I want to preface this by saying I am not Anti-Recovery. This isn’t a “this is the downside and therefore don’t recover” article; this is a “you will experience this, please be prepared” article.
Going into recovery is easily one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It seems like it should be easy, but I have to battle habits that were so natural I didn’t have to think about them to do them… And now that battle is daily.
And while I knew that I’d have to fight myself every day to try and break the cycle, what nobody made me aware of was how much baggage I was carrying.
I know, it sounds backwards, but hear me out.
When you’ve been through anything similar to me – you’ll know first-hand that it’s a lot to carry. But addictions, eating disorders, and self-harm are all forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Yes, they’re dangerous and painful and do terrible things to us, but they were coping mechanisms. So, when you finally start recovering from an addiction, you’re suddenly left with a massive lack of mechanisms to cope with whatever you were struggling with at the start.
I started drinking at age 14, my eating disorder started at age 12, and I was self-harming from as young as 8.
I didn’t start self-harming for the fun of it; it was because I was dealing with depression, anxiety, and chronic pain as a child.
My eating disorder picked up when puberty started. I put on more weight and I got severely bullied at school.
I started drinking to alleviate some of the stress I was under and to assist in masking as an Autistic person in a world that didn’t accept us.
The self-harm distracted me from my constant pains by giving me a minor, visible pain to focus on.
My eating disorder gave me a sense of control over my body, and while it was extremely short-lived (because the ED takes over eventually), it gave me peace.
Drinking helped me seem more normal to people; I could hide who I really was.
But none of those coping mechanisms resolved or got rid of the pain I was feeling.
The depression, anxiety, self-hatred, and the want – or even need – to be loved; all of that was still there – is still there. It was just hidden behind the damage I was doing to myself.
Nobody tells you that when you finally give up your crutch, all that floods back. The first four weeks of recovery were hard because I had to think about every little action consciously.
Now that I’m on week six, I don’t have to think about it as much, which gives my mind time to heal. But, with that comes the flood of fifteen years.
Fifteen years of hiding emotional, psychological, and physical pain.
Fifteen years of feeling useless, ugly, disgusting, shameful, and worthless.
Fifteen years of pain that I didn’t process – and it all came back at once.
The best way I can describe it is:
I have a building on my shoulders, and for every shitty thing that has happened to me, another few floors are added to the building’s height.
Three pilers held up my building: my eating disorder, self-harm, and addictions. As I worked on my pilers, they started to crumble, and suddenly I was hit by a building.
Everything came crashing down all at once, and I was left decimated by my own mind.
And I’m told it’s sad and unfortunate, but I’m not allowed to display the whirlwind of emotions my body is trying to go through.
However, I’m confident that anybody hit with the intensity I’ve felt over the past week would probably react the same way as me: irritated, angry, depressed, and suicidal.
This last week, I’ve considered ending my life on three separate occasions. Thankfully, I’m learning to process that – even if it means I have to sit with that level of self-hatred.
But nobody warns you.
You could go to three or five AA meetings a week, a daily ED support session, or even speak with a doctor – and nobody will tell you that you’re about to feel the worst you will ever feel.
Rock bottom isn’t when you realise you need help.
Rock bottom is when you’re free from the coping mechanisms that were harming you and you’re finally dealing with the flood of pain you’d been hiding from everyone, including yourself.
So, if you’re a long-time addict, please ensure you’re with someone. You don’t need to talk, but I promise that having someone with you is much better than crying alone, wondering if ending it all would fix it.
Because when we get hit by our building, we can’t see the future.
And while we consciously know that suicide is a long-term fix for short-term problems, we’re not always rational at that moment.
So, sit with someone – whether to talk about it, something else, or even to sit in silence. Let someone be rational for you.
Don’t be alone like I was.
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