If at First You Don’t Succeed…

I’ve made so many drastic changes to the way I live my life in the past couple of weeks, and they are really working for me. Which is helping my recovery move a lot more smoothly than it did the first time I returned home from rehab. So, for this week, I chose from the list of safe coping strategies to write about:

If one way doesn’t work, try another. As if in a maze, turn a corner and try a new path.

When I first went to rehab, I though I had hit my rock bottom, I had gone to the place where people go when they hit rock bottom, and I was going to leave there fixed. And I think that’s what my husband thought too. I had a successful, powerful, insightful, restful, healing 30 days in rehab and returned home.

It was, of course, a complete shock to us both then, when I relapsed after only a few weeks, and hit a true rock bottom. The kind that actually makes you feel physically like you hit a rock. Like you can’t breathe. It gives you that suffocating feeling of having failed and disappointed everyone you love. Where there are relationships you don’t know will ever be mended again.

And you’re trapped in your own depressed and anxious brain, and no one knows what you’re going through (because you don’t know how to open up about it) so they can’t help you. And all they know how to do when they can’t help you is just push you away. Take their good, healthy, normal lives and get away from you.

This is where my husband was at when I hit my real rock bottom. Which is why I agreed to return to rehab for 10 more days. I knew I’d be safe there, and he’d feel calmer knowing I was in a safe place. And I knew that even if I didn’t get everything all figured out before I left, at least I was trying to figure it out. At least I was going somewhere to heal and get help. At least I was being proactive about the recovery.

When I returned to rehab, I had the attitude that I would do anything and everything they told me to, so long as it kept me sober. That’s why I finally, after years of doctors and therapists and family and friends suggesting I do, went on an anti-depressant medication. That’s why I spoke more openly to a psychiatrist than have to anyone before in my life (not even my husband) about the true frightening and crippling hold anxiety had on my life, and had for most of my life, and agreed to take an as-needed anti-anxiety medication as well. And that’s why after being offered the first time I left rehab, a chance to take Antabuse, a drug that makes you violently and sometimes dangerously ill if you have a drink, I chose to take it this time. And my husband holds the bottle and watches me take it each morning.

I made these changes fearing how the medications would make me feel. Wondering if they’d really work. Wondering if them “working” would be all placebo effect. Wondering how I got to a place in my life where drinking massive amounts of alcohol to feel better seemed like a better idea than taking a few safe pills. But, I tried the medications, to see what would happen. The worst that would happen, I figured, was that I wouldn’t feel any better, I’d be right where I was, and they’d try some other approach.

All I knew was things didn’t work for me the first time. Something was still bothering me inside, and it wasn’t letting me be free from my addiction. It was my emotional health and stability that threatened to take away all my hard work, which eventually it did. I just did not have the mental strength and capacity to cope. I was far too depressed, far too anxious, and still refusing to reach out to loved ones when I had those feelings. So, I knew I needed to try something new.

It has only been a few weeks now, but this approach is working much better. By this point in my last return home, I had already started the relapse process in my head. I was thinking about alcohol. Wondering if I could have just one drink. Imagining myself using it every once in a while, “just when things are tough.” But, duh, things for me were always tough.

I still don’t remember the real choice point, the moment I had that first drink after rehab. Those moments tend to be very fuzzy for me. My psychiatrist says it’s very common, and describes it as being on auto-pilot. But, in any case, it happened. And I did ok at first, but very, very quickly fell into all of my old patterns, all of my old habits, all of my old ways of dealing with emotions, and it wasn’t long until I metaphorically fell and hit my face on the ground. If I had actually physically fallen and hit my face on the ground, it would have been an ugly, bloody show. I mean, I hit ROCK BOTTOM. That was it. The urges, cravings, binges, they were all so much worse than before.

It finally became clear to me that I needed a new approach. I needed to be in recovery for myself, not others. I needed to take my thoughts and feelings into account when it really mattered. I needed to learn how to battle my anxiety when it threatened to ruin perfectly good days for me. And I needed to learn to use the tools and resources available to me in order to heal. There’s no shame in that.

If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. And that goes QUADRUPLE for sobriety. Do whatever it takes. You are and individual and the things that will get you sober and keep you sober are individual to you. Just keep trying until you figure it out. If one path is blocked, take another.

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