Returning to the Scene of the Crime

No matter which way you choose to recover, whether by 12-step fellowship, rehab, or a “DIY” program, it is a  universal truth that, early on, it is best to stay away from the people, places and things that the newly sober associates with their addiction.  So, for example, it is prudent for an alcoholic to steer clear of the local watering hole at which he used to have a regular bar stool.  Or for a drug addict to steer clear of dicey urban areas where she previously drove to “score.”

But what about the rest of us whose only “people, places and things” are areas that cannot be extricated from our lives?  Well, to a certain extent you can, at the very least, alter the landscape.  For example, if you were a home drinker, you can remove all alcohol in the house.  Or if you were a rabble-rouser at house parties, you can choose to avoid them in the short-term.  Both of the following examples apply to me personally, and, for various reasons, both are the solutions I used to solve the “people, places and things” dilemma for me in early sobriety.

Sooner or later, though, you have to face the music, and that opportunity came for me this holiday season.  I was faced with a number of events in which I chose to participate for the first time in recovery, and I wanted to write about that experience, because I would imagine I am not alone in dealing with this issue.

At the outset, the choice to join in the fun an festivities of the holiday season was a well-thought out one.  I have discussed the idea with my fellows in recovery, prayed about it, and was completely comfortable with the decision to participate.  So there was planning there.  I also had my toolkit at the ready, and my checklist of things to keep me safe and sober while in the moment (I wrote about this checklist here).  In fact, there was one party where I said six simple words to my husband:  “the party is starting to turn,” and we were out the door within 10 minutes.  So adequate preparation in that department.

If there was one element for which I had not prepared, it was the emotional angst associated with event.  Whether it was the location of the party, places where I have engaged in behavior that still shames me, whether it was the people themselves, and the reminder they bring of my past life, or the holiday itself, and the association with all the past misbehavior, I was uncomfortable in a way that surprised me.  The memories of the past came back so quickly, and with such strength, at times it was an actual effort to turn and move in a different direction.

These feelings of discomfort took me by surprise because all of the things I did worry about were for naught.  For example, I was concerned about awkwardness around family members who are seeing me in a social situation for the first time in recovery.  Not only did that awkwardness fail to materialize; family and friends were supportive in ways I could never have imagined.

So why did these memories come back to haunt me?  I’m not sure I will ever have a definitive answer to this question, and I have learned enough in my recovery not to over think it.  I did what I was taught to do:  move a muscle, change a thought.  Even though it took extra effort, I turned and walked in an opposite direction, and found someone “safe” to engage in conversation.  I participated in cooking and cleaning, which is helpful and distracting at the same time.  Most important, I considered the real reason I was present at the holiday, to gather with family and/or friends, and to re-connect with them, and I took advantage of that opportunity in a way I never would have if I was chemically altered.

So when I said my prayer the morning after each holiday function, I was able to say with extra sincerity:  “Thank you, God, for all my days of sobriety.”

Today’s Miracle:

I am so grateful to have 23 months and 1 day of sobriety!

Posted on December 28, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. i’m so glad you found the same support in real life that you have here!

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  2. Great advice and methods here, Josie. I think you are right in that we can’t remove ourselves from everything in our lives. I was at Christmas with family and friends, all who know my tale, and all who are very supportive. But I was in the kitchen helping to cook (a great way for me to stay in one place, mentally, at least – something you mentioned as a way of participating – great idea!) when they all started to break out the booze. Now, these guys aren’t heavy drinkers. At all. but there is lots of Italian going on, so celebration means lots of wine, sparkling wine, shots, etc. Someone brought a bottle of whisky (and they offered it to me – they didn’t know about me, which is weird because I though they did) and at one point everyone’s focus was on alcohol – they drank it, spoke exclusively about it, etc. I have to admit for a moment or two I felt excluded, but then again, even if I were drinking, I would have found a way to feel excluded…ha ha.

    Long story short – it’s how I manage my reactions and POV on things that allows me my serenity – or lack thereof. Good to have escape plans…the type on foot or the type I can use my phone for. Or a quick serenity prayer. Whatever works…and clearly you have some great plans.

    Thanks for this post, Josie – I know it is going to be helpful to everyone. It was helpful to me 🙂

    Blessings,
    Paul

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  3. Thank you for sharing this. I remember how hard it was for me to stay sober during the 1st year of my sobriety. I was just talking about this to my boyfriend. The holidays are a time of year when most of my family members and friends engage in drinking and conversations over cocktails. It’s strange to be the “outsider” at times because we were once part of the group. But I’ve learned during my 2nd year of sobriety to be more equipped, as you mentioned. Because most importantly, the journey isn’t really about getting there; it’s more about how far we have come. It’s always going to be a struggle, however, for me, it’s definitely become a lot easier. The first year was brutal. But I’m glad to be here, almost two years later…sober and free.

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  4. The holidays can be tough on many people, however, you clearly have awesome support and a plan and both of those are key to staying sober! Continued blessings on your daily journey!

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