When I was a kid I remember thinking the year 2000 sounded futuristic so I did the math to see if I would still be alive. (I’d be 40 – which is like saying 80 to an 8 year old). Little did I know that in my teens I’d adopt the belief system of “live fast, die young, leave a pretty corpse” basically accepting I’d be dead before 30 – which was a real possibility given the way I was living. Glad I got clean at 28 and not only lived to see 2000 but am still here in 2012.
I love the phrase “Welcoming in the New Year”. It sounds so cheerful and optimistic. I’ve never been big on New Years’ resolutions but I know people make them. In fact, if you decided to make January 1st your first day clean and sober, I applaud you. I bet when you made that decision you were feeling pretty optimistic. It’s the 6th as I write this so by now you probably have had 6 days of inner dialogue that sounds something like this:
“Maybe I should have waited and done this______ (1,when my vacation time comes up, 2 when I don’t have so many things to do, 3. When I get a job/apartment/car, 4. Some other time).”
“I feel like shit. I didn’t feel this bad when I was getting high/drunk.”
“I haven’t slept all week. I have too much to do. Maybe these other people can go without sleep – but I need it. I should call my doctor and get something to help me sleep.”
“If another person tells me to join a gym or meditate or go to yoga I am going to start screaming. These people don’t have any idea how I am feeling. Are they crazy? Half of them don’t look like they’ve been to a gym in their life. I hate everyone.”
“What I need is a drink. I bet if I have one drink I will be able to sleep tonight.”
“It feels like I have no skin and my nerve endings are exposed. Everything makes me feel so intense. I cried during a commercial yesterday. I’m going crazy.”
“If I don’t take something soon I’m going to end up hitting someone – then I’ll wind up in jail. Seriously – why am I even doing this? I feel so angry that I’m probably a danger to society.”
“I feel so lonely – like “I’m so lonely I’m gonna die” lonely. How the hell am I ever going to meet anyone if I can’t go to bars? This makes no sense. I can go to a bar and order a coke. Yeah, right – and then what? Sit with a coke and feel crazy. I won’t be able to talk to anyone. Great – I will be clean and sober and in the end I will die alone.’
“What the hell is wrong with me? I have been masturbating like a teenager. I’m pathetic. I feel crazy. I bet if I got laid, it would straighten my head out. At least maybe it would help me sleep.”
“I don’t even remember why I decided to get clean Jan 1st. I never make resolutions. This is ridiculous. I have been useless and crazy for 6 days and it’s affecting my life. I don’t have time for this.”
“I just talked to ____ and told them I’m clean and they told me I wasn’t an addict. Maybe they’re right. I wasn’t that bad.”
Does any of this sound familiar to you? The crazy part is that this dialogue is probably occurring even when you’re having an okay time.
HERE’S THE TRICK: don’t use or drink NO MATTER WHAT and this noise and discomfort will lessen and eventually stop – guaranteed. If you stay completely abstinent, these feelings will pass. If you cheat – if you have that one beer or an ambien or anything to make your feelings more manageable – you will remain in the obsession and it will get worse not better.
Getting clean and sticking it out those first few weeks isn’t easy. The worst thing you can do is spend too much time alone with your mind. Television, Netflix, and gaming will not keep you clean – whatever bullshit your head is telling you about how these things are calming you down more than meetings do.
What you need is a plan for each day. Include this in your 24 hours:
1. Drink lots of water (move those toxins out of your system).
2. Eat healthy food. Don’t skip meals. Healthy food means incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables into your daily routine. Make that a start anyway. I’m not saying stop with the pizza and fried chicken but don’t have it every day and balance it out with salads and apples and food that is not processed.
3. Get fresh air for an hour. WALK! Even if you feel too weak, walk as far as you can, sit, and walk back. Aim every day for a little further.
4. Exercise. Not every day but try to do something at least 3-4 times a week. If you belong to a gym, great. If you can afford yoga, perfect. If you have access to a pool, swimming is the best starting point for someone who never exercises. If you have no financial resources, you can go to the library and take out a home workout video, find something online or on YouTube, you can jog, bike ride, power walk, you can do sit-ups. There is no reason you can’t move your body. It will reduce a lot of the anxiety you are experiencing. That alone makes it worthwhile.
5. Take some quiet time somewhere peaceful – not on your sofa or bed. Look at the clouds, whatever nature you can find. I mean REALLY look at the details – the way a child can be fascinated by a spider. (Most likely, this is one suggestion you are most likely to want to skip but it really is an important one. It will feed you in a way that will bring a sense of wellbeing and – really – at this point in the game you need whatever you can get).
6. Write a list of everything you are grateful for – even if it turns out to be the same as the list you wrote yesterday.
7. Call, email, or text a few people you met at meetings – whether you know them or not. If you have nothing to say, simply ask them to recommend a meeting that day. Who knows – maybe they will meet you there and go for a bite to eat afterward. Its funny how after you talk to someone on the phone once, they pay more attention to you when they see you. You go from feeling invisible to feeling visible. (BTW this is the hardest thing for people to do. When I work with clients they will wrap their legs around their head in a yoga class they don’t want to go to before they will take any action to try to make new friends. I always tell them that without friends who are also in recovery, they really are not going to ANY LENGTHS to stay clean and sober. It works by going to any lengths – which means doing things people suggest that worked for them even when you don’t want to).
8. GO TO AT LEAST ONE MEETING. (If you aren’t working and it’s possible to go to more, do it). If you are like me, it was never too hot, never too cold, never rainy too hard, I was never too busy or too tired to get high so there should be no excuse to not be able to get to a meeting. Even if you hear nothing and sit looking at the floor counting the minutes until it’s over, the act of going to a meeting sends a signal that you are serious about staying clean and sober to that part of you wanting to give up. It will help weaken it. And like I said before – by weakening it, the obsession to drink and use, the compulsive thinking about it will go away.
Look at this list. I didn’t even give you 10 things to do each day. That means there is time for a movie, family, an outing, or a social activity with friends.
End each day with a hot bath (or shower if you don’t have a tub). In fact, whenever you feel your body uncomfortably tense and your legs are cramping, a hot bath will make you feel better.
And if you can’t sleep and feel crazy, go online. Intherooms.com as online meetings, groups, and members you can instant message with who can help you.
Check back. I will be posting here every week now.