This morning, almost as soon as I opened my eyes, I heard a faint knock on the door. A chaste-looking woman stood in my doorway, holding a pile of damp papers (it had been raining). “Good morning,” she said. “I’m wondering… how do you find your comfort?” It took awhile for my brain to register what was happening. Finally, I managed to say, “I’m sorry ma’am, I just woke up.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Would you like me to come back when you’re a little more awake?”
“Yes, if you’d like.” I immediately cursed myself for inviting her back, and then I began to process the strange interaction. She asked me how I found my comfort. What a strange question. What a strange interaction. But it really got me thinking.
How did I find my comfort?
Finding Comfort in Addiction Recovery
I had a work event the night beforehand – ample schmoozing, high heels, and more contrived, tight-lipped conversation than I was used to. At first, I felt extremely uncomfortable. How would I have found my comfort? I would have bee-lined for the open bar, stealthily guzzled half-a-dozen glasses of red wine, and mingled with the best of them. (Of course, I also would have continued guzzling, jumped into the pool and/or attempted to start a karaoke war, made of complete and utter ass of myself, and woken up without a job or any semblance of dignity.) Alcohol, for so long, was my comfort. When I began to feel uneasy in my own skin, I reached for a bottle, and was immediately relieved of all fear, discomfort, and anxiety. Social events seemed far less intimidating, and loss of inhibitions meant loss of apprehension and awkwardness. For awhile. The more I drank, the bigger my discomfort grew. What began as a ‘social lubricant’ quickly turned into a necessity. The more I embarrassed myself, the more I engaged in morally compromised acts – the deeper my sense of self-hatred grew.
Initially, I drank for the superficial sense of comfort the drink provided. Now, I drank because I needed to feel better – I needed to forget – if I didn’t forget, I would be so overcome with an unshakeable and unnerving sense of self-disgust that I would probably attempt to off myself. And I did, more than once. Failed attempts, because I didn’t really want to die. Not at the core of my being. I just so hated who I had become – and comfort, of any kind, became entirely elusive.
Discomfort in Early Sobriety
Discomfort is an unavoidable part of sobriety. It is completely unrealistic to think that as soon as we sober up, we will feel relaxed and at ease in our own skin. In fact, as soon as we sober up, we will be bluntly hit with all of the pain and discomfort we have incessantly numbed for so long. We will be tempted, of course, to resort back to our old methods of seeking comfort. But these, we quickly find, no longer serve us. No matter how much we drink, swallow, or inject, we will still feel a deep-rooted misery thriving in the pits of our souls. Eventually, we can find no comfort – not in anything we turn to. We may turn to sex, to gambling, to over-spending and over-eating. We may starve ourselves or cut our wrists and thighs. But nothing we do will allow us any of the comfort we so desperately yearn for. Our options continue to dwindle, and eventually we find ourselves standing in the doorway of the last house on the block.
We experience immense discomfort for a week or two, or maybe a month; for as long as it takes us to begin reaching for the things that will help us. Sponsorship, spirituality, self-care… formulating a vital connection with a power greater than ourselves. Today, I seek comfort in the ability to relate to others who have felt the same way I have felt – who feel the same way I feel. I seek comfort in helping others, and in being helped. In knowing that help is always available to me, so long as I ask for it. I find comfort in taking care of myself comprehensively; in learning to love myself and accept all of my many (very human) flaws and shortcomings. I find comfort in knowing that the universe is at work in my life, guiding me, protecting me, and keeping me on the right path – so long as I connect, breathe, and take it easy. There will be days when I feel uneasy, and days when I am absolutely crawling out of my own skin. But these days will pass – everything is temporary. And today, I am comfortable.