Day 90 – Pregnant, PAWS or life?

These last days have felt like being on an emotional roller coaster. One minute I’m joyous and full of life, the next I’m anxious and paralyzed; I get easily irritated around other people and feel lonely when I’m by myself; I’m optimistic and glad for the changes in my life, then I get angry, sad and scared. I’ve become obsessed with certain matters needing resolution, and have blissfully ignored others…arguably more urgent and of higher priority.  What’s going ON!?!  I feel like I’m either pregnant, experiencing PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), or life.  Since medically speaking I’m unable to get pregnant – being a man 😉 – my guess is a combination of PAWS and life.

I’ve been told there’s a reason they give 30, 60, 90 day and 6 month, year and 18 month tokens. One often suffers from physical & mental affects of PAWS ( around those intervals. So, in addition to just giving stepping stones of success along the way, they are designed to give an extra “boost” to the recovering alcoholic or addict who is likely +/- a week hitting some of the symptoms of PAWS and beginning to wonder.  I hit it at 50 days…and around 85 days 🙂  These past days, it feels like I’ve been using again!  Friday night, I was basically up all night.  I was wired – partially anxious about my legal situation – but mainly wired.  I got about 2 hours of sleep…literally.  Finally, at 3:30am, I got up and did work around the house! I’ve been a bit edgy, distracted as if with ADD while also laser-like in single-tasking, and emotionally charged. Hmm…let’s look up side-effects of crystal meth…sounds like much the last 18 months of my life on meth!

I also think I’m experiencing some of the frustration of the “meth wall.”  

Meth addicts get over the acute effects of withdrawal fairly quickly. However, the “wall” period lasts 6-8 months for casual users and 2-3 years for regular users. (Some people never recover and remain unsatisfied with life due to permanent brain damage.) This is a period of prolonged abstinence during which the brain recovers from the changes resulting from meth use. During this period, recovering addicts feel depressed, fuzzyheaded, and think life isn’t as pleasurable without the drug. 

Although life is pleasurable and I’m feeling things once again, the depression and fuzzyheaded-ness is playing tricks with my mind.

Of course, then there’s life.  I have said I want to experience life on life’s terms…not on the terms of a meth addict! And I do mean that!  But with that comes – ups and downs; people, places and things that frustrate me; feelings and emotions. All that sh*& I escaped from…the loss, the grieving, the frustration, the emptiness.  It’s all here – in living colour – in hi-definition – in surround sound!  And sometimes, it gets to be overwhelming!  But, I know it’s better than the alternative…so I pray for serenity — look for the good — and turn things over to my Higher Power.  It’s sometimes harder said than done because it’s a new habit…I forget…I get caught up in old ways of thinking. But, when I do remember…or get reminded by those around me in recovery…it gets better.

The other thing I’m realizing is that for the past 90 days (!), I’ve largely lived in an either a sheltered world of recovery (in- and out-patient; twelve step meetings) or an isolated world at home, away from people and “life.”  Since I’ve lost my job, the extremes have compounded.  For the most part, I’m either in recovery meetings or at home…with some volunteering at church.  When I have been social, it’s been 1:1 with people I love, who care for me and who listen & share. Frankly, it’s been somewhat self-centered; to a certain extent, it has probably needed to be that way.  I’m learning to live & think differently – to wear a new pair of glasses, as the book goes.  So, to a certain extent, it’s been 90 days “about me.”  And that’s ok.  But now, I’m trying to expand that circle & return to reality — to go out with folks before/after meetings; to forge new friendships & get to know people; to face some pretty tough legal and employment challenges. And, that puts me “back in real life” — where it’s not all about me, where there are people who are bitter & angry as well as peaceful & joy-filled.  And simply put – I’m not used to that!  For the past 90 days of recovery – and the prior 2+ years of heaving using…it’s either been about me, or I’ve numbed myself from reality! 

So, I just put that out there for me to remember looking back.  I’m where I need to be… It’s ok to be human and make mistakes… I don’t have to get along with everyone… and life does have challenges which I can face with the grace & strength of my HP, through which I will grow stronger and survive — and be far better off on the other side. 

For that, I’m grateful.  

For now, I must slow down, breathe and give myself a break…

Good night.  Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me!  By the grace of god…

Day 87 – 30 day misery back guarantee!

I opened yesterday’s mail this morning.  Note to self – DON’T do that again before morning meditation and prayers…and coffee!

