I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve been feeling — after an initial whoosh of hooray and hope — so deeply blah lately. I realize blah is not the most descriptive term in the world, but I can’t think of how else to describe it: I’m not really sad, I’m not really happy, I’m not really interested in much of anything. I have no desire to interact with anyone, talking sounds exhausting and smiling feels like it requires way too many muscles. It’s a pervasive sense of blah with a side serving of meh.

If this is rehab transition, it seems a little unfair given how I had been breathlessly counting down the days/hours/minutes until I could return to my life, which had taken on a sort of mirage effect in my mind by the final week or so. There it was, shimmering in the distance: the world where I have kids and a comfortable bed and I’m allowed to use aerosol hairspray. I wanted to come home so badly, and yet now that I’m finally here I guess I miss being there.

There are lots of things I don’t miss, of course. I don’t miss waking up at 5:45 or waiting in a Disneyland-length line to request an ibuprofen or lying in bed at night staring at the ceiling because we can’t have any reading material aside from AA literature. I don’t miss the seemingly endless hours of lectures and group sessions and meetings each day. I don’t miss the cattle shuffle to receive our high-calorie cafeteria meals, which were announced three times daily via the comically Pavlovian clang of a brass bell. I don’t miss the facility’s we-don’t-trust-you-not-to-guzzle-chemical-foam brand of hand sanitizer that lingered stickily on your palms because it lacked the drying effect of alcohol.

What I do miss is being in an environment where everyone gets it. It’s like … imagine there’s this crappy thing about you that causes you all sorts of bone-deep shame and makes you feel alone in the world, like you’re the only one with the thing (even though you know better), and then you move into a house where all your roommates, every last one of them, have the exact same thing. Every conversation you have, even the politely useless blips of “Good morning” and “Huh, looks like rain today” has the ring of easy camaraderie. You meet someone new and that forever-worry of what they’d think of you if they knew what a screwup you are is gone. Unlikely friendships are forged because of the bond that runs underneath everything, a connection of shared regret. There’s no need to explain, no need to apologize. The piss-poor choices you’ve made: everyone’s been there, done that. God, the surprising relief of living that way.

(I realize that’s what the meetings are for, at least in part. I’ve been assured that there will come a time when the idea of attending yet another meeting won’t feel like an ass-pain on par with a monstrous third trimester hemorrhoid [as the saying goes, How long do you have to go to meetings? Until you WANT to go to meetings], but I’m definitely not there yet.)

They told me, over and over, the hardest work would start when I came home. I didn’t really believe it, though. I figured I’d pull on my old life like a pair of broken-in jeans, but the truth is the mirage was exactly that. I can’t go back to how things were, I have to figure out what the new picture looks like. I have to find my way to that sense of belonging I got a taste of, because retreating inside myself doesn’t work.

But maybe most of all, I have to actually deal with things now instead of altering the way I feel. Maybe that’s what this blankness is all about — it may not be fun, but it’s safer than the murk that’s just below the surface. The towering shitpile of self-loathing that I’ve tried to shove aside with substances, back and bigger than ever and ready to say howdy.

What can I do but ride it out, go to my outpatient treatment, go to my meetings, and see where it all takes me. Figure out when I need to drive and when I need to let go of the goddamned wheel. Take a breath and be here in the blah-filled moment, and trust that better things are yet to come.


62 Responses to “Muffled”

  1. Joanne on April 14th, 2015 9:01 pm

    I remember when I quit smoking someone told me it was really hard at six months and then a year. I thought, six months? How could it be hard at six months? But it is the hardest when you are back in your life, when you’re not actively quitting but have quit. I read this post today, and thought of you, I also really loved A Drinking Life by Pete Hamill and Drinking, A Love Story. I know it will get better. http://www.renegademothering.com/2014/02/07/we-dont-start-with-a-needle-in-our-arm/

  2. A. on April 15th, 2015 5:58 am

    Welcome back. I’ve thought of you nearly every day, checking your twitter to see if you were back online. I’m happy to see you’re writing here again. Warm thoughts and support sent all the way from MN.

  3. Stephanie on April 15th, 2015 8:28 am

    Welcome back. I hope it’s some small consolation that there are hundreds of people cheering you on and wishing you well as you work through this tough time.

    This may seem strange or random or pushy, but as part of a class I’m taking, I heard a lecture a few months ago by someone who completely changed the way I think about addiction. He’s a former ER doctor and a current addiction specialist who taught us about the way chemical addiction messes with the dopamine levels in an addict’s brain, so that at the beginning of recovery, even with all the 12-step programs and willpower and support and best intentions, the brain has stopped making enough dopamine to allow the recovering addict to function normally — the fMRI-measured brain cravings for the substance is far larger than for food or water, while the dopamine levels the brain can make on its own are so low that basic day-to-day coping is chemically very difficult. If you Google Dr. Corey Waller, you’ll find a YouTube hour-long presentation he did to a group of doctors and nurses who treat addiction, and it might be helpful to understand his approach, which is having a large degree of success here in Michigan and which includes a combination of CBT and dopamine-replacement medications (suboxone, methadone) for a short period of time while the brain re-learns how to make its own dopamine.

    Lots of wishes for strength and wellness from Michigan from a long-time reader and admirer.

  4. Stephanie on April 15th, 2015 9:11 am

    p.s. – If you look up that video, the first half of it focuses a lot on pain; the addiction part starts around the 23-minute mark.

  5. Karen on April 15th, 2015 9:39 am

    I can’t even begin to fathom what you are going through, but you are the strongest person I know (and I don’t even know you!)

    Like many others, I was worried about your silence on the interwebs and had hoped that maybe you gave it up for lent…lol. I was selfishly happy to see you back online, without thinking of what you are going through.

    I am sending you strength from Chicago, and hope for nothing but peace and happiness for you and your family.

  6. June on April 15th, 2015 10:38 am

    Know that many are standing by your side, cheering you on. We believe in you!

  7. Mary Clare on April 15th, 2015 10:49 am

    Linda, I commend you for confronting your weaknesses and changing your situation, even if its slow and painful. Please forgive and take care of yourself. Sending hugs across the internets!

  8. CK on April 15th, 2015 10:59 am

    I’m so happy that you are back. I am so inspired by your courage and perseverance and the strength you have to not only deal with this but to do it publicly. So thank you for your openness and honesty. I just want you to know that I am rooting for you and your family right now.

  9. Lucy on April 15th, 2015 12:30 pm

    Linda, I’ve been reading you for years and years and years. I worry when you don’t post, and I admire you so very much. Please know that the people, YOUR people, in the internet, are rooting for you. Every day. And sending all the love and hugs in the world. You can do this. We’ve got your back.

  10. Jen T on April 15th, 2015 12:35 pm

    It must be a tough and overwhelming feeling, but I am glad that you are able to see and own the discomfort and know that there is work ahead. That is a start and a big step.

    I am so happy to see you writing again. You are my favorite writer on the internet and I have missed reading you. Wishing you all the best.

  11. annie on April 15th, 2015 12:46 pm

    Some Al- Anon’s that got me through.. Take what you like and leave the rest. It works if you work it. Tell the shitty committee ( the one in your head) to STFU. God doesn’t make junk. When one door shuts, another one opens, but it’s a bitch being in the hallway. You got this Linda, we are all behind you.

  12. Kris on April 15th, 2015 5:22 pm

    Not sure if it helps, but someone in Montreal Quebec knows your name, read what you wrote and cares about you. I’m rooting for you, as are many others out there. I wish you all the best.