After my four and a half months in rehab last year, I was doing OK for a while. I came home and jumped into my daily recovery meetings with my homegroup. I volunteered to lead my women's Thursday night meeting and then lead our crowded Saturday night meeting for three months. I worked on the steps with my sponsor and got used to my new sober life.
The recovery world is new to me. I didn't know the extent and breadth of its existence. I treated recovery like a hiking vacation through Europe; strolling along paths by rehab centers, sober living housing and addiction help organizations. Every day I was learning something new and it inspired me. I felt alive for the first time in years.
Three months ago I was looking forward to my first anniversary of sobriety and the celebration at my home group. "It's like a birthday but better," my sponsor told me a few days before. That night, with my supportive and smiling husband sitting among my new AA friends I got my shiny year coin and rounds of applause. I even got gifts. My sponsor was right, it was better than a birthday. It was an accomplishment and I went to sleep that night happy and content.
Life was good.
And then I woke up to the news my friend from rehab had died of a fentanyl overdose around the time I was receiving my anniversary coin the night before.
And then life wasn't so good and I've been in a funk since.
The world of recovery I was so eager to explore doesn't look like a European vacation anymore. Europe is a place that's well traveled and filled with orderly towns and manicured gardens. Now my world feels more like a deep tropical forest filled with both beauty and dangers. Next to that colorful tropical flower is a quick sand pit and I can see that singing bird is being stalked by a predator. This forest I'm in is a mix of good and bad.
It's a more realistic reality and it's called life.
I think it's a better place and a better approach for me to go forward in sobriety. The way I was looking at life in early recovery is more like how I viewed life before when I was in heavy alcohol addiction -- unrealistic and unsustainable for healthy living. Because I viewed life through rose colored glasses I wasn't able to handle it when it got tough. When I couldn't handle my life I drank to escape.
This past week was the hardest I've had since recovery. I don't even know why I fell into a depression. I didn't want to do anything and I was irritable. I knew it was a "me thing" and that my thoughts were the problem because basically my life is pretty all right! But I couldn't stop thinking about the past and the future. My mind wasn't where my feet were and that's a bad place to be! I knew I had to change my thoughts from the dreaded regrets and fears that were keeping me awake at night.
Luckily I have tools now to dig out of these ruts:
I called fellow alcoholics to talk about how I was feeling.
Went to daily meetings and talked about how I was feeling.
Reached out to others to see how they were and if I could help in any way.
I stayed active -- "move a muscle, change a thought" -- I baked, cleaned, walked the dog, volunteered.
I prayed, meditated and read inspirational books.
I realized "This too shall pass" and it finally did!
I started feeling better after about five days. The cloud lifted during an inspiring Friday night meeting and disappeared yesterday when volunteering at a festival with my new friends at at the Mental Health Association (MHA) and the Center for Addiction Recovery Education and Success (CARES) of Morris County. They work together through the Morris County Sheriff's Department and their mobile unit Hope One. We handed out information on recovery resources and support groups and gave away NARCAN kits along with instructions. One woman left our booth with tears of gratitude and said she didn't feel so alone anymore.
It's a dangerous forest out there ... maybe my lesson learned is to remember I have the tools to make it in recovery and none of us have to do this alone!
Life is good.