Days sober: 88
(and made it through the holidays)
“Trying to help an addict is like watching someone drown in 4 feet of water and not being able to convince them that they can save themselves by just standing up”.
-Unknown, heard in Al-anon
My husband is an addict. He was drowning. He is a recovering addict. Then he stood up. When I told him this quote, he responded by saying that standing up felt more like like jumping over a 50 foot hurdle. Damn near impossible.
Life when my husband was actively using is truly unforgettable and not in the good way. It’s memory like looking into a shattered mirror, a mosaic image, cracked, millions of mismatched pieces, seemingly irreparable, cutting shards of sharp glass edges, it’s reflection a monstrosity distorted, bleeding heart, jagged face. When my husband was actively using and living in the conniving cycle of addiction, I would look into reality’s broken mirror and dream of rehab. It was a wish for the realization of just one day in our future, the day he would go in. I imagined that one day over and over again. My fists beating and mind’s voice screaming at the top of her lungs, I would silently, openly, desperately beg him to: “JUST STAND UP!”
The battle for an addicted loved one’s surrender to treatment is just that, a battle. Contending with the fight or flight sub-cortical brain. Breaking through to the hijacked cortex. Attempting to reason with the unreasonable denial and manipulation. Trying to help a person whose only next move is to get another fix. This battle often feels impossible. Beating fists: “JUST STAND UP!” I have described my life married to an active drug abuser as a state of “survival mode”: make it to work, pay bills, avoid overdose, not cry at work, avoid breaking down, talk to family, keep from imploding, and try not to self destruct. I was not concerned with long term recovery at that point, just to survive another day. Another day offered another chance at surrender, another shot at rehab, another opportunity for him to get help. At that point, surrender and then treatment was the ONLY next step, and the day of entry was all I was wishing for. Pleading screams: “JUST STAND UP!” The possibility of rehab provided hope in a sea of hopelessness. That one day a light at the end of the tunnel, the city’s sun rays at the end of a rotting sewer, kept me going. Now that day has come and gone, with 44 more days of rehab, now home, and 88 days sober. We are in the walking phase.
A spiral downwards into the abyss of addiction, on my knees through a festering sewer, a climb to self love, a fight for surrender, a STAND UP for rehab, a free fall to letting go, and now, here I am. On the other side of using, just barely. My husband stood up. This is not the other side of addiction, this is recovery in addiction. This is early recovery in addiction. My husband is now walking, one day at a time. I know that we are balancing on the edge of a precipice. Keep walking. The vertigo is disarming, no matter the strength of my harness. Damn life, just damn. In a previous post, with my husband’s homecoming from rehab nearing, I speculated that recovery is surrender, then survival, then life. Now my mind wanders, ponders: surrender, stand up, hold on, survive, walk, balance, then life. And all the while keep on surviving. Always, always, always living life in love and connection. Standing, walking, connecting, moving forward, loving. Living.
My husband is back from rehab. First he stood and now he is walking. With advisement from professionals, literature, my therapist, and peers in the recovery community, here are some of the things recommended for families to help support a loved one back from rehab and in early recovery:
-educate yourself: its important that we are informed about addiction and recovery in order to access resources, continue recovery with an aftercare plan (outpatient, meetings, counseling etc.), and make informed decisions to guide treatment.
-have a plan: help your loved one with creating their recovery plan to ensure continued success and sobriety. Treatment doesn’t end with rehab, in fact it’s just the beginning.
-clean up house: make sure they have a safe, drug free home environment.
-practice sobriety: either full-time or when you’re with them. Avoid situations where there will be heavy drinking or partying.
-communicate: be open and don’t avoid talking. We can be an active participant in recovery by communicating about treatment plans, discussing goals for recovery, and being there if they need to talk.
-take care of yourself: engage is self-love. Make sure you are getting the help you need whether it is therapy, support groups, or just making it to your weekly yoga class.
-provide support: life isn’t going to change overnight. Give your loved one space to adjust to sober reality, be emotionally supportive, participate in healthy activities with them, and be patient. Go to an AA or NA meeting with them if they feel comfortable with it. Listen, offer encouragement, be understanding. I am working on giving him quiet loving space when needed.
-recruit others: encourage the rest of your family and friends to stay involved and provide positive support. Avoid unhealthy relationships and people.
-create a recovery contract: one that sets realistic goals and holds individuals in recovery accountable for his or her actions. We have not done this yet, but it’s on our to do list for 2017. I will post it once we do.
6 months ago my life was shattered, a mirror reflecting a soul disconnected, a million broken pieces. My husband chasing death like a hungry vulture. Drowning in 4 feet of water. I started this blog 6 months ago with a mission to rediscover myself, learn self-love, and move on in healing. 88 days ago my husband surrendered and stood up. Today he went to work. SOBER. He is walking. Now, together, we are putting the broken pieces back together.
Peace and love. Be kind to others; addicted or not; in recovery or not.
Links about creating a recovery contract here: