This picture was taken Dec 31st, 2014; New Years Eve while I was at Homewood Rehabilitation Centre. I found it today. What may appear to be a normal picture to you, is actually a picture filled with memories of struggles, sadness and fear that I felt behind the forced smile I am wearing.
As I sat on blankets that covered the floor because I hate germs (and still do) I muscled my way through probably the worst New Years Eve I had ever experienced. I was sober, still pretty much unwillingly at that time, living in the fog of withdrawal and hating that I could only sit on a floor and eat chips and drink ginger ale before our 1130 pm curfew! (which was a ‘treat’ as our curfew was normally 10) I was bitter and lonely and actually remember being SO frustrated that my friend and I calculated how long it would take for alcohol to metabolize in our body so that we could find a bar, numb the pain, and come back in the right amount of time in order to still have a clean urine! WOW! This ‘brilliant’ idea was wrong on so many levels! But THAT is how sick I was. In the moment it was exactly what I needed to do…and thank God, I didn’t.
The symptoms of withdrawal and recovery overall are so vast and complicated. I am grateful once again for my stay at Homewood Rehabilitation Centre because while I was in my last few weeks there, we learned about Post Acute Withdrawal. According to the experts, addicts will most likely feel symptoms of their withdrawal for up to 2 YEARS! Sigh. And one of the landmark times to experience this is at 18 months. It’s like a growth spurt for addicts, but there is no measuring tape inside a door frame reminding me of how far I’ve come; my sponsor and recovery friends are my measuring tape now…and that’s ok.
I am happy to say that I am approaching the 18 month landmark very soon, and just as predicted, I got hit with what I’m pretty sure is Post Acute Withdrawal over the past few weeks, and mostly over the past few days. I was transported back in time to the world I experienced when I was in that New Years Eve picture. I was mad, irritable, physically sick (vomiting), anxious, tired, apathetic, couldn’t sleep properly, craved sugar big-time, had dreams about drinking again, and even woke myself up with a night terror. Could I have had a touch of a gastro-intestinal virus? – Possibly. But when I thought back to how the doctors at Homewood explained Post Acute Withdrawal…I would bet money that that’s what I had been experiencing. I don’t recommend that anyone diagnose themselves without seeing a doctor first, but KNOWING that this even existed allowed me to find peace faster, and took away some of the fear I would have experienced if I had not known.
Frustrating, yes. End of the world, far from it! Even though my body brought me back to a time and feeling I had for the most part forgotten, I ONCE AGAIN used my tools, talked to friends and family, told my kids straight up that I wasn’t feeling good instead of hiding, focused on the successful recovery I was blessed with (when I was awake), and allowed it to pass. No thoughts of self harm in any way. No depression demons appeared. No hope was lost! I was educated and knew that what I was experiencing was quite normal, and may even happen again, but overall it served as a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how strong I am.
If you have a friend of loved one who is in recovery, please share this blog post with them so that they can educate themselves on Post Acute Withdrawal as well.
So happy almost 18 months clean and sober to me!