Anonymously written 6/1/2016
I got clean and sober from heroin and alcohol in 1990 and worked a healthy program of recovery for 15 years. I went to 12 step meetings several times a week, worked the Steps with a sponsor, did service work, and maintained spiritual connection with my Higher Power. Well, you might ask, what happened? Life happened, and with added stressors in my world I started struggling to cope on life’s terms.
I started a full time job as an alcohol and drug counselor working in a very demanding environment and began to feel that my recovery was taking a back seat. Long hours at work and increased fatigue put a damper on my meeting schedule. I rationalized that I was working in the field of addiction and helping other addicts, so it was ok to miss a meeting or 2 along the way. In addition, I was intimately involved with a boyfriend who I came to find out was actively practicing his own drug addiction. Needless to say, our relationship became tumultuous, as we started arguing all the time and he began showing signs of being emotionally abusive toward me. I reacted in trying to control his using while at the same time financially enabling him. I started attending Alanon meetings instead of my own NA meetings, and found my codependent focus on my boyfriend overwhelming my recovering status.
I began experiencing symptoms of depression again, which had been stabilized by antidepressants for a number of years. I felt constantly sad and hopeless, was extremely fatigued all the time, had loss of pleasure in activities for which I used to enjoy, was excessively sleeping to avoid my emotional pain, had feelings of worthlessness, and indecisiveness. Despite efforts to seek medical help, my depression spiraled down into suicidal thinking. In desperation, I chose to self-medicate with alcohol and heroin. My warped thinking at that time was to numb out my feelings rather than attempt suicide, yet in the process I nearly killed myself twice due to overdosing. Within 1 week I lost my job, had ended my relationship with my boyfriend, started participating in mental health treatment, and got back into the rooms of recovery.
So, what did I learn from this experience? I learned once again how important my recovery is to my very existence, let alone my well being and happiness. Sometimes we forget and need to be reminded what a precious gift we have in recovery; one that needs to be constantly nurtured and savored above all else. I also learned that my relapse doesn’t have to be seen as a failure if I learn from it, and it reinforces my commitment to stay strong, know my limits, maintain a healthy recovery program, and choose self-care in order to cope effectively with what life throws me. I just celebrated 10 years of recovery last month, and although I am feeling extremely grateful for this time accrued, I also know that what I really have is just for today!