Relapse, Recovery, and Figuring Out If It Is A Problem

I had a wake-up call. Now, listen, I’ve had a lot of wake up calls. Many of sorts. Like waking up on a couch without a clue whose home I was in. Waking up to the fact how sick I was when my best friend since the first grade held my hands in a local Starbucks, with tears in her eyes, begging me to get better. Or the wake-up call I had when I was being rushed to the Mission Viejo Hospital for my heart rhythms after starving, being underweight, overdosing on laxatives, and throwing up anything I ate for months on end. Not even the Advanced Pedialyte or Coconut Water with Himaylan Salt save me at that point. Waking up to how my life was constantly being put on pause when quitting college to attend an eating disorder treatment center (twice). Waking up with Pacifico bottles, a burning throat, and cigarette butts by my bedside. Waking up during the middle of sex at 4 am with some man at his house in Delaware. Delaware. (I live in PA for context.) Waking up after my flight landed and groggily walking through the San Diego airport, still intoxicated, and was lost. There are more extreme wake-up calls that I’ve had, but this would be a long post if I listed them all. 

After each one of these wake-up calls, I swore to myself that I was going to change. I meant it, and I really believed it. “This is it, this time is really it, I can’t live like this anymore,” I’d say to myself, usually after the times that my body took a hard hit from my actions.

I quit it all for a while. I got into yoga, continued school, focused on healing my body, and started this blog. Drinking happened occasionally, but nothing like before. Until I woke up the morning after this Halloween, not remembering much of the night before. Except for the part when my ex walked me down the street that night saying, “You’ve got to stop, you need to take care of yourself, Fiona.”

That morning, I sat up, climbed out of bed, and brushed off that vague memory. I sat down at my laptop, read my horoscopes off of three different websites, and swallowed a handful of vitamin tablets with black coffee. #Health .

I stared blankly at the screen, ruminating on the thought, “How do you know if you have a problem? I think I relapsed. Yet, did I even have a problem before? I mean, what’s the difference between having fun, being young, versus being addicted?” I grabbed my phone and texted one of my brothers. (Who would be a therapist because he’s the most honest, empathetic, insightful person you’ll ever meet.)

He then called me. We talked on the phone for almost an hour. I told him everything I had been avoiding acknowledging myself. Sure, I was taking herbal remedies to heal the weekly fevers I was having, but I wasn’t eating basic nutrients. Sure, I wouldn’t drink much around my friends, but I’d pour wine in a reusable water bottle and secretly drink it before or after. Sure, I wasn’t smoking weed as much, but I was taking Xanax from my friend’s medicine cabinet and drinking with it. Those substances weren’t used for social reasons, they were used for “medicine” to cope with stress.

I didn’t want to admit that I needed help. I especially didn’t want to admit it on here because this blog is supposed to be helping others climb out of this kind of cycle. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and afraid of what my friends, family, and readers of this blog would think. I strongly believe in practicing what you preach. For heaven’s sake, I wrote an entire workbook on anxiety and didn’t take any of the advice. My friend Nick and I were recently laughing about how the book should’ve been titled, “All The Advice I Had, But Didn’t Take.” ….Well, I sure am taking it now.

After talking to my brother, I knew I had relapsed, needed to relearn coping patterns, and that I had a problem. Obviously, I cannot give you my credibility for using healthy coping tools over the past few months that I’ve mentioned on here. I’ve used them in the past to get back on track, and I’m back to using them again to do the same. But what I can give you is honesty, what I’ve learned from this, and what is currently helping me now.

Here’s some thoughts:

  1. Never abandon yourself. Most of us would rather feel resentment while giving in to others than the shame that comes with saying no to them. I was saying yes to things I wanted to say no to in all areas of life. And after I would give into them, I’d feel this anger at myself and them, which is also usually when I’d numb out. I was muting my intuition with eating disordered behaviors, Xanax, and alcohol instead of listening to what I needed at the time. 
  2. If you have to question whether it’s a problem. It is. Furthermore, it’s not necessarily about figuring out if you have an addiction problem, but rather asking yourself, “Is this substance interfering with my everyday life? Is it helping or halting me from pursuing my dreams?” Or ask what my brother mentioned, “If I found out my friend or family member was doing this, would I be concerned?”
  3. You can’t do it alone. Now, personally, I don’t believe AA or other 12 Step groups are the only way. Maybe it’s my own personal bias from being raised in an Irish Catholic family, but anytime I hear someone say, “this is the only way to be healed, and you are lost until you follow it,” I become suspicious. I’ve known a lot of people who didn’t do the 12 steps and have been clean for years. I’ve also known people who have been going to the 12 Steps and have been clean for years. What seems to be the common denominator on both sides is this: Community and being part of a group with the same vision, the same meaning of life, and what they want to make out of their lives. It could be a group of people at a yoga studio, a trauma group, a book club that addresses recovery, the 12 step program, or Refuge Recovery (A Buddhist recovery group.) There are so many options out there, but by being in a support group, you are inspired, held accountable, and learn from others. Personally, I just started going to an outpatient support group that runs during the week. There’s no shame in getting help, even if it’s for the 17th time, and you are never “not sick enough” to get help.
  4. Ditch the phone. Use airplane mode. The constant communication, notifications, and distractions had been a major source of stress for me. I’d have so much guilt about not responding to texts and emails right away, it kept me too much inside my head. For an hour, a day, a week, try taking a break. They can wait.
  5. Simplify your life & take care of your body. List three priorities you have right now, including your health. Writing this down clears your head. Focus on what your body needs, not what you think it wants. It’s easier said than done, trust me. Because, if you suffering physically, it’s going to be difficult to function mentally.

These are the five things that I’ve learned recently. They are things I am incorporating in my life right now. I used to have shame about relapsing, admitting it, especially after after having those wake-up calls and making those promises. But what I learned is that it’s better to be honest, and get help, rather than giving up.

2 thoughts on “Relapse, Recovery, and Figuring Out If It Is A Problem

  1. Hi Fiona, I wish you wellness. So much to untangle. It seems unsurmountable but at the same time it is all just a moment. The suffering is a gateway to compassion. Your life, as everyone else’s, will always be filled with suffering- there is escape. There is peace and beauty in being- warts and all. Keep what you want and toss the rest. There is no way to be or need to be anything other than who you are in this moment. Lift that weight of expectations, be quiet, feel it. Love to you. I wish we lived near one another, we could walk and talk in nature…or just walk. Much love to you. I hear you. I see you. xxooMary

    Liked by 1 person

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