Hypochondria as it Relates to Recovery

Everyone knows the type:  the person who reads about an illness, then suddenly develops the symptoms of said illness.  I can tell you that throughout my pregnancies there was not one symptom I experienced that my husband didn’t also share, and sometimes try to top!

I can’t honestly say I have ever had that particular mind disorder; that is, until now.  I am currently sober 22 months and change, and as such am approaching another big milestone.  Add to that another juncture, if you will, on my journey to recovery:  the legal consequences that I have referenced from time to time on this blog are just about wrapped up.  The heavy lifting is officially done, all that’s left now is the loose-end tie-up (which, of course, could be endless, I am never one to say it’s over until is really, really over).  The closing of this chapter in my life book, and there is no way to overstate this, is huge.

But it’s like running the 5K, or reaching a goal weight, or achieving whatever accomplishment for which I have been striving… now what?

This is where the hypochondria has, on a low-level, set in.  I find myself looking around for the people who started on the recovery road with me, and I don’t see them.  I hear stories in 12-step meetings about how they have reached a goal, got the feeling of “I’ve got this,” and eventually forgot from whence they came.  And that feeling only leads back to one place… the bottle.

So for the first time in my life, I am sympathizing with the hypochondriacs of this world.  Because I think, “if it can happen to them, then it can happen to me.”  And then I think, “maybe I am on my way back, and I don’t even realize it.”

So how do you talk back to this voice?  I don’t want to disregard the concern, yet wallowing in worry and anxiety doesn’t seem sensible either.

The only way I can figure makes sense is to have a plan of attack, a checklist, and pray that I am still heading in the right direction.  So, first things first, if I have a concern, get it out of my head.  Which, clearly, I am doing, and have also done in my 12-step meetings.  Next, remember what has worked for the past 22 months, and ensure that I am still practicing these principles in all my affairs.  When I started, I had a to-do list of 4 things every day:

1.  Pray

2.  Go to a meeting

3.  Talk to another alcoholic

4.  Not pick up a drink or drug

Now, I look at that list and my mind panics… I only do 2 of those 4 things on a daily basis!  So I go back to square one and figure out what has changed, and if the changes are working.  As it turns out, they are.  I went to daily meetings for the first year; the past 10 months, I have scaled back to those meetings from which I glean the most, and that change has been effective for me.  Okay, problem solved.

I could also add something to the list that I hadn’t even considered on day one of sobriety:  give back that which has been freely given, which is something I do on a regular basis.  So although I have taken off the list, I have also added to it, so net/net it works out.

Next on the list:  gut check:  can I stay sober today?  Because remember, today is all we’ve got.  I have never asked myself that question in sobriety where the answer hasn’t been a resounding YES, so again, there is great comfort in realizing that the obsession is still lifted.   Of course, if another answer were to come, back to square one:  Speak.  Up!  Tell someone what is going on.

Finally, do a mental check-in on associations within my sober support network.  For me, am I still blogging (I guess that answer is self-evident)?  Am I checking in with my fellow bloggers?  Am I still connected to people in my fellowship?  Am I shying away from commitments, or am I embracing the opportunities?  The answer to this is a mixed bag for me currently.  Some I am doing well (you will read more about this one in Today‘s Miracle); some I need to re-visit.  Of course, the next obvious step here:  go out and do what you’ve been slacking on.

I guess time will tell is this plan of action is one that works.  I have had sober time before, probably about as much as I have currently.  The difference between then and now is the ongoing practice of the 12 steps of recovery. I am hopeful that, one day at time, I will “trudge the road of happy destiny!”

Today’s Miracle:

I’m putting this in as a reminder to myself that it is, indeed a miracle (rather than the stomach-twisting event that it currently feels like):  I have been asked to speak at an anniversary celebration for an Al-Anon meeting this evening.  The regular attendees of this meeting are, I assume, quite familiar with my story, although they have not met me personally.  This will change, and they will hear my story from me, tonight.  Right now all I’m thinking is, “Yikes!  I’m venturing into the enemy camp!”  But, deep down, I know this will be a monumental event, and I am, despite my nerves, grateful for this opportunity.  I’m sure I will be writing about the experience!

Posted on December 5, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I remember struggling with a low-grade fear of relapse a lot between 1 and 2 years sober, especially. I don’t worry about it much at all anymore, and the only thing I can think of is that time has given me strength and I’ve been through a good sampling of ups and downs and seen that if I use the tools, I can get through them sober. But like you pointed out, milestones have a way of stirring things up, so I know the time will come again where I feel tempted or worried I’ll slip. I think your checklist is a solid tool, and I also really like your suggestion to keep it just to today. It has a way of extinguishing any panic I have about drinking. Can I keep from drinking just for today? Of course!

    I’m excited to hear you’re coming up on 2 years! It will be here before you know it and I for one can’t wait to offer congratulations and read your celebratory post!


    • Thanks, Kristen, it is reassuring to know that what I’m feeling is normal. Keeping it to today is the most effective tool I have used in sobriety, and the awesome thing is that it works for most everything!

      Thanks for reassuring me… I needed it!


  2. Congrats on 22 and change, Josie! Very cool! I found myself in this place somewhere around 4 years, I felt really comfortable with sobriety, it has just become a part of my life, like brushing teeth! Lol! Then i got freaked out too, I have seen many people go out, one of my sponsors with 7 years went out, my father in-law with 26 went out too. It’s scary. I have to keep on. For me the best way is to reach out to others, blog, sponsor, and just stay connected and keep doing what I am doing! Great post, thank you!


    • Yes, Maggie, you just described it perfectly… the feeling that it is second nature, and then you see a bunch of people you thought it was “second nature” for as well, and they relapse. It shakes me up, and has me second guessing myself. Your advice is simple, but effective.. keep on keepin’ on!

      Thanks for sharing your experience, it always helps!


  3. My take on the list: upon waking I commit to God that I will stay sober just this one day—today. It’s my morning moment/meeting with God. I am always talking for God whether it’s an alcoholic or not. In my mind I have: prayed, shared, meet and remained sober. The most important meeting I have is the conversation I have with God through the day. That’s what keeps me sober.


    • I am just getting around to responding to comments, but I want you to know, Lisa, that I read this, and I incorporated it into my morning prayers! Now, every morning, I thank Him for my days of sobriety, and I pledge to Him that I will stay sober for today. So thanks for this spin, I am loving it!


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