Much like most of us, I believe I suffered from anxiety throughout my entire life which is why the drink and the drug came so naturally to me. It calmed my nerves and gave me self confidence, all of which I lacked in my adolescent years. If I was not drinking or using I was taking Kilonopin. Drugs, alcohol and benzos were my answer. So when it came down to abstinence, all of those anxieties came at me like a tsunami but I was told by many in the fellowship that if I was to successfully sustain my addictions, I could not take any medications.
So I complied, because a part of me believed that to be true as well.
Early sobriety, as I expected, was tough. I was flooded with emotions and feelings that I had little to no control over. But I carried on because I was holding on to the idea that one day I would wake up cured. Not cured from my addictions but cured of my mind, my moods and insecurities. However, as days, weeks and months carried on I did not see any improvements in my moods and my anxieties.
I believe now that long term drug and alcohol abuse can severely disrupt our brain function. Some, like myself, may lack the ability to completely rebuild the sensors in our brains that produce pleasure and the ability to calm ourselves. But I am not a medical doctor, but I do know from my personal experience I had maintained three successful years of sobriety with complete abstinence and it was by far the hardest three years of my life. I was an emotional disaster. I had anxiety, I was angry, I was depressed and I found no interest in normal every day activities. In order to further save myself and my personal relationships, I sought out therapy.
Along with intense therapy my therapist suggested medication. On several occasions she would mention to me that I would have a higher success rate at any type of normalcy if I would consider medication. Being taught in the fellowship that we need to abstain from any and all forms of substances, I was terrified that taking anything may sway my sobriety, so ultimately, I would quickly dismiss the suggestion.
However, over time, the seed had been planted and my dismissiveness began to be muffled with the idea that maybe I did in fact suffer from anxieties and depression all along. That maybe this was how I was pre-addiction, or maybe this is who I am now. I surely did not get sober to feel at constant sadness and how unfortunate it would be for my son if I continued on as I was.
During one of our sessions I inquired as to what options in medication did someone like me have. Interestingly enough I was shocked to hear that there are actually medications that treat depression and anxiety that do not have any controlled substances in them. That there are medication to treat depression and anxiety that do not contain benzodiazepines and opioids like I had mentioned in my previous article.
I know, shocking isn’t it?
So with the absolute certainty that this medication would not feed into my addictions, I tried it. Which was against my own beliefs at that time and I was shocked and relieved to see a change within myself. I was able to compartmentalize my emotions. Not like I had been where each emotion ran into each other and would cause a massive explosion. It took that slight edge off that I would carry around within myself throughout the day. I was always on guard and always tried to be one step ahead. I was now able to let things go a little bit easier and let bygones be bygones.
I am in no way trying to sell medications to people in sobriety but rather speaking to you with advice that it is okay not to run your recovery exactly like your sponsor, mentor or friend. Everyone’s journey through recovery is different. Everyone has different strengths and different weaknesses and it is important to keep in mind that we chose sobriety to find peace and happiness. To no longer live in pain and to free ourselves from the bondage of our addictions. If you feel like you may need more than what you have, it is important to listen to yourself. I have been on my medication for almost two years and it has completely changed my life. I am now more active in life and I no longer carry any fears of people or institutions. I now have enough peace inside myself to be alone with my own thoughts. I can actually sit now and watch tv, write or read without my mind taking over and quickly sabotaging any brief moments of joy. I have slowed down, but in a way where I can stop and smell the summer breeze or listen to rain fall in a silent home. I have a newfound appreciation for people and nature. I am more patient and focused on my son and my personal relationships have dramatically improved. I wake everyday ready for the world. I wake everyday ready to take on whatever the day has to offer me, whether it be good or bad. I wake now everyday with sobriety being my main focus and with a new appreciate of where I have come from and how I have overcome.