For all of us who actively lived in the disease of alcohol and drug use disorder we experienced ridiculous amounts of physical pain from using. In the treatment world there has been a shift with how the disease is referred to. Personally, I prefer alcoholism and drug addiction. References and terms of how things were referred to for decades have changed to new and I guess more socially acceptable. Call it what you like, but I have never had a family calling me to discuss an intervention say to me, “Can you please help? My son is killing himself with his substance use disorder!” Not once, and I have facilitated hundreds of interventions all over the country.
But in the professional field of treatment, we now call it “Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder.” At the end of the day, it is a disease recognized by the American Medical Association since the 1950’s that is treatable, but often fatal if untreated. I am grateful that there is a solution for the disease that I have, I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and I have no shame in saying it.
I have nothing to hide. I hid behind false fronts and a delusional sense of self for decades, but not anymore. In recovery, we get to find out more about who we really are at our core, and I am still changing and growing, I hope that I always remain teachable and open minded to learning about spiritual growth and keeping that old false sense of self in the rear-view mirror.
My apologies for going off on a brief tangent. So, I was good at putting myself through horrific pain through my drinking and drug use. Headaches that could last for days and false promises to myself and others that I will never do that again, or I do not ever want to do that again. For all the reasons of having an addictive brain and personality I returned to the drugs and alcohol and hating myself on a regular basis.
In recovery, we are still subjected to all sorts of pain as that is life. Overall, my life is filled with much more joy than pain which makes being a sober man a wonderful thing. But every now and again I can forget all about “pausing when agitated” and get super angry. I would say this happens a few times a year, before recovery it would happen on a weekly basis, not a bad batting average.
I have been working on a new book. This past week after writing for hours everything on the computer screen went blank, I thought all the work was lost. And then I completely lost my mind. I was scrambling to figure out what was wrong, I am the furthest thing from Bill Gates when it comes to computers, I am lucky enough just to save and print documents! After about an hour of me using the worst of foul language towards my computer, my head caving in from acting like a child, the writing appeared in a file. Relief washed over me.
The next day I felt like I weighed about five hundred pounds, just drained. I realized this is the after effect of losing my cool and I paid the price. I guess I could call it an emotional hangover, but I was out of sorts for a better part of the day. Minor when I think about it, but I also don’t resort to drugs and alcohol anymore so I “feel everything” including the temporary shame of losing my cool.
This is a minor example of an emotional hangover. Having lost a lot of people I love and deeply care for in sobriety is an entirely different story. Everyone grieves differently, I know I have hurt for days and weeks after an unexpected death. When my dad committed suicide in 2008, I was despondent, I just walked around empty and with fried nerves for several weeks. There is good news about all this: I stayed sober through it all with the help of other friends in recovery and staying knee deep in recovery meetings. There is no way I would have or could have stayed sober on my own through that time.
A couple of years ago I received a call from a young man I did an intervention with back in New York. He had three years sober and told me his brother had committed suicide, and he was staying sober through it all. We talked about the heartache of such a tragic loss, he shared with me, and I shared with him, our experience that is and how we dealt with it. He is now in law school and thriving
in life, I have witnessed an amazing change and turn around with his life. That is a gift that never gets old.