As I bypass my would-be two year anniversary of sobriety I find myself recovering from another relapse. I didn’t fall off the wagon slamming tequila, snorting everything on offer, collapsing in a room of relative strangers after a three day binge in which I spent my rent, lost a stone and had some pretty terrifying hallucinations. This time. No. It was more of a slow recline edging gently backwards into unhelpful behaviour, foggy uncertainty and negative thought patterns pointing me in the direction of the road that leads to scenario A.
When I made a conscious decision to give up alcohol, drug taking and smoking all together it wasn’t because I had lost everything and woke up by the side of the road as the stereotypical drug addict or alcoholic is so often depicted. I had experienced many a worse state in my 18 years of on again off again binging than the one I was in on the morning I chose to purge. I got sober because I recognised my pattern. I may not have been addicted to heroin and living in a dumpster but I definitely had the potential.
My habits had become unmanageable, this wasn’t the first time and it had been happening since I was a teenager. Although I had lived periods of my life relatively sober and drug free, the one-off party that I would inevitably attend instead of being just a fun night out would turn into a lifestyle change resulting in bad choices, poor health and unhappiness. I was not proud of my behaviour, felt incapable of stopping it and wanted my life to be different.
The waterfall from one glass to a bottle, one spliff to five and one line to midday was drowning me.
So I did stop. With a great deal of will power, tears and sweet-eating I pushed through the first few months. I started doing yoga and meditating, made positive changes to my life and was headed toward the road I wanted to be on.
If I’m honest the first relapse was a few months in and there have been several. My most recent spiral into alcohol and drug abuse that resulted in the decision to get properly clean and sober had begun years before and was linked to a relationship. Another pattern of mine I now realise. Whether this is about shifting blame, an inability to say no or an easy means of accessing my drug of choice I’m not quite sure but I certainly have a history of relationships with men that aid my drug and alcohol use. This is definitely something I need to work on.
Boundaries and choices.
The relationship has been fraught with trauma, based on binges and never-ending in the sense that it was always ending. Essentially we’ve been breaking up every few months now for six years. And even after I got clean and sober the relationship pattern continued. I was still not able to detach even though he uses drugs and more importantly smokes weed. And no matter how much it’s fucked me up in the past, makes me paranoid, anxious, concave and insular; if someone is smoking weed I want it to.
At no point did I set a boundary. I never said don’t do that here, in my room and I never left the room either. I convinced myself I could be around it, inhaling it even though I knew deep down that wasn’t the case. Someone said to me a few months ago that if you keep going to the barbers eventually you’ll get your hair cut and I can confirm that is definitely the case. It starts with the occasional pull on a spliff. Then I’m finishing his. Then asking for my own so I can end the evening smoking weed alone in bed as I have spent so many years of my life. Then I’m checking the ashtray, searching for remnants, scratching about. Each time it happens this way. And ten weeks later the inevitable break up happens and I am relieved that I can stop.
Can anyone say self-sabotage?
The thoughts come, the change in perception, the difference in outlook. Paranoia and pain. It had been creeping in ever since that first toke but I bought into the lie that that was just life and how I was actually feeling when really the marijuana was wearing me like a mask. All of a sudden I’m questioning everything; my life choices, my sobriety. Maybe I do want to drink again? Fuck it why not? All of my reasons for drinking and using come flooding back, it was where I felt at home, the triggers are pulling, the shame is blazing, what now?
I should go to more meetings. I talk myself out of them. The closest I’ve got to working the steps is reading half of Russel Brand’s book. I dropped into NA last year to get my year key ring conveniently forgetting to mention my two previous relapses but I’ve pretty much been absent since then. I didn’t use the program to get clean and sober so I never really felt like I should need it to stay sober. That’s arrogance and resistance. I’ve isolated myself from that branch of sobriety, that community of care. Mainly because I have left meetings feeling like I wanted to use more than when I went in. I think initially they made me identify more with being an addict than with being clean and I just didn’t find it very useful talking about all the terrible shit that I’d done. I never really found ‘my meeting’ either and gave up trying. When you’re sitting in a room full of people who have clearly been through more shit than you could ever imagine it does sometimes feel like your experience isn’t valid or bad enough to warrant inclusion or support. Add all this to a hectic, changeable creatives lifestyle and you’re proper fucked.
Maybe this is just another form of self-sabotage? Maybe I just wasn’t ready.
I want to get over the hurdle and go out and have fun without the anxiety that I’m not buying all the shots and leading the way to carnage. I want to meet other clean people and socialise without drugs and alcohol. I want to overcome the nervousness associated with telling new acquaintances and old friends that I’m drinking a sparkling water because I don’t drink anymore. I want to celebrate my two year anniversary having actually been clean and sober for a full two years.
I may have come across a few bumps in the road but I’m back on track and ready to accept my new anniversary date. I like to remember what I could call my first one because it marks the beginning of my journey. And even though at the moment I’m going through the motions again, waiting for the tightness in my chest to release and the constant practice of watching my thoughts without day-dreaming, judging or attacking myself, that date still reminds me of my strength and desire for change. It reminds me of what I came through to get here. And with every trip comes a lesson. Sometimes we have to fall an uncountable amount of times before we recognise the symptoms of our illness and the steps we need to take to aid our own recovery.
Sobriety is a daily practice and it’s not always easy but it’s definitely the best decision that I ever made and as relapses go mine was a pretty good one to have.
One day at a time.
Janna Fox is an actress, writer, yogi, aerialist in training and creator of many things. She started blogging for The New Establishment in February 2017 and her pieces are published every other Wednesday. Janna also contributes to sex blog Hitting the Spot. For more information please visit www.jannafox.com