When something bad happens, everyone waits for an alcoholic or addict or anorexic or cutter to relapse. The people who care about the person in recovery hold their breaths and pray, fingers twisted behind backs. They whisper and they watch.
Will this be it? Is this the last straw?
More commonly though, and perhaps less understood, is how recovery can become equally tenuous when good things happen. I am as terrified of success as I am of failure. I purposefully aim low because underachievement feels safer somehow. If the stakes are low, the return is low, and most importantly, so are the risks. Keeping the world at arm’s length means that I never have to FEEL anything, like disappointment, embarrassment, or sorrow.
Holding people at arm’s length means that I never have to be hurt by them or have my trust broken. My life-long fantasy is to envelop myself in a cocoon where I never have to feel any kind of discomfort ever, ever again. For a long time, alcohol did that. It was a blanket fresh out of the dryer, coating me in warmth and the illusion of safety, all while it slowly destroyed my life.
The crazy thing about addiction is that when something amazing happens, at first I experience normal feelings like elation and excitement. But then the dread arrives, like an unwelcome neighbor or member of the family that you wish didn’t know where you live, and proceeds to remind me of every possible thing that could go terribly, terribly wrong.
Fear. That one emotion colors every thought and action unless I bust my ass doing all the things I’ve learned in recovery in order to make that fear my bitch.
Good things are happening that I did not orchestrate and I am terrified. Today I actually laid down on our bedroom floor in the fetal position and stared into space until Robbie asked what I was doing. I mumbled a reply and just laid there, watching his feet move around the room, wondering how he was so calm all the time when THE WORLD FEELS LIKE IT’S BURNING TO THE GROUND.
The world is not burning to the ground.
I eventually got up and forced my body to move around the house as though I am not absolutely, one hundred percent scared out of my mind. Somehow when I make my feet walk and my hands function, the rest of me falls in line after a little while of me pretending to not be freaking the fuck OUT.
Just because good things happen, I do not have to regress into my old patterns of behavior. Drinking a pint of vodka will not make my fear of success or failure any less of a problem; in fact, it would only magnify it. All I can do is step through a door when it is opened, and remind myself that I’m no longer in charge because I was terrible at it (and damn near killed myself).
Harmony is not in charge. The Universe is in charge. Deep breaths. All the cookies.