I’m completely, utterly alone… And okay with it! But why?
Old timers in recovery say to purely focus on yourself for the first year of recovery. It’s stated to be a good habit to get into. Truth be told, a lot of people need more time than that. I know I did!
It took me three and a half years to get comfortable with the most important person in my life before I could let anyone else into it, too. That person that was so important was me, myself, and I. Simply put, I needed to love myself.
I remember being completely miserable for the first few years of my recovery. It probably stemmed from the thought of when I was using I was absorbed in being the life of the party. This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone….
Even when I was alone I was the leader of my own sh#! show. So when it came time to get clean, into the real essence of recovery, I was alone. And when I say alone, it was a lot! I became very depressed because of this, but it was a blessing; as long as I didn’t use. It was a blessing because the number one person who was abused during my addiction was me. So a little bit of alone time could do my soul some good.
Though at first I started to hate myself. I’d always contemplate during my worst times of depression: “Why don’t I have any friends?” But now I could see why it was so easy to succumb back into “old places, old habits,” again. Relapse was always in the back of my mind during this phase. But, so was doing the right thing. This is a big reason people relapse and it breaks my heart. So, I had to make a choice. And that I did:
1) Become true to myself
2) Become truly selfish
The two may seem close, but if you think long and hard about each outcome they aren’t even in the same ballpark. One reason was to give into my old self destructive habits, and use drugs as my best friend, my escape, my downfall. Or the other was to become my true self, someone I am comfortable with, alone or not. I needed to become someone who was true to me and then become true to those who loved me. This was the first step I needed to break the prison of depression I was in during early recovery.
Tip 1: It’s hard to say in times of using who your real friends are, but it usually comes with the one’s who don’t ask anything of you besides your company. This consists of family for me. For you? I don’t know.
I went through a stage in early recovery where no one around me was good enough and I wasn’t okay with being alone, at all. This was the biggest learning experience of my life. At one point in my life I was the one everyone loved to be around, and I loved being around everyone. That was now gone. I was either too fed into my anxieties of “what if” and “if only,” to realize anything better. Or I was making a situation to unmanageable for depression of early recovery to overcome.
There were times I would feel like committing self harm. But this was used more as a cry of attention. But, I didn’t. I would cause loud outbursts in my family room just to get noticed, but it didn’t help. The truth is, I wasn’t happy being alone. Mostly alone in my head, but sometimes surrounded by everyone and nothing at the same time. It was a confusing part of my life.
There were people out there that loved me—they truly did—but I was tormented by imagining the past. I was holding on to something I couldn’t have anymore and recreating it for self destructive purposes. I was hoping for a life that would kill me if I went back to it, and I truly needed to let go of my reservation. I needed to leave it in the past, not bring it to the now, and let the future to be determined with positive affirmations.
Here’s some reasons reservations will make you uncomfortable during addiction recovery. Simple, yet truthful:
I am not comfortable being me.
I am not comfortable being me without you
I am not comfortable
In early recovery we are told to reach out. This is because the first months are completely and utterly, lonely. We don’t know who we can trust in our old life, or know why we shouldn’t. We also don’t feel that we’re undeserving to trust anyone in our new life. So, which way is there to go? We must trust being alone. We must trust being completely alone, in order to trust being with someone else ever again. We must trust in ourselves before the barrier will be broken between our self defeating mind and the world outside.
I remember times in my early recovery that were a true testament to my loneliness. I’d lost someone close to me right before getting clean and grieved, for a long time. It took me two years before I started focusing on me, not us. It felt like a divorce, and not just from drugs. It felt like a divorce from anything I previously knew. This is why many health practitioners will say one of the two things:
A) Get rid of the addiction and the mental health will go away
B) Get rid of the mental health and the addiction will go away
But, it’s truly hard to understand what comes first, or if one goes away will the other be worse instead?
At two years into my recovery I started to get too restless for my own good. Any great historian will say that a revolution only sparks when the agitation of society is at its bursting point. My mind was a dilapidating society ready for either self-destruction or a revolutionary change. I was there! I was ready to burst or be miserable for the rest of my life.
So what did I do? I started doing things by myself, for myself, because of myself. I started going out for coffee (or tea in my case… I love tea!). I did just about anything to get out, even if I stayed indoors. The point wasn’t to get out of somewhere physically—although it helps. The point was to get out of myself mentally and emotionally. This way I could take a step back and evaluate the situations I was in, around, or becoming.
I finally started to trust myself when things began to slow down. Because, one of the worst things I had to learn to deal with when accepting myself was how slow life actually moved, compared to when using drugs or people. It was a hellish and fiery lifestyle when using drugs or people. That’s not true when sober, though. Life was more about walking away, assessing situations, and letting our minds adjust before just, “jumping in.”
I used to tell my parents I was going out on a dinner date. They would get excited, “Maybe he’s started dating again?” But, the answer was no. I started going out to dinner with myself. I was treating myself to all of the things I had missed out on when in addiction. I was pampering the sober life. I was truly teaching myself what it meant like to be alone, but okay with it too. Once I learned what it was like to be alone, and okay with it, new opportunities emerged. I started finding new outlets like education, and eventually meeting someone. But, none of this would have been possible if I didn’t make things right with the person that mattered most, first: Me!
Sometimes I had to walk away to make myself happy in order to be happy with other people. I was learning to go out and make the best of each situation, but I still had a problem meeting people. What was the issue?
Was I forcing myself to meet other people when the only person I needed to meet was myself?
Covered up with years of abuse and abusing people the one person that was abused the most was my inner most self. This took me into year three of my recovery. Once I made it a point to put myself first, I was able to make time to love other things too. Before, I was caught up in the “poor, poor pitiful me,” scenario. So, if I have one piece of advice to those struggling with this now it is this:
“Putting yourself first in recovery is not the same as it is in addiction. Putting yourself first in recovery means making time to take care of the important things. Putting yourself first means making yourself available to love. To love yourself, and be able to love others again. Putting yourself first is not selfish. There are certain things we must do in order to keep on living, but not just living. There are certain things we must do in order to live a healthy, productive life. This is the essence of recovering. This is not selfish; this is purely survival.”
When learning to put myself first I learned that being with me wasn’t so bad. I was kind of, well, completely alone, still. But this time I was okay within myself because I was sober and working on moving forward each and every day. I wasn’t stuck in the “woe is me” scenarios anymore, because it was about me in a different way.
Today I am happily married to the love of my life, but that’s not to say we are connected at the hip. She loves make-up, I love writing. I go to school, she works. We find ways to be comfortable being away from each other. It’s these moments that make the times we are together even more applicable to cherish. I love her with all my heart, but I love myself too. There was no love in my life until I learned the love that mattered most. Then the possibilities were endless, and made it possible to show that recovery truly is possible.
Today, I am okay with being completely alone. Yet, today I am comfortable being with others, too. It was a learning process, but it was worth it. I’m still working on it to this day. But, I wouldn’t be where I am today, alive and free from addiction, if I never learned to love myself. I wouldn’t be married and starting a beautiful family if I wasn’t open for the love. And all of this came from accepting who I truly am. I’m truly proud of that person today. I truly am. I’m me, and I’m okay with that now.
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