As I near the end of my treatment, I find myself in a mode of reflection and also one of mentally and emotionally preparing myself for going back to work. This may seem silly to some. I mean, why is going back to work such a big deal? There are many things that come along with this transition. There are a lot of triggers for me there, which is fine, I guess. There’s triggers everywhere. Shit, going to the supermarket is a trigger simply because they happen to have a liquor department that I frequented. It’s more than that. It’s entering into life again completely on life’s terms. It’s entering into life again as the new Eve that I have become. This new Eve is different than the old, drunk Eve.
What if no one likes this Eve?
Then there’s a whole slew of other complicated, lifey stuff. I have been afforded the great blessing of being able to take off work for almost two months to focus solely on me and my recovery. Most people are unable to experience even a quarter of this, which makes me very sad. Addiction is a vicious, relentless, and abstruse disease that requires more than a week or two to begin to treat it. Going back to work means getting back to the grind. Having very few stressors in my life, as has been the case these past few months, is much more conducive to recovery. In other words, it’s easier to stay sober when I’m not working and have very little stress. Going back to work will introduce all that stress back into my life, which means I really need to put all of the coping skills I’ve learned to work.
This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where all that I’ve been working on gets tested.
Naturally, I’m anxious. I desperately want to not fail. I desperately want to get it right this time. I have relapsed so many times and each time is worse than the time before. Each time, it chips another piece of my self-esteem and self-worth away. But I have learned that if I practice these three things, I will almost certainly stay sober.
1) Live life on life’s terms.
This means accepting that not everything is going to go Eve’s way. Imagine my internal temper tantrum when I learned this! I used to live “life on Eve’s terms”, and we all know where that got me. No, I must take everything that life throws at me with stride and take what lessons I can from it. Does this mean I will never be anxious or upset or sad? Of course not. Life is going to continue to be life no matter how much I don’t like it. There is so little in life that I have control over, so I’m going to let life be life, and only focus on controlling myself and how I react to it.
2) Don’t drink or take drugs.
I know, you’re probably laughing. But it’s the truth, isn’t it? It’s guaranteed sobriety if I just don’t pick up a drink or a drug. No matter what emotion I’m feeling, I’m used to taking a drug or drinking to numb it. I’m not a fan of feelings. And I don’t have to be a fan of feelings, it’s life on life’s terms, remember? Not on Eve’s terms. So, I better get used to having them. I can be sad and throw a temper tantrum that would put even a Kardashian toddler to shame, which I’ve been known to do by the way – but as long as I don’t drink or use, I’ll stay sober. I’ll get over it. I can be depressed or anxious or whatever, but as long as I don’t drink or use, I’ll stay sober. I’ll get over it. I have enough support and resources to reach out to when I’m in need. No matter what life throws at me, as long as I don’t pick up a drink or a drug, I’ll remain sober.
3) Focus on one day at a time.
This isn’t a concept that is helpful exclusively to alcoholics or addicts – it helps every human being on this planet to live this way. We are not promised a tomorrow. Even when someone asks me, “Do you think you’ll ever be able to have a drink again?” I don’t say “No”. Why? Because all I know is that today I am going to stay sober. Who gives a shit about tomorrow. Every tomorrow will come with it’s own set of anxieties, stresses and challenges, and living in today has its own too, which is enough for me or anyone to handle. My life experience has taught me that your life path can change in the blink of an eye. So many things could happen and will happen in our lives that we didn’t see coming or didn’t prepare for. So each morning, I make a commitment to myself to stay sober for the next 24 hours, and send up a prayer to God asking for His help in achieving this. When I break life down into 24 hour measures, it seems much less scary and much more doable.
Having had this time to focus on my recovery has truly been invaluable, and no doubt a contribution to my success in staying sober almost two months now. I know there have probably been many rumors flying around at work or gossip as to where I’ve been, and I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t make me anxious too. But no matter what, when I return next week, I will hold my little, sober head up high and face the music, even if I don’t care for the tune.