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.

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