The trip to and the actual arrival home from the rehab center were two of the scariest and most confusing parts of early sobriety for me. Not only did I feel I was heading into unknown territory, but I was also not sure how to react to my current situation.
Granted, the rehab clinic was not my real home, but it had been the only home I had known for the past few months. The level of my anxiety was through the roof, but I finally managed to relax a bit after I walked through the door. I remember I was clasped my wife’s hand so tight that I nearly cut off her circulation, and that’s no joke.
Re-accommodating to the familiar surroundings
Memories of the home began to swarm in like flies and I was not one hundred percent certain how I should deal with them. Numerous panic attacks kept me up on the first few days and I always felt that I needed to keep myself occupied all the time just to avoid the anxiety.
Now, before you argue that utilizing the time you’d normally spend drinking is highly recommended, let me just stop you right there. The activities that you’re advised to engage in during early sobriety have the role of managing stress levels and taking your mind off the potential urges and cravings for alcohol. Hobbies like building things or collecting memorabilia constitute excellent ways to pass the time, but – and here’s the problem – that wasn’t what I chose to do.
Feeling that you need to compensate for you past
One piece of advice I took to the heart during rehab is that you should never ever blame your addiction (or your problems, for that matter) on other people and external factors beyond your control. Therefore, during my early post-rehab period, the guilt of having ended up with an alcohol addiction and the projects I started but never had a chance to finish made me feel compelled to compensate; more exactly, to overcompensate.
I was actually trying to fit an infinite number of things into the finite number of hours of a day and became increasingly frustrated when I couldn’t. I felt that time was running out on me and I had to push harder and harder at work and at home in order to make amends for my past.
My original plans also included self-improvement courses at night, moving to a different state, taking on extra responsibilities at my current job and, probably the most irresponsible one at all given my fragile state, fulfilling my wife’s dream of having a child.
Why I decided to slow down
The stress caused by the impossibly high bar I’d set for myself eventually lead me to a therapist, who told me that if I kept this up, relapse would be imminent. She has an extensive experience in helping recovering alcoholics get their life back on track and, according to her, major life changes during early sobriety are a huge no-no.
During this time, you require all the energy you can muster to fight off the urges and deal with the changes in your life, so adding more stress than you can handle into the equation is likely to make you crack and relapse.
Don’t do what I did! Instead you should go and get a hobby, walk your dog more often, read another book, take your spouse on a romantic picnic. But absolutely do not engage in activities that raise your stress levels or set the bar impossibly high during early sobriety.