Erin's Journal

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Just a thought... Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past. [attributed to Lily Tomlin, Anne Lamott, Jack Cornfield, Petrea King and others]

I'll change that quote just a bit for my purposes here: Recovery means giving up all hope for a better past. There.
Thanks for taking this journey with me these past few journals. This won't be a common theme, I promise! 
I'm going to have to be vague on some of the details from here on in, as recovery is very much about anonymity and keeping quiet about what happens, where and with whom. I respect those parameters. But I'm also grateful for people like Betty Ford, Mary Tyler Moore, Jann Arden and other women who have come forth with stories of their battles and helped others to know that seeking sobriety is not something to be ashamed of.
Here's one of the most startling things I learned very early on in my recovery: 1 in 7 people becomes addicted to substances, be they sleeping or pain pills, harder drugs or the ever-present alcohol (and we're not even talking about gambling, sex addiction, food issues or video game obsession) and, of those, only 10% will receive treatment. But if you have addiction in your family tree, your odds move up to 4 in 7. I dearly wish that I had a link to corroborate information on this, but it was contained in a lecture film that we watched in treatment. Choose to believe or not believe, as is your right.
This vast place where I spent 38 days housed somewhere around 80 people at a time, some in medical triage and detox, but most of us in big log houses with multiple beds in multiple rooms. For my first two weeks, I shared a room with two women, then was moved to a double room, where twice I was lucky to make a friend of the funny and endearing woman in the next bed. (Sharing a bathroom with two or three women is an entirely different kind of challenge and not one that I care to repeat in the near future!)
Meals were served in a loud and often uncomfortably warm dining hall; we had to stay the entire 30 minutes of each mealtime as a form of practising discipline (and to prevent those with eating disorders from leaving early). I found that to be a true challenge, loving silence as I do. On the other hand, living without internet, iPhone and music was extremely taxing.
I fell into a funk early, but my "withdrawal" was short-lived, thanks to a daily newspaper and a few minutes of television news. Lining up for meds and vitamins, being told when we could and could not do things that we took for granted in our day-to-day lives, like laundry or lying down, was a tough adjustment. But discipline is something a lot of people in treatment have trouble with, and this was a first step for many towards doing simple things like making their beds and doing chores. I get that.
Recovery meetings and various lectures were held in a large log-walled hall, daily walks were along winding paths that were challenging in their pitch but always enjoyable. Yoga was a highlight (but only scheduled once a week), while with the exception of morning readings and conversations about them, meditation was held but once the entire time I was there. Mindfulness, however, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy were two of the mainstays of our full and busy recovery program and I continue both daily and religiously.
Each one of the centre's counsellors was beyond reproach. I had breakthrough moments one-on-one so many times that I lost count, while group therapy meant getting to know fellow patients, laughing, crying and sharing our perspectives and our own challenges. Chief among them for me was putting away my sense of humour and trying to let anyone inside the walls that I had built, so often out of pure survival instinct, to protect myself from the pain others can inflict. (Read about letters or emails in my book and you'll understand why those walls went up, beginning in childhood and throughout my career.)
When my 38 days were up, I was beyond excited and ready to come home to a sweet husband who had made the drive to visit me for a few quiet outdoor hours every Sunday (often with Molly, our dog) and to a big, soft bed that I missed every single night. But I have brought with me a metaphorical backpack filled with tools to survive, to thrive and to live this joyful life that I've promised myself - and you - in the aftermath of a horrendous loss or any kind of unexpected life change.
Most importantly, I learned that I'm finding new places to seek comfort. Already I've made new friends and had more moments filled with the closeness that only fellow travellers on this road can understand than I could ever have imagined.
Believe me when I say that the first steps are the hardest and nothing can measure up to the fears we have built in anticipation of challenges ahead. But I kept my eye on the prize - a long and healthy life with Rob and a future filled with more work-related adventures and lots of time with Colin and his family - and the idea that all we have is this one day. Worrying about the days to come and regret about what's done will do us no good. Recovery means giving up all hope for a better past. And enjoying today.
Thank you and I'll be back Thursday.
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