Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
What Happens When You Get Clean And Sober?
A man recently asked me; what happens when you get clean and sober? Pete – not his real name – had been using opiates for the past twenty years. He says he couldn’t remember his life without them. Pete was on his way to rehab. For all the bravado Pete displayed to his friends, Pete admitted he was scared.
Pete is not alone. When you’re addicted, the thought of getting clean and sober is terrifying. So what happens when you get clean and sober? Here’s my experience with it.
First, you will cry, (a lot). You have to go through all the nasty bits, like feeling emotions. This is where most people fall off and start using again. It’s why you should never try and get clean and sober alone. To achieve success you need emotional support and possibly medication with a medical/psychiatric overview.
Many who contemplate abstinence, don’t really want to quit using drugs. They just want the consequences of using them, to stop. By the time you realize you have a problem, a lot of damage has occurred.
The first step to repairing that damage is to face it.
Getting high is an act of avoidance. Substance abusers don’t like feeling emotional pain or facing the wreckage of their past. Their brains have been chemically altered to embrace dishonest thinking and look for reasons to use. When I was actively using I felt entitled. Life sucked. Poor me…
I held onto old hurts and invented new ones. I was self-centered and put my needs above everyone else, including my children. As I got sicker, the consequences of my actions grew more severe. To avoid feeling guilty or ashamed, I used. It was a vicious cycle.
Walking through the front doors of rehab is scary. You will feel frightened, overwhelmed, ashamed and a little relieved, all at the same time. The gig is up. You will want to hide out in your room, but you won’t be able too. You will meet many new people. These people will care about you and hold you accountable.
You might feel depressed and sad. You will miss your family, even though you did your best to avoid them when you were using. At first, you will pretend. You’ll tell people you’re fine. You will smile outwardly, never showing anyone what’s going on within. You will compare yourself to everyone else and say things like; it wasn’t that bad. I’m not as sick as that guy. I don’t have a drinking problem, I never used needles. Then your counselor or one of your peers will call you out on dishonest thinking. Before long, you learn how sick and negative your thinking has become.
Because you want to get out of rehab as fast as possible, you don’t rock the boat. You’re on your best behavior. You won’t tell anyone how angry you are, or what you’re really feeling. You don’t appreciate complete strangers – peers – giving you feedback. You will phone your family and complain. You want to leave treatment so you begin building a case. It goes something like this; they don’t understand me. This place isn’t for me. My counselor has no time for me. I’m getting worse in here, not better. That’s just to plant the seeds. Each call you make to your family, you’ll work on them a little more and eventually you’ll bring them over to your side. By this time your family will think they made a mistake in sending you to rehab. Once you get back home things will go right back to the way they were before, only worse, because you have a progressive disease.
But if you stay in treatment, this is what will happen next.
You will get better!
When there’s no one left to manipulate, when you can’t run, when you are forced to stand and deal, you will begin to heal.
At first, it will hurt. This is where you learn you can get through difficult emotions without picking up. This is also where you learn to stand in your loved one’s shoes. You begin to identify dishonest and addicted thinking. You share your thoughts and feelings with others. You see when you are blaming or playing the victim. You identify triggers, procrastination, and self-defeating thoughts and actions.
As the days add up, you feel hopeful. Life shines in your eyes and your smile is back. After a while, you look at your family with new eyes. Each and every time you see them, you fall in love with them a little bit more.
As time passes the things you once called boring, bring you joy – watching movies with your partner and holding hands, tucking your children into bed at night, running errands for your parents, paying your bills on time, waking up happy and feeling energized. You get a job, buy a car, maybe a bike, buy a house, you coach little league, you go on vacations, you start making precious memories and marking things off your bucket list.
Life is so sweet!
Everything has changed and yet, you are more you than you ever were before. There isn’t anything you can’t do. Then you realize you have achieved the very thing you sought in drugs and alcohol… FREEDOM. And it keeps getting better from there!
Pete quit letting fear make his choices for him. If you’re tired of hurting yourself and your family and you want to stop; please call the number below.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.