Surviving and Thriving

I haven’t written in ages! I’m so sorry. Part of the reason is that this time of year is so incredibly busy, with parties, and dinners, and gifts to wrap, and gifts to send, and a big pile of cards to address.

The other reason is that I just had my third foot surgery. The bone structure in my feet leaves a lot to be desired. I had both feet operated on, but was warned I might need to have the left one operated on again sometime. It had started causing me some pain again, and we met our insurance deductible for the year, so I went for it.

The whole premise of surgery worried me. Not just being put under anesthesia and being cut open and being in pain and recovering from it forever. But also, I was going to be prescribed a narcotic pain killer. Would I take it? What would happen if I did? What did this mean for me, a recovering alcoholic?

I was afraid it would trigger something inside of me. The Reality-is-Best-Dealt-With-Under-the-Influence side of me I had fought so hard to get rid of. I was also afraid that all the sitting around and boredom would also trigger something inside of me.

I took the medication. I was in an incredible amount of pain the first few days, and I didn’t know how else to deal with it.

And it was fine. I didn’t at all like how the medication made me feel. It made it hard for me to eat and sleep, two things I need desperately to do right now. And when I did sleep, it gave me insane nightmares. And during the day, I felt dizzy, loopy, spacey, just uncomfortable. I was relieved when I could take Aleve and get by. And it still took a few days for the loopiness to subside.

One of my counselors in rehab said generally people my age don’t give up one addiction and find another. Young people often do, they are willing to try a variety of different things. But by the time you’re in your 30s or 40s, you have found your “substance of choice” and are unlikely to turn to something else. I’m so glad this is the case for me, and it’s a weight off my mind to know.

Though I would urge you to tread very carefully if you’re put in the same situation. Because there is always that chance when you are an addict to become addicted to just about anything. So, it’s important to be aware of that and mindful of how you feel on any substance. And if prescription medications are your substance of choice, then obviously you need to be even more careful, and avoid them completely if possible.

I find through this experience that I’ve come a very long way from the person I used to be. Back in the day, this might have been a huge issue for me. But, not only do I not want alcohol at all anymore, but I’m still mindful enough of my addiction to be careful what I put in my body. I learned many things about myself and about addiction through my experience in rehab, and I have seen that I can put that knowledge to use in my everyday life.

I feel stronger now than ever. I can make the right choices. I’m happier being sober. This happiness can be the rest of my life, instead of the misery I was feeling this time last year. And that feels amazing.

You’re Allowed to Feel Good

I spend a lot of time talking on here about negative emotions: sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, guilt, shame… These are emotions that a person in recovery, especially early recovery, spends a lot of time with. But, don’t forget that you’re allowed to feel good too!

My last post was about crying, and how healing and cathartic it can be. Well, the same is true for smiling and laughter. If you feel a smile creeping onto your face, or a laugh bubbling up from inside, let it shine! Let it out!

Studies have actually shown that you can improve a bad mood simply by making yourself smile. And double if you can make yourself laugh.

It’s also been show that laughter has healing properties. Laughing helps boost your immune system, lowers your stress hormones, relaxes your muscles and can help reduce pain. It has even been shown to help heal heart disease and cancer!

In addition to physical benefits, it just boosts your mood. Puts you in a better place, so you can tackle your day and handle the problems life throws at you. Everything is smoother with a positive attitude. It’s hard to feel depressed and anxious when you’re smiling and laughing.

If you find yourself in a down mood, expressing negative emotions or lashing out at loved ones, find a way to make yourself smile and laugh. Go to one of your favorite places. Eat at a favorite restaurant. Go see a funny movie. Get together for coffee with a fun friend. Play with your pet, if you have one. Go visit the small children in your life. Just get out and do something fun like hiking, shopping, miniature golf, bowling, anything to get you in a positive mood and get a smile on that face.

Your mood will improve, your relationships will benefit, and you will feel better physically. Use one of nature’s best medications to help you heal on your journey to recovery.

Missing Out on All the Fun

Once at an AA meeting I attended several months ago, a man said, “If you’re in AA, the fun days of your drinking are over.” And I’ll never forget that. He was joking, and we all laughed, but he was also poignantly correct. The statement got me thinking, and changed how I viewed my addiction.

One of the first thoughts that came to my mind when I had the very first fleeting thought ever about trying to get sober, was all the fun times I’d be missing out on. And I’d venture a guess that this crosses the mind of every alcoholic.

No champagne on New Year’s, no beers at cook outs or baseball games, no wine with fancy dinners, no margaritas on Cinco de Mayo.

But truthfully, my drinking had stopped being about that kind of stuff long ago.

Wine with fancy dinners was replaced with an entire bottle of chardonnay alone watching TV on the couch. Beers at cook outs were replaced with swigs of vodka or tequila from the bottle in my purse in addition to beers. Semi-hiding bottles of wine in the back of the fridge, or filling the wine rack back up with cheap grocery store wine was replaced with fully concealing bottles of liquor around the house. And there’s nothing fun at all about living with the kind of constant, deep fear and shame that goes along with those things.

I thought about that man’s quote for the first time in a long time last night, as I wrote in my journal before bed. I was lamenting on how fast time had flown for me lately. I’ve been having a lot of memories recently of a weekend vacation my husband and I had taken to a really nice bed and breakfast, back in January. And now it’s nearly May already. In between, I’ve spent 38 days in total in rehab, away from home. Time seems to have gone by in an instant. I wrote in my journal, “I’m missing out on my life.”

I used to think that getting sober meant missing out on life. Missing out on the fun. Not being a part of the action. When in truth, my addiction was holding me back from so much more. I wasn’t relishing in and enjoying those sweet, quiet moments with my children, who are growing up way too fast. I wasn’t spending any quality time with my husband. I wasn’t involved with any hobby or activity that was just for me. I woke up, I drank, I went to bed.

I’m finally able to see that being sober doesn’t mean missing out on all the fun. It means finally being about to allow yourself to have a little fun. And finding fun things that are beneficial to you, healthy for you. I keep telling myself lately that I need to get my life back on track. But, I’ve been thinking of it in terms of life being in some kind of paused state. But, life never pauses; it’s happening all the time, all around us. And when you’re using, you’re not really paying attention, and you’re not truly enjoying yourself at all.