The Winter of 47.
The sharp shriek of rubber off the barely lit linoleum floor takes me back 3 years in time as suddenly as it pierces the almost silence and fades away as just as swiftly. That and the smell.
The mustiness in the air of the center. Or the center of the air. The
I walk alone, head down, shoulders slightly and inevitably hunched, avoiding eye contact and the conversation that may ensue out of innocent camaraderie for our similarities and not our differences. It is something that is almost bound to happen as, here, the newcomer comes first and it’s been long enough since I have walked these halls, sharing my experience, strength and hope with the wide-eyed recently found, for me not to recognize and to not be recognized in this area of town, at a gathering such as this.
I wonder briefly what happened to the others met here, and almost befriended, some years before and I hope in silent secrecy that they are safe. How did I end up here again?
I am thinking this to myself as I tread lightly, to still more sound, down the wide double staircase, also linoleum sealed and shiny even in the shadows of these passages. The entire building. So clean. So attempted sterile. But with a grim, hard polished, worn exterior and that sharp, musty smell filling everything up to even the high ceilings.
The community center is cold at night and I hunch my shoulders further as I finally step out into the car park, eyes on the ground with the, here socially acceptable, huddle of smokers already lit up and eyeing me curiously as I slip past and make for my car. There to light up alone and in relieved silence. I have heard it said that you reach a stage in recovery when a meeting a day won’t cut it anymore and that you’re only okay when you’re on a 12 step call. I guess I have arrived at this juncture on the journey.
My musing on how did I get here again has little to do with drugs and alcohol this time. It’s the wondering of how a life that had taken 3 odd years to rebuild with hard effort; a lot of sacrifice; grit; determination and a barrel of courage could have been burned to the ground again in less than 2 years. And by
How could I end up seeking these rooms again after everything I thought I had learned? How, even after knowing everything I think I know about them and the strangers that come to the meetings inside… how could I still feel so fucking alone?
I’m relieved to be inside of the car. I’m relieved to be able to light a cigarette in the dark,
I’m almost at peace now. I will feel this for a short while. Always this way when I leave a meeting. A sense of calm. More grounded. A glimmer of hope. As though I am moving forward in
I drive out into the pumping Friday night venue district and find my turn on to the double lane highway that leads South. The lights of the city always turn me on at night. I get a rush from the
Home. It doesn’t sound right even as I think it.
I have never had a place feel like what I would call home. Here I turn down the music as I approach the, double, gunmetal security gate and hit the green button on the remote to command it to open for me. Control again. Keep it down. Don’t bother the neighbours. Don’t make a scene. Don’t stand out. Don’t let people talk. I can feel myself pulling up the well-practiced defenses and shutting myself up, even as the gate shuts itself up, rumbling to a close behind me.
I’m in the thick of the suburbs. Somewhere I never saw myself living. And somewhere I definitely don’t see myself dying. Although this is currently a possible reality if I don’t get my shit together fast. It’s not alcohol and drugs anymore. Now it’s me. It always was. The substances
No. This isn’t home. This is a pit stop. I’m not going to fucking die here. Unless it’s by my own hand. And still. Not here. But it is a roof. For now.
Hitting a Friday night meeting in a dodgy area over 20 mins drive from “home” may well be seen as the much talked about “gift of desperation” so often heard in
But it was relief from the isolation and despair that I was seeking the most – which is the final residing place of addiction in its various guises – or the damage that feeds the monster in truth. And it was in those rooms that I first, honestly, felt like I was “home” in a very long time – if ever.
The drugs and the alcohol were let go of easily, as it turned out, with the support and guidance from people who had walked a similar, and farther, path. Bar the inevitable initial social awkwardness at parties and the, also inevitable, early silent retreat to avoid dealing with the enthusiastic drunken revelers as they descended into what they thought were younger, sexier or funnier versions of themselves – or all three. So yes – there was loneliness in sobriety as well. But I chose that. I chose to walk in two worlds of people, places and things and I have never committed myself to any group in particular.
I have moved between spaces, and changed myself to fit, finding it easy to become whatever
No. I prefer to move at my own pace in my own time and when I want to. I prefer to keep my options open about where, when and if I want to be. I’m comfortable with and used to walking through the world this way now, even if that is not my true heart’s desire. It’s simpler most of the time. And it is often easier – for me.
But even with this perspective and my appreciation of solitude, I found early recovery lonely. Over the years, however, I did build up a network of cool, mostly sober, friends and cool sober friends in recovery. I was actively involved in the program and doing service in H&I at a local treatment facility once a week. I had 3-4 sponsees and my own sponsor to see to keep me sane in an insane world. But on top of all of this I was, first and foremost, the proud mother of two incredible humans and a single mom (then twice divorced) to boot, who worked full-time self-employed – so a solid amount of overtime was worked as well. That was often my addiction more than my recovery though. The work. A good place to hide if you’re half decent at what you do during office hours.
So how the hell did I end up here again? Seemingly back to square one and as confused, isolated and as full of despair as the first time I walked into these rooms and finally, and first time ever, asked for help? Feeling completely alone. Again. Worse this time, as I regretted a life that I had abandoned. The first time I had abandoned the life I was living I had only felt incredible relief.
It all began with a question. An idea. A wondering. Curiosity. Stubbornness. And possibly the desire to return to an earlier version of life and myself when I was happy and could use alcohol and drugs successfully.
I have many ideas and many questions. I’m a creative. I like to imagine the possibilities. I like to learn. I like to understand the whys. But somewhere along my journey on the planet I had stopped asking – anything – and for anything. Perhaps knowing that there were simply never going to be answers to the questions that intrigued me the most made me give up asking entirely. That and the fear of more disappointment. And underneath it all, a deeply held belief, that I was not worthy to even ask of and for these things. Still unacknowledged. Still unaware of the fullness of this.
I had submitted to a kind of consensual limbo normal, simply because it
But that would have kept me asleep. And I was in a dream that was not worth dreaming. Which is probably why I was looking around for answers in the first place without even knowing what I was asking for in full.
The question: Can complex trauma and the often resulting symptom of addiction be healed?
Well. I have found freedom. Be careful what you wish for – because you always get it.