When I was getting high I didn’t spend time thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t getting high. That’s the truth. I knew a day would come (which I could hopefully put off as long as possible) when I’d have to give up certain drugs or get serious about trying to control them. Living without drugs and alcohol never crossed my mind.
When I finally got clean it felt like I’d landed on a parallel universe, one where everything was familiar yet indescribably different. My awareness of small moment-to-moment experiences ran at a high frequency and anything could trip me up. I was consumed by a self-consciousness I hadn’t experienced since puberty. Every single thing I did was a “first time clean” experience and I knew it because my awakening emotional life was now along for the ride. Learning how to live life on life’s terms that first year was like an acid trip without the acid –exciting, terrifying, and uncomfortably amusing. There’s much truth to the saying “Buckle up. You’re in for the ride of your life.”
July 4th is almost here, the first long weekend of summer. There’ll be barbeques, house parties, rooftop parties, fireworks, and gatherings of family and friends. It’s a big party weekend and days leading up to it kick up a lot of feelings for people in early recovery. Everyone’s asking, “What are you doing for the fourth?” adding to the insurmountable social pressure you’re already experiencing. You’re worried that if you don’t make a plan you’ll be alone or forgotten. You already know how the holiday plays out with your family so that’s out. A few people are going to watch fireworks but so far no one’s directly invited you along. Horrific feelings of anticipated rejection are eating you alive. When did you become so sensitive? There are incoming calls from numbers you deleted when you first got sober but you don’t pick up and old friends are suddenly texting you invites to parties where you know everyone’s going to be getting wasted. Those used to be great parties. You used to love the Fourth of July. You start fantasizing about showing up just to see how everyone’s doing and forget to mention the texts to anyone in your support group. This stupid holiday has had you vacillating between excitement and dread for over a week. Everyone around you seems to be unaffected by it which only isolates you more in your head. Maybe you won’t do anything – just stay home and wait for July 5th.
I’ve included the inner dialogue in the above paragraph so people having their first clean and sober Independence Day will know that thoughts and feelings like these are pretty common in early recovery. It’s hard not to trip when fear of the unknown is equally matched by a selective memory replaying scenes from holidays gone by before drugs and alcohol had become a problem. Stay safe and have fun. Enjoy this weekend. You have many holidays ahead and you’ll be comfortable to go anywhere in ways you can’t even imagine yet. There’s a lot to be gained by spending your first sober Independence Day with people in recovery – even if you barely know them. Find out what’s going on and invite yourself along. One thing is certain; by the end of the day you’ll know them much better.