Sing, Sing a Song
“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow.” These two lines of an old slavery song are the same two lines my sister use to sing to herself as a young teenager in her bedroom when she would cheer herself up. It was totally morbid, but very funny when she’d do an impression of a deep booming soulful voice with a so-o-o-o-o-row at the end all in staccato. From slavery to the despair of a tween-ager that song held on its own. Now, I sing it too. It makes me laugh. Another one that makes me keep things real in the day is, “feelings, nothing more than feelings…trying to forget my feelings…of …anything….” Now that last word is actually “love” but for my purposes it could be “feelings” of anything. In recovery, feelings take on a whole other dimension.
I am a bit over my year 1 of sobriety and if I thought that on day 366 a new person would magically appear with wisdom of sobriety, a full attitude of gratitude and a peaceful core; she’d be wrong. So wrong. However, I can reflect on that year and take the reader back to it from then to today. In the first 30-60- 90 days I can now see the person I was. As an alcoholic, my brain was rewiring itself and the fog was still very present. I was vulnerable and hadn’t even felt my first sober panic attack yet. I was riding a pink cloud of energy and it was keeping me sane. Those days were fantastic. Little pin pricks of electricity would charge my senses. Everything looked amazing. Then there were the lows. I had to realize that boredom was going to have to be dealt with. As a very active person, sitting still without alcohol was a giant, looming challenge. I did what I knew to do best. I got addicted to recovery. I read, I watched documentaries, I went to meetings, I wrote a blog, I played candy crush, etc…what I still didn’t do very well was connect with others. I was still a very isolating individual but I coped as only I knew how. My alcohol abuse, subsequent addiction lasted 25 years and I didn’t know and still don’t know how to socialize without it. These coping skills helped a lot as I charged through the year. I started to slowly come out of my shell. I started to do more fellowship and then MONTH 11 came.
One month before my sober birthday, I had my first anxiety attack. I am medicated by the way for anxiety but this was new. This was the real anxiety and emotions I hadn’t felt since before I started drinking 25 years earlier. It was the voice of the past coming to haunt me. It was also the alcoholic demon waiting to attack me. Can she do it? Are they judging me? Why can’t I communicate with others? Why did I say that? Is everyone looking at me? Then I started to do something I hadn’t done before. I slowly started to reach out to others, including my sponsor. I started to ask questions. I started to be more mindful of myself rather than just going through “actions and steps” to stay sober. I had to get real with my “feelings, nothing more than…” you get the picture.
Feelings become sharper. They take different forms. When I am sad and feeling empathy for others, they hurt the most. Those pink cloud pin pricks of electricity can turn into nails of anger, frustration and fear. This is when you call your sponsor or a sober friend to get through. I know if I get those feelings again, a drink is easy to pick up. That fear is real and it is a reminder of what started your addiction to begin with. When I am genuinely happy or filled with love; I hold onto that feeling. That feeling can carry me through days and motivate me. I can receive the blessings that life has to offer and remember why I stay clean and sober. There is also the sadness and depression that can linger from becoming sober. It is recurring feelings of “what have I lost.” Remember, saying goodbye to alcohol or drugs can be like burying a best friend but who wants to do that death scene over and over again? I do believe that with more time and more years, this early recovery of awakening and practicing the acceptance of the new feelings will change and adapt for the better. Reality for me and for your recovery IS as Amy Winehouse crooned, “I don’t ever want to drink again; oh, I just need a friend.” All we need is friend in our sobriety; friends who we can identify with. As I practice fellowship more and more, those insecurities drip away. I know I can reach out and stay sane. So my advice is pick a song, pick up the phone and connect; because those bright moments will overcome any negative feelings still lurking around.