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Loss in Active Addiction and Early Recovery

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“No matter how hard I try—even when I’m up—I feel like somehow I’m losing someone.  There’s too much loss.“
-Anonymous Recovering Veteran-Close friend-Hero

With my extensive time in the addiction and recovery field I’ve come across many and lost more than I can count. There are many feelings that go around. There is a lot of laughter and a lot of smiles, there are a lot of firm handshakes and schedule keeping, too. But when I talked to someone whom I’ve become close friends with—an active duty marine—we both came up with the same feeling.


In Active Addiction

This loss got me thinking about my active addiction and early recovery. The loss was a patterned and had a behavior of it’s own. This loss was a loss many are familiar with. Sometimes you’re left asking, “When is it my turn?”

Every couple of months into my addiction I would lose another friend to overdosing. Everyone was mixing cocktails of drugs—especially booze and heroin. There was a lot of debate in the groups I hung out with: “When is it my turn?”

We’ve felt the feeling of loss so much that it didn’t affect us. We became accustomed to it.

Pretty soon we would hit a “What the F#$@” kind of patch. There would be an epidemic. We would lose a lot of people in a short amount of time and it was devastating to not just us, but the community. We were put at a loss.

Other times we would argue: “When is it my turn?” We all feared the next time it would be one of us, so we push our limits even further. You would think that this would deter us from going beyond our limits, but no, we pushed harder fighting the thin line we had drawn. We were lost.

In Early Recovery

When I got into recovery I started off on a pink cloud. This type of emotion usually come as a “false sense of reality” until the sh#$ really hits the fan. Becoming closer again with most in my family after becoming clean and things got better, they started to teeter too. But, what I must realize about life is that it has ups and downs. Things got bad, too. But with my desperate urges to please and appease everyone around me I couldn’t handle the bad. I was so fixated on all the bad that had happened in active addiction that in recovery when something went bad I resorted to—if not covered by all the drugs—would have been an oh S#$@ factor. I didn’t know how else to react, so, every time I overreacted in my recovery. The drugs weren’t there anymore so I treated the atmosphere around me as an absolute “war zone.”

It could start with something as easy as a bad text message from someone close saying, “Get home now!”…. Click.

I would wonder and cry in my mind why? What have I done again?

Who is going to cut me out of their life this time? I’ve lost so many and it hurts, am I losing you, too?

Is it all going to be over soon? When will this anxiety to those closest to me go away?

It made it nearly impossible to be around anyone close without feeling the incessant urges of loss. I was never actually losing anyone and it was simply how life operated—in an up and down fashion. That’s why we “deal with what we can.”

This all comes from the inherent nature of the addiction itself. Most of this is synthesized in the third portion of this phrase: “Jails, institutions, and death,” describing it’s intent from the start.

I became accustomed to losing people in active addiction so the closest thing I felt when something—even the slightest thing—happened I was losing not just someone, but everyone around me. When this happened things got bad.

In early addiction recovery I couldn’t find my way out of saying I’m sorry when things went bad. I respond with a fast callback. There is no answer on the other end of the telephone so I furiously smash the end button and dial back. There is no answer again. I proceed on to smash the end turning to the message key. “Hey call me back! Are you okay! I’m sorry ☹ .

I scream to the driver to speed up. I ponder in my head: “I’ve lost them all over again,” when I’ve not lost anyone at all.

How to Cope

Many addicts go through this and I know the only thing that got me past it was continuing to do the right thing. As cheesy as that sounds I couldn’t over analyze things, but I was. This is why I make a distinction between early recovery and later recovery. Many programs do the same. I was continuing to over analyze things—keeping me sick—until I could start to work on myself and fix what was going wrong internally.

I may be calling myself a little bit selfish when I say we must work on ourselves in order for others to join in too, but we must begin to truly accept what we have to work with from this point on. This is where the saying to take it “a day at a time” comes from with the incorporation of the serenity prayer.

We can’t dwell on the past and we must find the courage to do what we have control of. Then we must accept that we have to do these things with where we are today, not any moment before. Anything else than this would be too devastating for anyone to handle—not just an addict.

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