“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~Rumi
As I stood on the doorstep of that rehab facility, I felt completely empty except for the overwhelming weight of anxiety and shame. At that point, I was curious about what the rest of society was doing. I wondered how they managed to cope. And how was it that I couldn’t hack life and that things had spiraled so far down?
It’s hard to admit you have a problem. To be honest with yourself when you’ve numbed everything out for so long seems ridiculous. For many reasons it is daunting to finally openly share this with your friends and family.
It was like I had arrived at some in-between location. On one hand, I knew I had to leave the past behind me, and yet my future was something I couldn’t even begin to imagine. The future was not what I envisioned. There was no plan. My only motivation was to be desperate.
I was just desperate. It had been a lifelong struggle with alcohol. I had spent years trying to meet everyone else’s expectations and maintain the illusion of perfection in order to feel loved and accepted. My inability to understand my emotions, or how to deal with difficult situations, meant that I was unable and unwilling to accept the uncomfortable feelings I felt. However, this cost me a lot.
As was my job, so were the closest relationships. And I couldn’t remember what it felt like to experience joy because you can’t selectively numb emotions. If you don’t feel any emotion you will numb it all.
Another thing that led me to the threshold was an almost invisible voice. I had this message that I needed to “come home” and that “I needed to do this by myself, for myself.” While I didn’t understand this message at the time, there was an odd comfort and something that got enough of my attention to get me here.
As I was finding my feet on the sea, what struck me the most was my ability to be open and honest in this environment. My alcohol problems were real, my life was in chaos, I was afraid, and I was hopeless. Being understood and seen is the most precious gift anyone can get.
Although there were many characters in that facility, I wasn’t able to give any judgment. The raw beauty that people have in their lives and the desire to change it was what I saw. It was the naked truth of humanity. The experience was filled with trauma and despair, but also humor and knowing.
Our schedule required regular urine testing, no exposure to the outside, and we were restricted from sharp objects. While I physically felt incredibly confined, my heart and my mind were gaining a freedom they hadn’t had in a long time. It’s funny how that happens.
Things were beginning to get in my head. Anger, shame, resentment and fear were all I experienced. I learned that I was angry about a lot of things, including all the times I’d compromised myself to please other people. It was a shameful, embarrassing, and depressing experience to see how my life spiraled out-of control. My future wasn’t something that I could imagine. This made me feel anxious.
However, I began to experience freedom and hope and had some great laughs. The worst thing about addicts is their ridiculous behavior! I began to understand that feelings are big, and I’d only ever managed them by drowning them out.
It became clear to me that I could let these uncomfortable feelings pass through me if I felt them. When I allow myself to feel these big, uncomfortable feelings, it also allows me to experience joy, bliss and lots of gratitude.
I never thought I’d say it, but my recovery has, hands down, been my greatest teacher. It was through the removal of alcohol that I felt at home in a deeply personal place. She was my partner in peace and she began to be loved by me.
Slowly self-love began to take root. For me, it felt strange. It had an inviting quality, though. It was welcoming and optimistic. It was easy to see a deeper part of myself when I looked in the mirror. The parts of me that felt alive were possible to be reclaimed. It was time to find out what I liked about myself. I was curious about what activities and people brought me joy. Which activities and people would bring me joy?
I began to see that I’d put so much energy into avoiding my life, numbing out, and trying desperately to hide my addiction. What could I do with that energy to live a happy life? Also, I decided to create a life where I felt deeply fulfilled and joyous if I were going to spend all that effort to change my life.
It was easy to recognize that I could make even the smallest daily decisions to stand on my own two feet. I began to care for myself. After ravaging my body, I began to care for it with compassion, by feeding, watering, moving, and then letting it go. It was wise and I learned to trust it.
I sought out the help of doctors, therapists, energy healers, spiritual leaders, and anyone who could help me excavate everything I wanted to numb out—feelings of inadequacy, unhappy relationships, anxiety, and a deep sense of disconnection from myself—and release me to a future full of possibility. Just being on my side and loving myself more than I thought was possible, helped me to accept my imperfect, authentic self. It was liberating, fun, and sometimes even amusing.
Going to rehab was one of the best/worst things I’ve ever had to do. The worst part was that it felt like the end. This was my best decision because it saved me completely and opened the door to a new future that I could not have imagined. It has been an amazing gift to recover from addiction.
If you think going to rehab sucks, entering the real world sober isn’t a whole lot better. It’s not often that I can remember the reasons I felt the need to be numb. The world we live in thrives upon numbing ourselves out. It is hard to choose to be conscious and mindful.
What is different now? I can choose my own choices. The voice in my head is a lot more like that whisper—gentle, encouraging, and compassionate. I reminds me that I am in the driver’s seat and that the simple, mindful choices I make in every moment have a profound and transformative impact over time. It can be a big deal how I look after myself and what I do in the world.
I realized that when I was saying “no” to alcohol, I was saying “yes” to me. I was saying “yes” to my health and vitality. I was saying “yes” to my mental health, my joy, and my peace of mind. I was also saying “yes” to the people that I loved and the kind of life I wanted to create. Now, I lived from a position of respect for the human experience. This was the time I decided to celebrate and savor this human experience.
We all have raw material in our lives, and it’s what we choose to do with it that matters. You can either let your past haunt you or face it head-on and make a new future. This new way of living can be reborn.
My well-being is my number one priority. Every moment should be filled with joy. This means listening to my favorite music, being outside and wearing my favourite colour. It also means doing things that bring my mind, body and spirit joy—these things include yoga, meditation, journaling, getting a good night’s sleep, and drinking lots of water. I’m also sure to surround myself with good people. Joy can be a choice. We need to make the effort to feel it.
Joy is possible and recovery is possible.
About Adrienne Enns
Adrienne Enns is the Founder of May You Know Joy. Through products, experiences, and conversations, her mission is to help people live more joyful and intentional lives. May You Know Joy is her creation, Intentional Days author, and The Intentions Session podcast host. She learned to be intentional through her journey of recovery. Since February 2012, she is thankful for each day.
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