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…