The following article is a reprint from the earliest digitised NA Today we have from 2005. Back issues of NA Today are available for download on this website!
I will be four years clean tomorrow and a couple weeks ago I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. For the first time in my recovery, I had to deal with intense emotional pain. I started to believe I was going to have to use to make it go away.
I have been known to share that I never had a honeymoon period in my recovery. That I always knew that it was going to be hard and painful getting clean, doing life on life’s terms. Now I see that my whole recovery up until two months ago was one long honeymoon and I had no idea how pain the human heart is capable of feeling.
Besides being naturally a bit disconnected or something, I have always able to anaesthetise myself when I’ve gone through any kind of change or pain in my life – until now. I hadn’t actually realized how much I had depended on drugs to get me through life’s yucky bits.
So there I was cruising through recovery, having a fine old time. I was content. I had a few close friends, a great family, a nice caring partner, a job I don’t hate too much, nice place to live, not enough money but that’s normal… and suddenly my life spontaneously turned to shit.
In the space of a few weeks my support network moved interstate, my family was decimated by death and injury, my workplace became a reminder of that loss and my nice caring partner turned out to be a cheating immature prick. And to top it all off, I couldn’t put my feeling back in their box anymore.
Never in my life have I felt so bad. Pain in recovery is special. At least when you’re using you have the option of a nice pink drug cloud between you and reality and when it gets too bad you just have more. And although I know that the cloud doesn’t last forever and that when it wears off you are left in the same terrible mess, often worse, I wanted it anyway, that oblivion that belongs to the using addict.
All the platitudes and clichés that were meant to help only made me want to punch the people saying them, meetings drove me to distraction because no one could possibly understand how I was feeling. I just wanted it all to go away, to be numb again. And I kept waiting for it to go away and it didn’t. Eventually I found myself with a bottle in my hand trying to decide whether or not to drink it or tip it down the sink.
It sounds melodramatic in hindsight, but we all know those are the moments that count. Somehow at that moment I was able to choose to be clean and stay in recovery and see if all the shit would really pass like everyone kept telling me.
It hasn’t passed yet and probably won’t for a bit longer. I am still having trouble letting go of certain things in my life. The relationship break up has a life of its own and I cannot believe the lengths I have been willing to go to and the pain I have put myself through just trying to hold on in the face of incredible betrayal and hurt.
But I am slowly starting to value myself again, set boundaries to protect my sanity and trying to remember that that change happens all the time in life and we can’t control it. We just deal with it the best we can, and like everything else, it will pass. Usually “in 2 to 3 years you’ll look back…” is mentioned there as well but I try and ignore that, it’s too depressing.
I have done some of my “yets” in recovery. I have got down on my knees and prayed, I have cried in front of my sponsor, I’ve meditated, I wrote copiously till it started to make things worse and I have let myself babble on to people I don’t really know but who care about me anyway.
I think the first time you experience great pain in recovery it’s like being hit over the head with a brick from behind and there’s not really much you can do to prepare for it. The shock and impact are just so overwhelming after feeling nothing for so long. But this is where all the past effort of recovery pays off.
Sure you may go a bit crazy, do some wild and whacky stuff and not sleep for a couple of months but I have also had moments of great friendship, of connecting with others and being part of that I have never had before. Now that the box has been opened, I don’t think I will ever be able to stuff my feeling back in the same way.
It’s a bugger of a thing but it’s been worth it so far to not pick up, to share my life with others and accept their support and finally believe, two months down the track, that I will live and (as much as I hate to say it because it drives me nuts) it will make me stronger for next time I get blindsided by life at 6 o’clock some Tuesday afternoon.
Caroline M Canberra