Last week I was sick. I was really sick. The kind of sick where you lay in bed and lament about how awful everything is and you start to believe that you may never again feel better. As I was laying there staring at the television, my Netflix asking me if I was still watching, and I too lazy to find the remote, I started to think about how being sick could possibly be a trigger for someone like myself who was sober.
Now before anyone gets nervous, I am not saying that if you get sick you will relapse, or that just being sick is necessarily enough to make someone relapse, but feeling awful can most definitely lead to a want to feel better. As alcoholics and addicts we know how to feel better, we did it for many years, and so to this regard being sick can lead to feelings of wanting to use. Just like getting used to insomnia in sobriety, getting used to getting sick is something that anyone in sobriety should be aware of. Because the reality is that most people get sick at least once a year, so it makes sense that you should have an awareness of this hurdle that you may face.
While I lay in bed and thought about this I was reminded of a couple of things from the beginning of my sobriety. The first being that when I had a couple of months sober I came down with a really bad flu. It laid me up for a couple of days and I remember that a lot of the people that I was getting sober with got the same flu. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time, but over the next year, I began to notice that most people at some point in the beginning of their sobriety, and I am not talking about withdrawals, got pretty sick. I have to say that this is a big deal because one of the things about active addiction is that often you don’t get sick per se other than going through withdrawal.
So for many people in recovery being physically sick from a bacterial or viral infection can #1 bring back memories of going through withdrawal and #2 be a completely new experience. The thing that makes being sick so hard is that we know how to easily fix that or that’s what your brain tells you. The thing that really took the cherry is that as a mom it sucks to be sick since you don’t really get the opportunity to be sick when you have children. I am blessed to have a daughter that wanted to help take care of me. I love this little girl she tried her best to help me feel better. My son was happy to snuggle with me and we watched movies together. What I did this time while sick was use some natural supplements to help me feel better zinc and elderberry syrup are really helpful for viral infections.
I also thought about a time when I had maybe 9 months sober and I had a really bad cold again. I had to work because I had to pay my bills and so I couldn’t take a day off. About 4 days into being sick I was at work and I was mad. Like really mad. I was upset that I had to do that job and I was upset that I had to be there when I was sick. Everything that everyone did that day annoyed me and I just wanted to go home and seek oblivion. That was the actual thought I had. I’m not entirely sure how it was worded but I know the word oblivion was in it. I didn’t want to feel and the thing about it is that I was so off at that point that I didn’t recognize this as dangerous thinking.
My idea was that I would go to CVS when I got off of work, buy nighttime cold medicine and sleep for the rest of the day. Not that there is anything wrong with taking medication that makes your drowsy, but my motives for taking it were not okay and what’s worse is that I didn’t realize it. I went to CVS still in a huff and I went to the cold medicine aisle and yet for some reason, I got the daytime medicine, also without thinking much about it. I paid for it and then went to my car.
When I got to my car I realized what had just happened and how close I was to possibly making a really poor choice, and how I didn’t even realize it at the time. I was so wrapped up in myself, my self-pity, and anger that I didn’t even realize what was going on until it was almost too late.
You may be thinking that I am overthinking this whole thing and that going to the store and almost buying nighttime medicine does not even come close to constituting a relapse, but I believe you’d be wrong. The thing about it is that my disease doesn’t come straight at me anymore and it didn’t really after I had a few months sober. If it just came out that day and said, “Hey, let’s get drunk.” I could have shaken that off because I knew better and so it came at me sideways. It came out me in ways that I didn’t expect and given my motives that day that I walked into CVS I would say that was about the closest I’ve been to a relapse since I got sober.
Let’s say for a minute that I would have actually gotten the medicine and gone home and slept the day away, who’s to say that that wouldn’t have lead to something else down the road. Relapse is, or at least, in my opinion, a series of concessions that lead to the final concession of a drink or drug. I believe that could have happened to me that day and I am grateful that it didn’t.
I am now feeling a lot better I am glad to say, but regardless I still think that being sick can be a trigger for people in sobriety. My advice when you are sick is to take it easy if you can. Try not to overdo it and if you feel yourself starting to get too emotional then take a step back and see what it is you have to change. If that means taking the day off then do that, if it means eating something then do that, but don’t get yourself worked up to the point that I did that day or the results could possibly be pretty bad.
Rose Lockinger is a 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.