For anyone just checking into this blog for the first time, last week I wrote about what to expect for people who made Jan 1st their first day clean. (Go to pattypowersnyc.com/my-blog to open up all previous blog posts). Hopefully this continuing thread will be useful to anyone newly clean or thinking about getting clean.
Let’s talk about physical withdrawal. How quickly your body snaps back to feeling normal is dependent on your drug of choice, how big your habit was, and how long you were doing it. Most likely, if you were coming off legal drugs, you did it at a detox center or by gradually lowering your dose over time with a doctor. It takes longer to feel physically better when you get clean from legal drugs (alcohol, painkillers, benzos, ambien, methadone, suboxone). Illegal drugs are quicker. Heroin is a horrible kick but after 3-4 days the worst of the dope sickness is over. Meth, coke, crack and club drugs have no real physical withdrawal – other than feeling completely run down.
Getting clean is a lot more than getting the drugs out of the system – believe it or not, that’s the easy part. Most addicts have had to go without drugs for one reason or another so physical withdrawal is nothing new. The real hell is what happens in your head: the mental obsession. This is the inner torment and twisted logic which continually comes back around to the idea of giving up. You know – the voice that says you weren’t that bad, 12 step program’s aren’t for you, you can do it different this time and keep it under control, or just straight -up screams “Fuck this shit. I’m getting high and I’ll deal with this later.”
It’s the 15th today, and if you got clean on New Year’s Day you’ve come to the end of your second week. 15 days clean! You’ve probably noticed by now that you stopped late-night weeping over the time in 1999 when your parent’s sent you hard-earned birthday money that you spent on drugs, or the hospital visit or funeral you missed because you were too loaded, or any number of long-forgotten memories of things you fucked up or people you disappointed. These crept into your head whenever you tried sleeping those first 8 or 9 days clean. Haunting regret arrives the 2nd or 3rd day clean and creates so much inner noise and torment that it makes you want to get high just to escape it. I mean, seriously, if this is what it’s going to feel like to be clean, to have to live with all these horrible feelings and thoughts – why do it? But, as you see, they start to lose their power during the second week clean. Aren’t you glad you stuck it out? Oh, they’ll sneak back into your head from time to time but it won’t be as debilitating because now you have the experience to know that these things do pass. You’ll hear that expression a lot in meetings “This too shall pass.” Now you know what they mean.
I bet you probably still aren’t sleeping or not getting much, if any. I didn’t sleep either. I took little cat-naps for four or five months. It may have been withdrawal or maybe it was all the late night after-meeting espresso I was drinking. Who’s to say? I promise though, you will sleep again.
Did you follow the suggestions I left last week? They’ll help speed up your physical recovery and lift your spirits out of the darkness. If you didn’t and you still feel crazy and your body feels like shit, do it this week and see if you can feel a difference. It’s important to have a daily plan – an addict new to recovery with too much time alone, too much time alone with their mind, with an idle body and a lousy diet will not fare well. This doesn’t mean you won’t stay clean but you’re making a choice to make this process harder on yourself. Plus, if you don’t see things getting better, you’ll convince yourself that it sucks to be clean and lose the desire to keep trying. The most common bullshit addicts tell themselves when they decide to use again is “If it gets bad, I know what to do.” (meaning: get clean and go to meetings). There are two flaws in this logic. One, they are forgetting what “if it gets bad” really means. It means loss, suffering and more pain. Two, how long did they fantasize about getting clean before they ever got around to doing it this time? Months? Years? How long will it take before they are ready to try again, really? So if you didn’t follow the suggestions in last week’s post, maybe now is a good time to commit to them. Feel better physically and mentally, and start creating new habits to fill your time. Remember staying clean works by having the willingness to go to any lengths – which means doing things people suggest that worked for them even when you don’t want to.
“Nothing happens until something moves.” -Einstein
If you did follow the suggestions you’ve been eating 3 times a day and drinking a lot of water, you’ve been getting outside for a walk every day, you exercised at least 3 times, you’ve had some quiet time, you’ve been to at least one meeting a day and you’ve started building some friendships up with people who are clean and sober. So what’s going to change going into week three?
What you eat affects your energy and your mood. I‘m going to emphasize diet this week because you want to feel better – right?
