Why I Say “Recovering”

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I know a lot of people who are alcoholics or have had eating disorders like to say they are recovered when they no longer partake in the addictive behaviors. It’s nice to put the bad shit in the review. I certainly don’t want to be defined by my addictions.

But the problem with an addict’s brain is that it’s not normal. Somehow or another, our wiring got screwed up. And while the brain is a marvelous thing that can repair itself, our biology never is 100 percent repaired. We’re still susceptible to whatever triggers set us off to begin with, so vigilance over our emotional state is crucial.

I’m a pro at stuffing emotions. I wasn’t allowed to have any of them except to display happiness. Well, fear was ok too — it pleased my mother. But that wasn’t one I wanted to dwell in. I go back to my love of horror movies here; I transformed fear into something that entertained me. I used fear to plan ways out of danger.

Of course I still feel fear. I worry a ton about my child in college. I don’t believe in a god, but I was foxhole prayer-ing about him the other day, begging whatever power-that-be out there not take my fuckwittedness out on my child. Honestly, I’m feeling a lot of guilt with him, wondering what I should’ve done differently so that he wouldn’t be struggling with school and his priorities.

But I’ve also found myself able to “switch off” when I feel overwhelmed with fear for him. Which doesn’t mean the fear is gone. Instead, I’m just stuck with a weird feeling of restlessness and ennui. Running helps with this. But so does eating crap. And shopping. And basically overdoing anything to keep the discomfort at bay.

So you see, being aware of the behaviors I take on to avoid fear and discomfort is important to keep me from falling down a rabbit hole of addiction. I try (try being the operative word) to give myself a window to feel the bad feelings, accept them to some degree, then try to let it go. I need to understand, as we say in the recovery parlance, when I am powerless to change things and when I need the strength to make a change.

I was aware of my weaknesses yesterday while in the grocery store. I was getting ready to walk down the aisle to buy diet root beer when I saw an employee setting up a sample station for some new apple cider beer. I had the briefest thought of “oh, that is interesting” and I freaked out by my interest. Which propelled me right past my aisle, soda forgotten. I was flustered. I don’t like it when alcohol begins to sound appealing because that path ends badly for me.

I am a recovering alcoholic because these thoughts and feelings will never be completely gone. It will always be easier in the short term for me to bombard myself with distractions and poisons in order to avoid emotional pain.

But I’m ok. I usually pull my head out of the sand and figure out what is really troubling me. Progress not perfection.

PS: I went back and got my diet root beer. But I entered and exited the aisle from the other end. It took me years after rehab before I would even allow myself down the liquor aisles and I still avert my eyes if I do.


16 thoughts on “Why I Say “Recovering”

  1. Thanks for your honesty and courage in sharing the ongoing, never-ending process. You’re helping people wherever they are in their path/journey, regardless of what type of addiction, disorder, or self-destructive behavior/thoughts they’re struggling with.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate this. I get confounded a little with fear myself (ok a lot confounded). It really helps me to read this. I worry about my own kids all the time and I feel those same feelings.

  3. Good for you! Don’t beat yourself up too much. I don’t drink alcohol at all. I realize our temptations are not the same, but I admit it does sound interesting. I’ve avoided aisles (cookie, chocolate, candy, chips) when I know I’m not doing particularly well. Keep fighting for you!

  4. We all have struggles and I hope (and pray) that all works out for the best with your son. I struggle in ways no one knows or cares, but I do have comfort in my faith. Funny how both of us find the path that leads us down the correct path. You have such a great head on your shoulders and I am so inspired by the way you keep overcoming. I just hope to do the same!

  5. Doug Hart says:

    For what it’s worth I always was told that alcoholism was merely the symptom of bigger underlying problems. Meaning that abstinence doesn’t remove the problem. That what is needed is a total rewrite of a person’s philosophy on life. I think?

