How You Know That You’re Recovered
By Z Zoccolante
Addiction is multifaceted and so is recovery. Recovery can mean something different for each person. At a group I led, in a drug/alcohol treatment facility, there was a man who was adamant about identifying as an addict. “Whenever I don’t,” he said, “I give myself little permissions and pretty soon I’m out doing meth again.”
For another person, he didn’t want to identify with being an alcoholic once he was sober. He said he didn’t want that energy in his vibration anymore.
What I tell each person whether drug, alcohol, eating disorder, whatever is that it’s important to have a future version of you. That version is the you that’s recovered. What exactly does that look like to you. What does recovery entail.
For some people with eating disorders it means that they stop throwing up. For some it means that they stop restricting and maybe like their bodies again. Mine was that food and my body were a non-issue.
Everyone is different. And how do you know when you get there. Well it feels like something doesn’t own you anymore, that you are not waiting for the next round-the-corner to be drug into your personal hell.
But on a more real level I realized recently.
I had a ten-minute break and a conversation where something got triggered and then I stepped back into my all-day online seminar. The problem was that I couldn’t stop my internal spinning and I wasn’t present in class and the feelings just kept spooling open in my chest. We were all watching a video and I’m crying in my little square wiping my eyes and clearly not ok. We take another five-minute break and the teacher calls me and I can barely even speak.
It’s one of those cries that I have no idea what the hell is wrong with me except it feels deep and sorrowful and I can’t pin to anything specific. The tears just come. I hold myself and tell the class I’m just really sad and I’m ok no one has to take care of me even though I’m crying.
The class holds space for me and they support and trust that I can hold myself too. I spend three hours off and on, on mute and wipe my eyes between slides and videos and breathing exercises and meditations.
During dinner there is resolution and most of the dangling hole of sadness in my chest fills in. As we close for that night, we each give our reflections of the day.
I unmute and pause as I say that there was a point when I couldn’t handle any emotion in my body even if it was heavily happy. There was a point where my body and all emotions were not safe – they had to be starved, exercised, binged or purged. My body couldn’t tolerate even low levels of discomfort.
Now, I tell the group, I just cried for like 3 hours today and I felt like crap and I let that be what it was. The sadness was present, the hole in my chest, and yet I can hold it now in my body without lashing out against myself or others. Without doing all those things I used to do to numb the emotions away.
I also realize today that in one conversation at dinner, the thing was resolved enough to cause the feeling to leave my body. In one split second the feeling turned itself off.
It reminds me of how quickly things can move and change and maybe it’s a lesson for me to pause. To take a breath. To be with the thing happening now and hold it lovingly and then allow it to move on.
My body tells me that I am recovered because now I can feel intense emotion coursing through me and I don’t act out against myself or wall off from others. I can hold it in my body because feelings no longer will kill me the way I once thought.
Being able to feel my feelings sets me free from the hell I once lived thinking I was protecting myself by hurting myself.
Recovery is the ability to be in your body for the full experience of it all. This is how I know when I feel it and when I see it in others.