction. I have simply floated or wandered through life letting the current take me where it wished or where others would have me go. What do you do with all that? You either float back down stream, fight against the current or get the heck out of the river.

So now  I am back on that beach. I am awake. With no idea of who I am. Free to go in any direction and free to create or simply discover who I am, or maybe who I was always supposed to be in the first place before I short-circuited my life with my addiction and the choices that followed. Why is this so hard then? I’m not struggling with re-lapse, I’m struggling with re-birth. Crazy, right!

So this is my new reality. I have accomplished all my short-term goals. I am sober. I am healthy. I am exhausted. My brain is doing crazy things. I have more questions than answers. And I have no idea who I am or who I want to be. Recovery is so awesome…

 

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About jrstover

Just a sinner Saved by Grace. Walking in the Spirit. Advocate for those struggling in addiction.
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4 Responses to Recovery, rebirth, confusion!

  1. Mark Kelly says:

    Jason,
    I went through this same thing after becoming a believer. There were immediate hard-fought battles to win: porn, building my marriage back up, building trust with my wife, ceasing to seek other relationships, putting away substance abuse, habitual lying and the like. About the time the church asked me to be a pastor (2003, less than 5 years after conversion), I was hitting this same place you spoke of. Becoming a pastor shot me back “up” again. New job, new circumstances, excitement, etc. So, when a couple of years ago I started getting unsettled in the pastor’s position, I thought, “great, here I go again”. That is why it took me so long to decide to tell Angie about my desire to step down from CBC. I thought it was just a “down period”. I think what I am finding is that God is very much a God of the mundane. However, in the mundane, the relationship with Christ can flourish. I can get to know him better, talk with him more, let him have greater input into my life. That all is happening in the mundane. I know where we are at it is going to be day in / day out type of “same-same” (as they say) and then probably some more.

    An example from today. I am not eager to meet new people. I’d rather have someone else initiate contact, conversation, etc. Let me do the busy / admin work behind the scenes and it will all be good. Today we went out to the project because a new team was coming in from Australia. They arrived in several tuk tuks, several minutes apart from one another. As the first four team members came through the gate, I looked for coworkers. They were all busy with other things. Even Angie was nowhere to be seen. So I made a choice to initiate contact. It went really well. While we were talking the rest of the group showed up – conversation flowed into that group. In a few minutes I was being asked opinions on how to complete a certain project at the facility. And then as we left, a couple of group members wanted to hear our story.

    I think I am seeing the necessity to boil life down to minute by minute, mundane choices. Do good here. Speak up there. Give. Smile. Pray. When I don’t have a “big picture” goal, I choose to complete the smaller ones, and somehow, it leads to finishing a greater goal.

    The downside to getting to the other side of the battlefield, exhausted yet satisfied, is giving in to the temptation that “I deserve” this break…substance…porn…etc. That’s tripped me up in the past, and I need to realize as you’ve identified, that there are still enemies out there, snipers to be rooted out, tunnel rats, sappers to be eliminated, and full on offensives. I can’t do it in my strength, so I have to go to the Spirit and ask for a recharge, a dose of energy, a boost.

    Don’t let the enemy lull you into thinking that you are on that battlefield, victorious, alone. We start to feel alone and then we can get hammered. If you look around, there are others fighting alongside you, straggling up from their corner of the battlefield, needing to encourage and be encouraged, ready to regroup and do it all over again. We’re in this thing till the end. In Jesus’ name the enemy is defeated! (We sang this song in our Khmer church: http://www.lyricshall.com/lyrics/Darlene+Zschech/In+Jesus+Name/ – check the lyrics out – awesome) I know I needed it yesterday. Love you brother, praying for you, fighting with you!

    • jrstover says:

      Thanks Mark. Don’t you ever get tired of pouring so much time into this idiot? Haha. I love what you said about not being out there alone. Sometimes you start to feel like that. I get that mindset that I’m either going to stand on my own two feet or go down swinging taking as many of the enemy with me as possible. Addiction affects everyone around you, yet feels like a very personal struggle that you must face alone. Satan is good at what he does, but his play book hasn’t changed for thousands of years. I just keep falling for that same old halfback dive left…gets me every time.

      • Mark Kelly says:

        Hey brother, not tired yet. I love you more than my own flesh & blood brothers. I’m with you and praying for you. I’m doing battle on your behalf through prayer. You know how to reach me – don’t hesitate.

  2. Awesome post, and awesome first response there. I can’t touch either, except to say that I have been through much of what you speak, and still continue to go through certain “growth spurts”. The more I let go, the more I become unhinged, and floating in a direction I have no idea where I am going. And sometimes fear crops up about this unhinging, and I cling stubbornly to things so that I feel secure. That is a phase I am going through now and I don’t enjoy it. I fail to remember that God is bigger than all of this, and I am not. Hence, I need to release to get to the next place where He would like me to be. But ego gets in the way sometimes, doesn’t it?

    You describe this journey beautifully, Jason. Wonderful stuff. You really nail that feeling of elation and exhaustion and a sense of what now all mixed up. The idea of hitting those goals and moving on…it might be a guy thing where our sense of self worth is wrapped up in accomplishments, tactile things that we can check off and say “next”. I know that was me, and still can be me.

    Anyway, great to see you post again.

    Blessings,
    Paul

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