The last article, when we got clean together, there was a major thing I neglected to mention. There are teas and other ‘remedies’ on the market that promise to ease withdrawal. I strongly advise you to pass on them. The comfort they add is minimal and, make no mistake, you will come up hot for opiates if you have to take a whiz quiz. ‘Nuff said.
OK, we have 4 days clean and are working on a week. So what do we do NOW? This is a crucial time for us, my friend. Make no mistake about that point. All that suffering will be for naught with just one use. PLEASE keep in mind that I was a heavy user for decades, not some BS artist at a rehab clinic. Your resistance is not going to go down for years and the cravings will pop up unexpectedly, much like an erection at church. It is just as embarrassing, too. Most of us addicts are self-medicating thrill-seekers and boredom is a mortal enemy of ours.
It is time to take a little inventory of ourselves. Did you get clean before losing any or all of the following?
• Your partner
• Your job
• Your real friends
• Your freedom
• Your earthly possessions
There are quite a few reasons for asking but the most pressing one for now is how are we going to spend our time and cope with our loss? I mean, hard drugs have been our best friend and lover for some time now and we have to cope with our loss. We will go over the grief cycle in a minute but let us stick with the subject of our partner for a minute or two. Even freshly clean, did you notice the libido coming back? Boy, it is so nice to be able to climax again. I am not trying to shoehorn sex into the discussion just to raise eyebrows. It is an integral part of any deep relationship and one of our core hungers.
Hard drugs had warped our way of feeling pleasure, our perceptions of it, and convoluted our entire way of thinking. Small wonder just getting over the withdrawal is only the beginning. If we were lucky enough to keep our partner’s love until now, accommodations need to be made. We need to let them know that some very rough waters still lie ahead. Being clean may mean the end of lying, stealing, disappearing, and the host of other shaky crap drugs have us do.
The readjustment back into the world of sane, responsible adulthood is no cakewalk either. Sometimes this part of our journey makes Frodo’s march through Mordor look like a conga line. It will take an entire article to look at work, friends, not being in jail, and what we have left in our lives. Now that we are clean, what is pressing right now is the grief cycle and how we are going to deal with it. Let us look at grief and how it affects our early recovery. There are five stages to the grief cycle. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You do not have to memorize them. As we get clean, they will appear so many times and in so many ways, we will never forget them.
Just because we have kicked “it” for a week now does not mean denial is in dormancy. It is as sneaky and inexplicable as the rest of the madness we call addiction. For me, it popped up in a way that seemed so reasonable. A week without copping, arms starting to heal, and the memory of the flu from hell had me a little cocky. As I strutted about with puffed chest, I figured I had this beat. In a century that may be funny to me but right now, I am still embarrassed even thinking about it. I began to question whether I was really a junkie or had I just became a little too fond of it? No kidding, only a week has gone by and we starting thinking like that. If that isn’t classic denial, I would wonder what is.
The anger part comes and goes so often we may fear we have lost our ability to reason during withdrawal. I do not mean just being short-tempered because of being clean. I am talking about a slow-burning rage just below our surface. I was angry with myself for allowing all of this to happen. I was mad at God for making me that way. I was mad at people for abandoning me. The list of things that make us angry due to drugs could fill a hard drive. These are all things you can discuss with your partner as we try to reason them out of our system. This is where fellowships help some people a great deal. That is its own article a ways down the line. The premise that we are going through this series is one of privacy. I am assuming only you, me, your computer, and your loved ones can know you are in early recovery.
On the surface bargaining may seem a non-issue in addiction recovery. I mean, it’s not like we have cancer or our mom passed away. Once we start examining it, we do see a bargaining stage of us losing our secret lover heroin. Maybe I can just use on the weekends is a big one with some folks. I will never use three days in a row again is the bastard cousin of the weekend use lie. It is human nature to remember good things and pleasure much more sharply than the bad things and the pain they caused. This observation supports denial but it also seems to be what empowers bargaining delusions. Just as time makes long gone girlfriends prettier and you convince yourself the infantry did not suck that much, we start to minimize the damage drug use caused and remember the fun part. Bargaining makes us believe we can recapture the fun without the consequences.
I believe now its time for us to look at depression and its place in early recovery. I am not a professional counselor nor a psych/med technician nor do I make any implied claims that I am in any way qualified to counsel folks. I am just an ex-junkie sharing with you and praying for you. Depression is serious business and why I made that disclaimer. The temporary depression that sets in when you realize you can’t get high anymore is what I am talking about. To this day I truly miss smoking a joint, especially when playing video games. Will a joint kill me? Not in the real sense, it won’t. Will it make me run out and get some skag? Again, most likely no. But who knows what thread being pulled will unravel the whole sweater? Knowing I lost my weed privileges can depress me even now, years later. Don’t dwell on things lost, money spent, how you came to be where you are at. True, those things need to be examined but do not overdo it. A healthy correction can slide into an unhealthy self-hating vent all too easily. If you are blessed enough to still be in a relationship, find out why they decided to stick it out with you. The answers may be a very uplifting surprise.
Finally we reach that holy grail of recovery, acceptance. Do not be discouraged if this comes and goes in strength, duration, or intensity. I have a friend who is into her third decade of freedom from heroin. During a conversation, she shared a solid observation with me.”You can never forget you were once an addict. Not as punishment but to see your world the way it is and the way it was.” That statement from her has been a real cornerstone in my life. For me, acceptance means not beating myself up too much and doing my best to build for tomorrow.
I guess that’s it for now. I thank you for taking the time for us to have this little talk about our first week clean together. Feel like a quick recap? The grand achievement of getting clean is just the start of the road. We need to take a look at what we have and figure out how we are going to keep it. The loss of our chemical crutch and best friend is going to cause grief. This is normal and we need to look at how it makes us feel. Finally, do not let life climb on top of you. Even if we are looking down the barrel of going back to jail, clean is the only way to face life. Even on my worst days, I can look in the mirror and say ‘at least I am clean’. I am proud of you and look forward to our next chat. We will go into friends, work, life, and what’s left. Before I forget, do not run out and try to pick someone up if you are alone. Trust me on that and remind me to talk about it later.