Get Addiction Help (888) 804-0917

Breakdown Lane | A Personal Journey of Recovery | Part 23 – Running on Empty

In the earlier days of my sobriety, actually even before that, I became somewhat of a minimalist; survival was enough. Having a multitude of material possessions, taking extravagant trips, or bragging about successes were, in my opinion, ego-centric.
          Okay, so back when I was drinking I lied. I made things up and rationalized that I was finding ways to fit in, to be like others, to survive. I never looked at it that I was “ego-centric.” Although I knew what I was saying were falsehoods, I didn’t care because no one knew me from childhood, or even young adulthood. Over the years I’d systematically eliminated people from my life so that I could reinvent myself whenever needed. It was an extremely tough balancing act, especially after I’d nearly driven myself into the ground.
          I don’t remember if I heard the “take what you need, need what you take” statement in Alcoholics Anonymous or in the rehab treatment center, and I suppose it doesn’t matter now, but it made sense to me when I heard it.
Knowing I am an addict, I am still a bit frightened to become overly passionate about anything, anyone, or anyplace. My fear is that I won’t see an addiction, an obsession, or even a compulsion before it is too late. I sometimes honestly feel if I am excited about an event, a job interview, or even the statistical results of a project at which I’m working on doesn’t live up to my expectation then I’ll be crushed. So, I contain my excitements and disappointments. 
          I still, on occasion, hold back and show the world I can handle it. I’ve had some wonderful successes in my life in sobriety, and some major disappointments as well, and when I talk about them there still seems to be a certain ‘matter-of-factness.’
          When my last relationship ended after ten years I was internally devastated, although to ask anyone who was around at the time they would probably declare I had a detached, third-party observer type attitude about it. As one friend said, “It’s like you’re telling me about someone else’s break-up.”
          Take what you need, need what you take.
          I know now, looking back of course, that I was afraid to look weak, vulnerable, and if I started to cry I might not ever stop. Okay, so that is rather melodramatic, but my point is that I’d worked hard to present an image as being a strong person; someone people can turn to. I still wanted to be that person but I somehow equated being emotional about a relationship ending as a sign of weakness. It was okay for others to be that way, but not me.
          What I hadn’t realized was that being non-emotional about this sort of situation I was now coming across as being a bit less than human; a bit cold, which is exactly the opposite of who I was inside and who I wanted to be. I didn’t realize that by not allowing myself any outward emotion, I wasn’t allowing myself to process what had happened, but most importantly I wasn’t allowing myself to see what my part was. It took me a long time. 
          When the split happened, I was twelve years sober, but had been away from the ‘program’ for nearly ten of those years. I’d thought I had it all together and that I’d achieved all I wanted again. The problem was that I’d stopped attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which is an action I strongly suggest against.
          Although in the drug treatment center they’d certainly instilled in me to always attend meetings and to never let them fall to the way side, I’d still done it. I thought that now since I’d stopped drinking and drugging, that the compulsion, the need, the desire to drink had been lifted away, that I’d graduated from the program.
          I figuratively turned my graduation tassel, set my 24 hour, 1 week, 30, 60, 90, 6 months chips along with my one and two year medallions into a plastic Ziploc baggie, and placed them in a draw at my desk. In addition to that, I’d taken my Big Book, placed it in the wicker basket under the coffee table, which eventually moved to the top self of a clothes trunk, and finally to rest at the very bottom of that trunk, under the sweaters. 
          I’d taken the ‘take what you need, need what you take’ philosophy and applied it to what was working for me at the time, which was right after that past relationship started. I suppose I convinced myself that I didn’t have time to run to meetings all the time, and that I needed to focus on my relationship.
The open, honest, loving, spiritually, funny, smart, energetic, lovable person I’d become with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous was what my ex-partner had fallen in love with. What I didn’t get was that by not attending meetings and continuing to ‘work on myself’ would eventually lead to a personality change.
          It didn’t happen overnight, but was an incredibly long process; nearly ten years. I’d systematically cut off everyone again, began reinventing myself, and not allowing myself to be heard…well, with the exception of a tirade. 
          I’d taken a total of twelve years away from the program, driven myself to an angry, lonely, and desperate place. It was then that my higher power, my God, my Guardian Angel, or whatever intervened.