If you’ve been piling on lumberjack-size portions at every meal, look out. Everyone starts to freak out at 30 days that they have gained a ton of weight. I believe that, in some respect, the body’s in shock and the metabolism isn’t up to par but I also know that 3 pieces of pie or potatoes at two meals a day is going to put on the pounds regardless of your metabolism. It’s fine to load yourself up on food the first couple of weeks. I always make large portions for my clients because I am trying to help them land back into their body and feel a little grounded but by week three it starts to change. This week I want you to have salad with 2 meals a day. I don’t care if it’s a small salad on the side of your plate or a large bowl. If you hate lettuce, slice some tomatoes and cucumbers or any fresh raw vegetable – I don’t care what it is – have a small portion of raw vegetables with lunch and dinner (or a larger salad sometime during your evening). I want you to also have cooked vegetables twice a day with your lunch and dinner. This doesn’t have to be huge. It can be a small portion – but not canned vegetables. I am not counting yams or potatoes as vegetables. In fact, whenever you have yams, potatoes, rice or pasta, make those portions smaller than you have been doing your first two weeks clean (if you were loading up on them). Don’t stuff yourself full of bread as a meal either. I am not putting you on a diet by the way. Just have regular sized meals that include salad and vegetables. Fresh fruit is good with breakfast, and as a snack. Be sure to eat fresh fruit at least twice a day – during or between meals. If you eat fruit daily, you’ll notice you’re less likely to grab for pastries or sweets. One of these days I will do a blog specifically about food since it can improve mental clarity, energy and it’s a fact that poor diet contributes to depression.
Fresh air and walking: did you get outside much last week? I don’t mean walking from the car to the door. Did you go for walks like I suggested? This week I want you to walk further. Add ten to fifteen minutes to last week’s walk. It’s Day 15 – you can do it.
What about exercise? If you skipped this one last week, this is the week to really give it your best shot. Whatever you decided to do – swim, jog, the gym – make sure you do it 30-45 minutes three to four times this week. It’s going to alleviate anxiety and help you sleep better. Remember your pleasure receptors have been messed up with drugs so you want to get them activated again. Hitting an endorphin high with exercise will not only feel good but it will start repairing the damage you’ve caused. Any age, but especially if you are over 30 – make sure you stretch before and after your work out. You can find stretching techniques online.
Meetings and fellowship: did you go every day? If you didn’t, what was your excuse for not going? Did you use every day? You should definitely go as much as you used. They suggest 90 meetings in 90 days for a reason. It takes 90 days to create or break a habit. Plus, the truth is, if you go every day, you’ll start to know people and they’ll notice if you stop coming around and call you – but no one will call you if they don’t know you. They’ll also notice when you feel like shit and ask what’s going on. It’s better to have people watching out for you than being self-reliant because as smart as you are, you couldn’t figure out how to control your using/drinking. In fact, your best thinking got you here. Learning how to live with the joys and disappointments in life without getting high over them takes time. Which brings me to:
Have you been calling any of the people you met in meetings? Have you gone out for coffee or a snack with anyone or with a group after a meeting yet? This is the hardest thing for many addicts/alcoholics who are newly clean and sober but it is the one thing that will help you to stay clean. I know – you don’t relate. You think half of them are assholes. You wouldn’t have gone to a bar with any of them. You’d have never gotten high with them. Well, this may be true but remember – you may know a lot of things about a lot of things but you don’t know how to stay clean and they do. Let them teach you how. This week make an effort to get to know a few people. Go out one or two times with people from your meetings. You don’t have to stay long. Just make the effort. It might make a difference between staying clean or getting loaded this week. (By the third week I’m with a client I make them go on “play dates” without me. It’s hell getting them to do it. Unlike them, you haven’t had me taking you out with a group of people every night after meetings so you probably aren’t at this stage yet. If you are, terrific – keep building up your support group. If you aren’t, make this week a week where you at least go out with the group one time. Definitely start calling some of the people on your list.
Yoga: Ha, I could actually see you cringe as I wrote that word. If you have an ounce of adventure in your spirit, go to one class somewhere this week. Everyone else, go to Youtube, the library, a yoga or book store and get a dvd of the easiest yoga they have out there and try it at home. Just give it one try and see how you feel afterward. If you spend a lot of time at the computer, you’ll feel your shoulders open up in a way they haven’t in years. You’ll feel all the tension you’ve been carrying around leave. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Tai Chi is another thing that works your core and reduces stress. Just try something this week. You can knock off one workout if you do it.
If you have the money, this week treat yourself to a massage. There are schools that charge a low fee. See what’s available where you are located. It’s a treat but you’ve worked hard to get here. Plus, it’s like having someone take the psychic sludge off your Being that you’ve been piling on while you were using. Ha – that sounds hippy-dippy but there’s something to it.
By staying busy with this schedule, you’ll have less time for mental torture. It will still come up but like I mentioned earlier, these thoughts will pass. Any real wreckage from your past will get taken care of once you find a sponsor and start working the steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you don’t have to clean up your entire life this week. Keep the focus on right now. This is a time where you are taking baby steps to learn how to live without drugs and alcohol. It is a HUGE positive thing you are doing. Don’t diminish it by telling yourself you’re a fuck up and things will never get better. They will. You’ll see.
And if you can’t sleep and feel crazy, go online. http://www.Intherooms.com has online meetings, groups, and members you can instant message with who can help you.
Have a great week.