“…There will be times, however, when we really feel like using. We want to run, and we feel lousy. We need to be reminded of where we came from and that it will be worse this time…One of the biggest stumbling blocks to recovery seems to be placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves or others. Relationships can be a terribly painful area. We tend to fantasize and project what will happen. We get angry and resentful if our fantasies are not fulfilled. We forget that we are powerless over other people…” ~ Anonymous
(I apologize in advance for the length, but this message is too important to break up into 2 parts. If you’re an addict going through a difficult time, I encourage you to read this to the end)
This quote comes from a couple different pages in one of my favorite book. It describes what addicts go through all the time, especially this time of year.
It’s that time of the year again. Time for celebration, giving thanks and spending time with our families. But for those of us with the disease of addiction, this time of year can be very difficult. I know because I’m a gratefully recovering addict and I have had a hard time with the holidays for a few years now. The family(my blood family and my in laws) that I once enjoyed spending time with was lost in part because of my addiction. Does this give me an excuse to use? I’ll tell you my answer in a moment.
In case you didn’t know, addiction is a thinking and feeling disease, more so feeling. The thinking part is when we are conning, manipulating, rationalizing and justifying our ways and means to get and use more. The feelings part is a little messier. Let’s face it, feelings are messy for all of us, but for addicts it’s messier. Why? Because we used drugs to escape our feelings and our realities. Far to many times, one bad feeling can trigger an addict with 1 day, 1 month, 1 year, 10 years, or more to use again.
Years ago, when I first came into recovery, another addict said, “The worst thing that can happen in recovery is that your feelings get hurt, but the best thing that can happen in recovery is that your feelings will get hurt.” I didn’t understand it at the time. Just like I became an addict over a period of time, I began to understand this and other lessons over time.
If you’re not an addict you’re probably thinking, “I feel the same way but I don’t get high or drunk.” While this is true, I’ll bet you probably do something escape the sting of bad feelings. Maybe you buy yourself some shiny bobble or trinket or some sweet treat. Maybe you take a hot bubble bath or go out for a run or a drive. We all do something to ease pain that we don’t want to feel. We all want to escape feelings and reality from time to time, but addicts need to find a healthier way other than the thing that kills us daily. I’ll be the first to admit, since I’ve been clean, my favorite coffee at a local coffee shop and brownies from a particular store are my comfort foods. But I digress.
When an addict tells me they want to use, or they’ve relapsed, I ask them why for a couple of reasons. No, not because I’m nosey. When I do this, it reminds me what not to do and where I don’t want to be. Another reason is because when we hear ourselves say our reason out loud, we realize how silly or dumb our reasons are. I can’t tell you how many times that I hear things like, “Because this person said this. That person did that.” I hear every excuse under the sun except, “The dog ate my homework”.
As amusing as that sounds, it’s the reality of this disease.
So what can you, my fellow addict, do to prevent using this time of year and longer? The first thing is to make a commitment to yourself that you won’t use. Do not do it for another person because, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Let’s face it, people will fail us. It’s inevitable. If that person fails you in some way, intentionally, or not, it’ll end up being your excuse to use. I know because I, and many others, have done the same thing and it didn’t work so well.
Another thing we can do is to find, and get involved in a self help recovery group. Preferably one where there are other addicts. I have learned that, “The ultimate weapon for recovery is another recovering addict.” That simply means that addicts understand how and why we use. We can help each other stay clean. Our individual stories may vary from one addict to another, but we all used for the same reasons.
We used to escape our feelings, and our realities.
Over the years, I’ve called on my fellow addicts many times to help me to not use if only for that hour or that day. No matter what I’ve gone through, my fellow addicts have rallied around and helped me through each struggle. I’ve shared the good, the bad, the ugly and the REALLY ugly times with them. And I’ve been there for many of them.
Daily contact with a Higher Power is also very important to stay clean. In rehab, the counselors told me about finding a Higher Power. They told me that a chair or a light bulb could be my Higher Power. While I appreciated their suggestions I questioned how either of those would help me stay clean. Oh sure, a chair could block my path but I can move it. The light bulb can be turned on, but I can turn it off, and sneak out.
I’m not telling you to be a weekly church going person. I’m also not telling you to believe specifically in God, Buddha, Allah, Jesus or whatever name you use. When people fail us, as they usually do, we need someone, or something, to help us get through our darkest times. Our Higher Power can be the source of our greatest strength.
When I was in active addiction, I had a hard time with God because I thought He abandoned me years earlier. Today I know that this isn’t true. To help me with with my struggle, one of my predecessors told me a couple of acronyms for God. One of them is “Group Of Druggies”, and the other is “Good Orderly Direction”. For example, if I want to use, the “Group Of Druggies” can talk to me, and help me through that urge to use. “Good Orderly Direction” refers to Spiritual Principles like Tolerance, Acceptance, Patience, and Brotherly Love to name a couple. If I want to live a new life, these Spiritual Principles can guide me through any problem I face.
What helps me the most is playing the tape through. Whenever I feel like using, I remind myself of what will happen. I’d start by hanging with old playmates at an old playground. Then, someone would come around with my drug of choice. Pretty soon, I won’t be able to afford it so I’d try something cheaper, then I’d try it in a different form. When I couldn’t pay for it, I’d sell my stuff. After that, I’d do things that would make me feel so horrible about myself that I’d purposely overdose, and die.
I know how my mind works, and I know how it would go down.
No, not every day will be difficult, nor will it be a bowl of cherries. I’ve had times I wanted to say “forget” it and gone back out. I know, however, that those trying times teach me lessons and they’ve also given way to lots of blessings for which I am SO grateful. Today I know that times get hard, but those bad moments eventually pass.
So, to answer my earlier question. Do I have an excuse to use because I won’t be seeing or even hearing from my blood family this Christmas, or anytime in the future? Sure I have excuses, but not a single one of them is a good enough reason to throw away all that I’ve gained. Although my past Christmases are distant memories and my future ones may look lonely, I am fully able to make new traditions, and memories.
Thought for the day: Christmas is a time for miracles. Why not be one today? “Any clean addict is a miracle.” ~ Anonymous
***Please be sure to read more of my posts