  6. I think this is really important … all of us who have had issues of one type or another are forever recovering. Thanks so much for sharing, and I am sorry you are struggling with your son 😦

    For me it is food – it is fundamental to where I have been and who I am. I say that I will have an unhealthy relationship with food forever, even if I am very healthy in my eating now. It is little things – I have a doctor appointment at 1PM today. I did my normal morning run, but haven’t eaten anything, and packed my breakfast & lunch for after. I normally have a physical early morning, so because it is later, I still wanted a ‘fasting weight’ … I am also wearing a short-sleeve lightweight shirt when it was 34F this morning. Like you say, it is recognizing the ‘faulty wiring’.

    So when I read all of these running blogs, and so many of them are young women in their 20s who think that once past their eating disorder they are ‘recovered’ … and then are talking in posts like they are disordered all over again. It never really goes away.

    • Not that I would ever claim this about myself, but I think it takes a great deal of maturity to accept that the disorder will always be hovering in the background. Once we accept it, it is easier to deal with than if we pretend it’s done and over.

      I worry about these young women you mention because I see what you are seeing, and they are very defensive about their behavior. But not only are they doing themselves a disservice, but they set an example for others. I’d much rather hear about people who struggle like me and what they do to overcome it.

  7. Boy can I understand this post. A lot. The best thing though, is that you are aware of WHY you are doing what you do. When I feel like things are out of control, I immediately want to go on a diet or eat a bag of chips or have a meltdown. At least when I feel the feelings, I know to step back and look at what’s going on so I know WHY I’m feeling so garbled. Thank goodness my husband sees the look in my eyes and can just let me do what I need to do. Most of those times, I just have to go run, read, be by myself for a day or so until I get a handle on it. Cry. I think about my kids too. My 12 year old is so much like me and it scares the crap out of me, but then again, I just try to teach him the tools I wish I had. Will pray for your son, for you, and hugs to you. Thanks for this post.

  8. Fantastic post because of your understanding of yourself, your honesty and all the work you explain on here.

    Like you I don’t drink but I know that I drank to numb feelings and emotions. My alcoholism is an emotional disease it is not just about drinking alcohol.

    Like you I mostly remain vigilant to how emotions can rule me or I can try to rule them. So I have to work consciously at accepting them, processing them and going through them etc. But it is hard work, and also like someone who has English as a native language feels like suddenly the world is speaking and writing Mandarin.

    Don’t blame yourself too much over your kid if you can there is only so much anyone can do/have done about anyone when they reach that age.

    Finally that moment when you look at some new drink or whatever and suddenly the bell goes off. Happened in the summer I was getting the booze in for a family BBQ, they didn’t have what the girls wanted so I couldn’t just grab and go I had to look. Suddenly the shelf was calling me in. So I did just grab a load of stuff and take it home – the only complaint, the amount I bought! I got the 8 for some amount of money offer… I mean it was only 8 that’d do me fine why were two of them saying “Why have you got so much”… πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for a most inspirational post

  9. Syd says:

    A fellow I sponsor is struggling with a food addiction. I don’t know how to help him but have referred him to OA and FA people I know. He is young and very obese. I am afraid that even though he has worked the steps in Al-Anon, he doesn’t see how much food is controlling his life. Thanks for this post.

  10. I am usually always acting out in one way or another — that’s the nature of addiction. I settle for (trying) to find something “good” to be “addicted” to.
    Its quite the same as being a dry drunk, though because the goal would be to never let myself be anchored and controlled by a certain behavior at all. To just accept life on its own terms. Yet I still feel that need to … just… fix.

  11. Thank you for speaking so earnestly about your past and present with addiction. My ex-husband is a (recent) recovering addict and while he’s been very willing to explain what it’s like to me, I admittedly have a hard time comprehending what it’s like. It’s immensely helpful to hear another perspective and to “see” what it’s like for someone else. Truly, thank you.

    • It’s a good sign that he is willing to explain things to you. I always feel that recovery stands a better chance when not kept in secret. I understand and respect people who wish to remain anonymous in their recovery, but for me, I feel better being open about it. I like to say I’m not embarassed that I’m a sober alcoholic. What was embarassing was my active addiction that I went to pains to hide.

      I wish you and your ex well. It seems like you continue to have a friendly relationship and I am sure he is grateful for whatever support you are able to give him.

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