In the early days and weeks of recovery ‘feeling all the feels’ is like being on a furious roller coaster. After I quit my heavy drinking habit I lurched from one emotional state to another like a crazy woman. One minute screaming at the kids, then crying for no apparent reason, feeling waves of awful hopeless, and often this horrible itchy boredom. But slowly – very slowly – things calmed down. I got better at navigating my way through tough times. I became familiar with my anger and sadness and less reactive to them. I was able to stop myself from losing the plot at the drop of a hat.
To think of recovery as linear – a continuum of getting better and better – is misguided at best. Recovery is messy as hell. It is a series of becoming undone, reforming, and blooming – again and again. Anyone who tells you it’s plain sailing once you get sober, or that your inner turmoil is a reflection of your broken spiritual state, is entirely misguided. I just turned six years sober and have never felt so broken and undone in my entire recovery journey so far. No amount of spiritual work is touching the surface, only easing the pain and my relationship to it.
When I started to feel like drinking culture was no longer serving me a few years ago, I was admittedly resistant about being “sober” because of the social stigma I held around the label. I didn’t want to be “sober” because I didn’t want to have a “problem” … I was – by all accounts – a completely normal social drinker … But when I looked at how drinking made me feel (lethargic, unmotivated, sometimes sad, regretful, empty) and behave (obnoxious, unconfident, judgmental, snarky, over-the-top), I knew with certainty that I was not being the best version of me …
Just then, a sleek European sports car wheeled into the parking lot. A very handsome, well groomed man hopped out and asked, “May I help you?”
“I was just looking for the meeting schedule,” I replied.
“For AA?” he quizzed.
“Yes,” I affirmed.
After a brief pause, he smiled and said, “You don’t look like a drunk!”
I laughed out loud. Though I am typically shy and reserved, especially with strangers, I literally laughed out loud––and kept laughing.
Life changing moments often come unexpectedly. The good, the bad and the ones an individual never wishes to experience. For Nathan Harmon that moment occurred in July of 2009. It was a night that was supposed to be filled with laughter and a new friendship. That ultimately ended with a fatal car accident leaving 28 year old, Priscilla Owens gone forever, a girl he had known for only three weeks.
There is a lot of emotional dysregulation … with substance abuse disorders. Animals serve as role models for mindfulness … while someone in recovery is relearning how to navigate the world of an emotional being … To conquer the anger, shame and guilt of a relentless feeling disease, requires an honest inventory. With pride set aside, the recall of our memory is best in a non-judgmental setting, [with] unconditionally-loving pets, whether it is pet therapy or animal assisted therapy.
I didn’t wake up one day sober and filled with a sense of peace. I’ve been wandering around this planet for 20 years, and I’ve spent the vast majority of them sabotaging myself compared to the few years I’ve put towards recovery. In the last year though, I’ve found that by actively trying to connect to some power in the Universe that is not me, I’ve come much closer to finding myself than I ever could have dreamed. I’m still learning, and there’s so much to spirituality and recovery that I haven’t even begun to tap into, but that’s why I focus on taking things one day at a time. Healing doesn’t happen overnight, but as long you continue to pursue it the sky’s the limit, recovery is infinite, and anything is truly possible.
When I was thinking about quitting drinking, no one in my “real life” seemed to get how I was feeling about alcohol. Struggling with your drinking can be a very isolating experience, but seeing your story reflected in someone else’s can be so powerful.