Thank you everyone for understanding that I needed the weekend to recharge. From running eleven rehab groups, to twelve-step meetings, to 22 zoom meetings, my week was busy. In short, it was stressful enough without trying to write a blog post every day. This upcoming week everything will calm down as I have begun to reformat most of the group topics to meet an online video format. But by last Friday afternoon, I was burnt out and needed the next 48 hours to do nothing.
Saturday, I spent mostly binge-watching Netflix, but after eight hours of nothing else, I felt like a used sponge left in the sink. After the sad realization that the next series on Netflix was not going to answer any of life’s problems, I had to buckle down and start something different. I had to take a break away from the screen, so I picked up a book and began to read. For irony’s sake, I began with Albert Camus’s The Plague, but about six pages in, it became to surreal. There were too many parallels between Camus's absurd prose and the eerie similar headlines on my phone. Next I took an escapist approach. I read a few comic books and attempted to catch up on my latest 1,200 page fantasy novel (Yes, I am a nerd). Still feeling a little restless, I decided to journal. This in turn led to hours of reflection and being alone with my thoughts.
I am not sure if it’s because I have been working with LMU for the last two weeks, but recently I have been reflecting on years at college. A journey that started ten years ago and took way too long to finish. To put it simply, I was a mess in college. I did a lot of damage and eventually was kicked out in the second semester of my senior year. A lot of these memories bring both a sense of nostalgia and a subtle sense of melancholy. In the Big Book, the Promises state, “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” There is part of me that is grateful for the damage that I caused. If it had not been for a few key events that I managed to screw up, I would not be sober today. Another part of me has noticed that there are still uncomfortable emotions lingering with these memories.
Having a few years under my belt, I can easily proclaim that feelings are not facts. I understand that in due time these melancholic episodes will eventually pass. They have, however, been placed under a microscope thanks to the stay-at-home order. And being an addict alone with his thoughts while trying to co-habitate with someone else is not a recipe for success. After I had been kicked out of school and my sobriety was beginning to take its painful hold, a mentor of mine said something interesting. He asked me, “Who would you be without that thought?” At the time I wasn’t really in the right headspace to hear what he was trying to ask me. To me, my life was over and I had no future. Today, I know that is far from the truth.
Today I change the question to, “Who would I be without these feelings of melancholy?” As I went throughout the day, I applied the same technique to other anxieties like “Who would I be if I brought home less income due to restrictions?” or “Who would I be if I lost a loved one to the virus?” or “Who would I be without the steps?” (Okay maybe not so much that last one). This question's strength is that it brings me back to reality. Instead of running down a rabbit hole with anxiety, depression, or melancholy, I remember this feeling does not have to overwhelm me. This question provides some buffering between me and whatever problem I think I have. I don't have to react to negative feelings; I can simply let them be. And when I can pause and take notice, it ultimately reminds me that the promises have come true for me. I do understand serenity and peace...if I work for them.
This article was written by Jack Shain, CADC - II and founder of Keep Left Recovery.
The photo was taken by Marcin Niedzialek