I think recovery from any form of addiction -- eating disorders, alcoholism, whatever -- means an annoying, boat-load of anxiety.
I hate anxiety.
Many years ago, in elementary school, I had a friend named Jacqui. Obviously, she was awesome -- you can't have a name like "Jacqui" and not be awesome. She was confident and eccentric and laughed as loudly as I did.
Her house was just like her -- open, full of light, inviting. And her older brothers were funny and loud -- teenagers but we were usually able to convince them to play stuffed animal dodgeball with us from the balcony upstairs. And her Mom... her Mom was one of those moms that always made you feel so welcome and "please dear, don't worry about being so polite" and "would you like another popsicle?" and "sure you can sleep out on the trampoline tonight"!
Needless to say, I loved going to Jacqui's. But, one sleepover night, at 1am, I snuck out of her bedroom and --in the darkness of her mom's kitchen (which still smelled like S'mores from hours earlier), barefoot on their wooden floor -- I called my parents. My cries swallowed down by the fear that a member of Jacqui's family would hear me bawling, homesick, vulnerable.
I've always been like this. Maybe it's social anxiety, maybe it's just anxiety-anxiety. I don't know. But I like being at home. It is comfortable here. I am utterly and completely myself. I can do what I want and be independent and happy, all while still being around my dogs, my husband, within comfort and safety.
This past weekend I was at my parents house, which was where I spent the majority of my years where I felt depressed and hopeless. Don't get me wrong, I loved getting the chance to hang out with them, but it was difficult to stay there. So much that when I finally got back to my home, I collapsed into a 4 hour nap and then spent the next 24 hours trying to rid myself of the dormant anxiety I had built up during the trip.
Recovering felt like being away from home -- for a very long time, with no way to get back to it. So far away that anything comfortable and familiar was forgotten. I didn't know what it felt like to feel like "myself". Where I knew what was going to happen, how I to react, where I knew I could deal with it all...
I guess here is where I write about how if I didn't push myself and
spend the night at my friend's house, I wouldn't have had all these wonderful memories. Or if I hadn't gotten out of my comfort zone, I wouldn't have had such a good weekend with my parents.
But I would just be saying something you and I all already know.
Maybe, instead, what I need to do is start acknowledging that the feeling, that anxiety, is there. Right there in the core of myself. I always try to ignore it and push it away because it so difficult for me to feel and handle. It is an emotion that paralyzes me -- mentally, physically, and emotionally. Because (and I've only realized this in the past couple days -- hooray self-searching!) one of my biggest fears with anxiety is that it is permanent. When I am in the throes of it, I don't think it will ever go away. That I will forever feel this unsettled, this crazy. That my thoughts will never sort themselves out and I will never find my way back to anything stable.
Perhaps that is one reason why addictions are so difficult. Maybe they help make the anxiety, or other feelings one may have trouble bearing, easier to deal with.
But going back will not set me free.
At the beginning of recovery, you may only be able to step outside of that feeling of anxiety for a moment. A second. A giant gulping breath, before being pulled back in and under by the tide.
But soon, that moment will last a moment longer. You may not even realize it. Two deep breaths this time around. And. in days or weeks or months, it doesn't matter how long as long as you are moving, you may suddenly realize you've been turning your face to the sun and hadn't even noticed it. The anxiety has quieted enough that you have been able to kneel down and pick up a seashell, before it takes you once again.
It is not permanent. That feeling of anxiety. Each time you step away from it, you will add to the time spent without it. Until one day (yes, I say this because I know... because it happened to me), the majority of time will be spent in the sunlight. The time living in that anxiety will grow less and less.
This is not to say it will never return. I have had months, years, of being without it and then suddenly the anxiety and depression breaks through like a dam and flattens me. It remembers just how to roll me, how to make me writhe. Even if I had managed to forget how it felt, it reminds me completely. As if it had never left.
But it has left. It did leave. And it will again. I must remember this. I have made it this far. I have started at the very beginning, with one single breath. It is not permanent, despite how much it feels like it is and how much it feels like it will be. Because, through this time of struggle, I have made myself my own home. Not one that has been built out of fear and darkness, but one with open windows and a lovely, constant, ocean breeze billowing through baby-blue curtains. A home that was not built to keep other things out and me inside, but one where I can just be myself. Loudly and completely.
Without abandon or reprimand.
No, anxiety will come back to me. Depression may, too. That is life. That is life. But my new home will always be there when I turn to look for it. When I close my eyes and wait and breathe, telling myself, over and over, "It will pass. It will pass. I will find the sun again, because I always have before."