Even though I have not been sober for that long, my recovery has changed a lot since I started it on December 16, 2015.
I believe I am still going through post acute withdrawal symptoms, even if I don’t always notice it. Although sometimes I do, like irritated digestive system and acid reflux, or occasionally when I sleep I have very bad nightmares. My face is still recovering from redness, and it still does get red sometimes. I have this weird theory that every few weeks my body goes into a sort of mini withdrawal stage, or to put it more correctly, detox. I think that’s why I keep getting all these symptoms. I am glad that my digestive issues are improving. I think alcohol has done a lot of damage due to constant vomiting and acid reflux.
In the early days of my recovery, it was all about managing my intense feelings. They were crazy intense, and overwhelming. I was sort of in a panic too. I didn’t have a job anymore, I was scared that my parents would just suddenly die and I would be all alone. I remember calling my mom from rehab and asking her to bring me some stuff, she was at work so I was trying to leave her a voicemail message. My emotions were so intense that I tried to hold off my tears. I was just so depressed, guilty, and in shock.
It’s easy to explain my depression. Alcohol is a depressant. Detoxing meant I couldn’t use it anymore to deal with my depression. It’s insane, I’d been dealing with my depression all this time by using the very substance that was the main cause of my depression. So it begs the question, was I depressed to begin with, or was it drinking that made me so?
Guilt. I felt guilty because of what I had done. I lost my job at the hospital as an environmental service technician (basically I cleaned). I lasted like 3 months. I had a few close calls before I abandoned the job, that’s how I usually lost all of my jobs, but I was able to get a medical note so I did last a little longer…but it wasn’t always like that; at the beginning of my drinking career, I was able to keep my job, and even work insane hours. I had to mention this, because I never realized till now how it all went downhill for me. I was just simply sucked in. Eventually, it became the norm for me: one night, after I’d saved up some money, I would get wasted to the point where I would be comfortable enough to give myself an excuse to quit my job, just because it was becoming insanely hard for me to deal with hangovers at work, and I just simply wanted to continue drinking and playing video games.
Shock. I was in shock mostly because it was an insanely huge change for me. I believe I surrendered in some way; finally I was seriously looking for a way out. I was running from everything I had done. Rehab was a safe haven for me. I felt that I could hide there from the outside world, but it wasn’t all just nice stuff. I was so stressed out, mostly due to the fact that I felt like I was insane. That intensified my shock. I had to deal with all these unknown people. I had no idea who the fuck they were, and I was just scared of people back then. I still am, but I am getting much more comfortable now. I used to have such a hard time talking in groups and stuff. I think in some way I was so in shock that it made me very open to accepting change and implementing it.
So for the most part that’s what I was dealing with at the beginning: overwhelming feelings, that I am sure were a big part of what was causing my urges and cravings; feeling guilty for losing my job, messing up my life, and sending that drunk message to one of my superiors before going to the hospital for detox; and finally, the shock that I was in when I went to rehab, because of the sudden realization that I needed to change everything.
After completing rehab, my recovery plan was simple: go to as many Alcoholics Anonymous or Smart Recovery meetings and have perfect attendance in my intensive outpatient program. Also it included dealing with my feelings and cravings. As I was coming down from rehab, I have to say that freedom flooded into my life and I was amazed how simple things like watching TV, or doing anything I wanted, were able to bring me pleasure. I felt like I had been let out of prison, but I was definitely thankful for everything rehab had done to me.
The other thing I eventually picked up was coloring. Simply because I was becoming very bored with my life. That’s all I would do. Sobriety, sobriety and meetings. There would be days where I would feel I was falling into depression due to this lifestyle. I had nothing else till I finally found a job. It helped a lot. Besides you can’t do anything without money these days.
Having a job is a big thing, it keeps me occupied and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I enjoy being a good employee, and not having to worry about the side effects of drinking. I don’t need to make excuses anymore. It felt weird at first. I would always expect to have anxiety and all that bad stuff associated with having a job while I was drinking, till I finally got used to being free of alcohol poisoning. My job also helps me to be more social.
So how has my recovery changed?
I feel that I actually do more for my recovery now then I did when I started. Before, it was just plain meetings. Now I have incorporated a lot of new stuff into my life. I don’t have to necessarily single out time that I devote solely to the purpose of recovery. My recovery isn’t just about abstinence anymore. I am trying to live a more balanced life. For example, each day, three times a day, I take some time, usually during breaks at work, to just close my eyes, calm myself down and remind myself that there are many things that are out of my control. I kind of just surrender, especially if I am in a bad mood, or if I’m having unwanted feelings like jealousy strike me. Instead of fighting everything, I just tell myself: you know, I surrender at this point because I have many inabilities, I know I do my best…and I try to let all the thoughts pass me by, which leads me to drifting asleep for 5-10 minutes. It doesn’t work every time, but when it does, it’s a jackpot. I completely reset my whole brain and mood. I feel as if I just woke up and it’s a new day, all refreshed and with a whole new set of feelings.
I have been doing this for over 3 months now. I think it’s becoming a habit. Just like every good habit it took work to establish it. I think this is important mostly because my tendency has always been to look for instant gratification. That’s one of the reasons why these things never had any appeal to me. I thought, this is stupid, it won’t do anything for me. I wouldn’t even give myself a chance to try it, that’s how against it I was.
Another new thing that’s helped me – I love audio books. The books don’t have to be about alcohol, reading about the same topic gets old. I find that there are many things that I need to get better at. I’m into self development books. They surely help me to see different perspectives in life, which is parallel to my recovery from alcohol. The other benefit of listening to these audio books is that it helps me to fall asleep at night. Yes, it’s been my secret weapon against insomnia. I light up a candle, put my earphones in, and listen to the soothing voice. I don’t even notice when I fall asleep. I use this tactic for taking 30 minute naps during the day as well. It helps me to fall asleep effortlessly. It’s another new good habit of mine that isn’t necessarily just about not drinking. It helps me to relax.
Establishing new habits and working on my goals. That’s a big one. I have more goals now than just not drinking. I want to establish new habits that will bring me happiness long term. I want to be more organized and be able to accomplish more things in life. By working on these things, I help my recovery tremendously.
My recovery has changed because it isn’t just about abstaining from alcohol anymore. Only abstaining won’t get me far, even though it’s the core of being sober. I want this thing to be more fun. Why not have fun? While I was in the midst of my addiction, I never put my best foot forward. Nowadays, I want to be my best. Working on all these things helps me to become more openminded to change; thus my life gets less boring. Only change can bring more fresh air, and I need a lot of it.