June 26, 2013

Non-Celebrity Rehab

Tomorrow (June 27, 2013) marks six months of sobriety for me.

I spent 28 days in rehab and then spent the next five months figuring out why they taught us what they taught us. I'm very much a "why" person (as a parent I realize this is genetically going to bite me in the ass).

The gist of my situation is that I started smoking cigarettes in my teens, started drinking heavily after I quit smoking at 29, and have always struggled with compulsive overeating and various prescription drug abuses. I've also been diagnosed (before all this) with ADHD, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder.

It's super fun here in my head, join me!

Rehab is intensive - with vast amounts of information being conveyed in a very short time - but a few salient points stuck with me:

1) Addiction is a disease* involving the reward pathway in the brain;

2) All aspects of my life must be balanced in order for me to succeed;

3) I can't do it alone. Honestly I don't know how anyone does it alone or with a shaky support system, because I have the best support and the best situation I can imagine for this and it still sucks.

So in my entire adult life I have never had a properly functioning release of dopamine, the "feel good" chemical in the brain. Chemical stimuli have led my brain to believe that it needs 1,000 hypothetical units of dopamine to feel okay when the most I can obtain through normal activity (cuddling kids, exercise, etc.) is 48 units.

Notice I said "feel okay." The truth is I feel pretty blah most of the time. I love my life, don't get me wrong, but I actually *feel* bored. My inclination is to fill this with video games, fatty foods, etc. which are quick fixes in the same way a beer would have been a quick fix.

I am trying to learn the second point above - balance. The best way for me to function is to maintain a balance of physical exercise, spiritual fulfillment (meditation = the bomb), friendships, and healthful eating. A low glycemic diet is amazing for addiction recovery, I can testify to this.

It's taken me five months 
just to get to the point of realizing the stuff that's in that last paragraph. Slow learner.

Now I've got to actually *implement* it. I'm ADHD, so that's basically like saying "The answer is underneath that sleeping bear, just go pick it up."

Since I've been out of rehab I've been on a low glycemic diet, I've exercised, I've meditated, but doing it all at the same time is rough. I have to look at it in terms of progress: I didn't do anything with anyone for quite some time when I first came home. I was scared to leave the house because I didn't know how to handle stress or temptation at all. Now I do things with friends about once per week. I meditate daily. I'm starting to get on track again with keeping the house tidy (a huge obstacle for me).

I still feel like a newborn baby, though. Sometimes expectations are the worst. I realize that other people often think I need to "get used to" being around alcohol eventually. Not actually the case. If I were allergic to dogs would I need to "get used to" them?

We all know that guy who has been in recovery for 19 years and goes out to bars with his buddies, no problem. I'm not that guy. I'm someone who drank WAY too much for way too long and now I'm learning how to live without it. Some days keeping a cool head takes all my focus. If I am overtired, stressed, sick, or just plain ready to strangle the kids I have to find a way to calm myself down so I don't go into the danger zone of wanting to drink.

This perception our society has of people in recovery being self-righteous goody two-shoes - what in the actual fuck?! Don't get me wrong, I used to feel that way too. But this takes more strength than anything else I've ever done.

I have a secret weapon, though. My super rad tattoo reminds me why I did it:
Have you hugged an addict today?


*I don't want to debate semantics. It may or may not be a "disease" in the strict definition of the word. Whether or not it's physiological prior to the addiction it is absolutely physiological once the addiction has begun.


  1. Rock on my friend! I am praying for a loved family member who is struggling with addiction right now. I hope and pray she is able to get help as you did. Proud of you!

  2. Congratulations on your sobriety Kim!
    I have been sober from alcohol and drugs, though sadly not cigarettes, for over 20 years and I did it all without any support.

    It is a hard road traveled but is worth it all in the end. Well done, 6 months is a long time in 'addict years.' :)


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