I received all of the paperwork from my separation.  COBRA decisions…life insurance…401K rollover.  The blessing is I have the ability to make these choices.  But, it’s still overwhelming.  How do families with kids do this?  My company recently started their ~30% workforce reduction cuts — I was told of at least two married couples with kids who were both let go.  Without a salary, how do they even face the morning like I do?  All these decisions to make – such little time – and no income.  It could be paralyzing.  Some days it is – I didn’t get out of bed on Monday.  (Note the gap in journal entries!)  But, if I just focus on staying clean and sober for today…and do the next right thing, face the next decision, and pray for peace…I can make it.  God didn’t bring me THIS far to abandon me!

I’m reminding of a phrase from my treatment time and early days of sobriety (not THAT long ago!)  “If you’re not completely satisfied and convinced that recovery can work – we will gladly refund your misery.”  Yep, it’s the 30-day misery back guarantee.  At any point, I can choose to go back to the using – the drinking – the escape – the numbness.  And at any point, I know what that will bring…isolation, depression, misery, despair.  Every morning, part of my prayers includes acknowledging that I am powerless over my addiction.  For a couple of seconds, I allow myself to think back to December 21, 2009 and remember my bottom.  Is that what I want to return to?  Really?

Thankfully, no.  Despite the overwhelming feelings at times — the tough choices — the feelings of anger and betrayal that resurface on days like today — I know that each and every day of sobriety I’ve enjoyed has been far better than any day of using.  Even my WORST day in the past 87 was far more livable than my days in addiction.  And for that, I’m grateful.

I’ll let that misery back guarantee expire.  There is no turning back.

Day 86 – Prozac for addiction? Would you take "the pill?"

Someone brought up an interesting question tonight.  There are some medications out there to help curb cravings or make you sick if you drink.  If they came up with a pill that would “cure” addiction, would you take it?  If it meant taking a pill for the rest of your life – would you swap recovery, meetings and working a program for a pill?

It raises an interesting question…

For me, I fall back on what I learned about Prozac and other anti-depressants.  They aren’t the cure for depression – just like Xanax was never intended for long term treatment of anxiety.  The idea behind anti-depressants is to stabilize one’s brain chemistry to allow one to work on the root causes of one’s depression.  Believe it or not, the drug companies never intended the Prozac’s to be the end all solution — at least as I understand it.  And I used to work for one…

So for me, whether there is a pill or not — the key for my recovery was realizing that drinking wasn’t my problem…using wasn’t my problem  As one guy I know introduces himself, “Hi I’m an addict – and Brian is my problem.”  For me it was the feeling of not fitting in — the low self esteem.  I am a perfectionist and never felt like I (or others!) could live up to my standards.  I am a people pleaser.  I worry about what people think about me.  I feel like I’m an impostor at work and someday, someone is going to figure me out and call me out!   That was my thinking…my mental (and ultimately spiritual!) malady.  That’s what I have to work on…the comparisons, the judgments…my sense of self, my sense of worth.  The alcohol or drugs were just another attempt to fill that emptiness I felt inside.

What I’ve grown to appreciate is that we all feel that to one degree or another — we all have our insecurities.  None of us are perfect; we’re all broken.  Thankfully, in my brokenness, I found a connection with my Higher Power — for me, it’s God.  And in that relationship, I’ve learned that He loves me no matter what.  He loves me because I’m His precious son.  He loves us all because we are unique, treasured children of God.  And, because we’re separated from Him, we have a void…a hole that we try to fill in so many futile ways.  That’s my problem.

I’m learning that even with my low self-esteem, it’s my ego that is at the root of my illness.  My ego gets in my way of my loving God — of my fellow human beings — of my own need for wholeness.  The more I learn to leave my ego out — to accept my brokenness and in that acceptance, find forgiveness and grace — the more I find what I’ve so desperately sought.  I’ve tried to find it in work, in relationships, in sex, in alcohol, in drugs, in constantly moving from one state or country to another.  None of that will ever suffice.  I need to stop running, stop chasing the next high, stop looking for someone to “complete me.”  I just need to surrender to my Higher Power.  Once I understand and accept that spiritual brokenness, I can see others as the same — broken, forgiven, and in need of God’s love manifest in others.

It’s a long road…and whether they find a pill or not, the hard work still has to be done.  The Truth has to be sought and found.  This is a physical, mental and spiritual disease.  Pills may work on the physical cravings; they may even someday help with the mental brain chemistry.  But only prayer and a spiritual relationship with one’s Higher Power will mend the spiritual part of this disease.  And that is the beauty of recovery!