South Florida has in many ways become the Mecca for recovery. It seems that you can’t drive more than a couple of miles without seeing a treatment center, three-quarter house, meeting clubhouse, or someone you know in sobriety. It is a wonderful experience to get sober in this environment and one that every newly sober person should know. There is unlimited support, sunshine, and meetings. And since most of the people who get sober in South Florida are transplants to the area it at times feels like there are two worlds, one where everyone is sober and one where the rest of the world exists.
This creates a sort of recovery bubble. A paradise found of augmented reality superimposed on the humdrum existence that we lived while drinking. Not only are we experiencing the elation of finally getting sober, but also we are experiencing it in an in-between land between real life and fantasy. One where coffee with friends before 12-step meetings happens a lot. So what happens when we leave this bubble and return back home? It can be a difficult transition and it is one that I am currently experiencing.
I lived in Florida for 18 months. Five months of that was spent in treatment, giving me the time I needed to work on myself and transition back into the outside world. It was a different world that I walked into then the one I left when I entered those treatment center doors. The sky was a shade of blue that I had never seen before and the clouds towered overhead, seemingly stretching their way up to heaven. My entire outlook on life had shifted and it felt as if I was seeing things for the first time. On a less ethereal plane, I was surrounded by like-minded people, exactly like me, people who helped me through this transitional period of my life.
As much as things had changed dramatically in my life, it was not always easy in those early days of sobriety. I had to face the fear, pain, anger, and resentments that had built up from years of drinking in order to begin the journey to emotional sobriety. This was not always an easy task, but being in Florida, in my bubble of recovery, made facing these things easier. I was surrounded by support and could attend as many meetings as I needed. My life was simpler and many of the stressors and responsibilities that I faced in my life in Virginia were not present in Florida. My children were in Virginia as well, and as much as I missed them on a daily basis, being away allowed me the space that I needed in order to truly focus on myself.
Fast-forward 18 months and I am now back home in Virginia. It is strange being home because in one sense so much has changed but in another things have stayed the same. I am now faced with all of the people, places, and things that initially made getting sober difficult and I am doing it outside of my comfort zone, outside of my recovery bubble. While the message is the same, recovery in Virginia is different than recovery in Florida. There isn’t as large of a community and things just seem to feel more real. There is more of a distinction between recovery and life. This is not to say that recovery is not the focal point of my life, but it means that it fits into my life in a different way. I am not constantly surrounded by people who are in sobriety and this means that my interactions with the world have taken on a new shape.
I have also had to learn to juggle working full time, therapy, at least 5 meetings a week, a sponsee, service work, and on top of this I am a mom. This at times is overwhelming and while I am grateful to have these opportunities in my life, I sometimes think about the simpler days of early sobriety in Florida and how things were so much easier then. I am assured by people who have been through these experiences before that it is perfectly normal to feel this way.
Sobriety I am told is an expansion outward. When we first get sober our world is so small because for so many years we lived inside of a bottle, or a pill, or whatever else we used to escape. Our life was consumed with the need to get more and it was the only thing that mattered. Once we get sober our world becomes a little bit bigger. We begin to interact with people again, we begin to be employable, and we rejoin the stream of life.
This stream is ever changing, further expanding outward, as people grow up, get married, set up families, or move. We may not see our friends as much or we may take on new responsibilities, further breaking down the bubble we had once lived in. This can be frightening and at times I struggle to integrate the changes that have occurred in my life into my new reality. I can’t just drive to that meeting where everyone has known me for almost 2 years anymore, and I have had to create new relationships in Virginia.
I am often reminded of a line from a T.S. Eliot poem, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” In Florida, within the safety of my recovery bubble I explored the inner workings of my self. I have not ceased this exploration, but I have arrived at the place I started and it is brand new. Thought I struggle right now with the adjustment, I know that if I continue to do the things that were taught to me in the beginning of my sobriety, I will be just fine. As God was with me in Florida, he is also with me here, guiding me, and keeping me safe.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.