5 Secrets of Someone in Recovery

By Chelsy Ranard 01/03/18

Addiction doesn’t always feel as awful as it’s portrayed. Sometimes it feels like a comfortable, thick blanket, insulating you from the pain in your life.

A woman telling a man a secret. He is surprised.

You may be in recovery, but you can still have the addiction — that need is still in there, and you’ve come to accept that it may be there forever. Recovery has different levels, but it lasts for a lifetime. A lifetime of knowing how bad it could be, and a lifetime living with the aftermath of what it’s done. Not everyone’s addiction story is the same, but many people share a familiar struggle in their recovery. You have secrets that many people will never understand. Not secrets involving bad things you’ve done, or secrets about using; these secrets are emotional and live within your thoughts. They involve guilt, fear, and cravings - but they also involve a sense of pride and accomplishment. Addiction is a giant, slobbering monster with sharp teeth and tempting offerings. You are a knight who has vanquished it, but you must remain vigilant so that if the addiction resurfaces, you are prepared to battle. Here are some other traits that many people in recovery share:

1. You Feel Judged

Part of recovery is admitting that you have an addiction, that it has become a problem. Hi, this is me, and I’m an addict. However, it’s not always an easy thing to say to everyone. The stigma of addiction is everywhere, and it can be difficult to come out and identify yourself. Telling someone about being an addict carries with it a ton of intentional or subconscious judgements. Telling someone you’re an addict carries the threat of them thinking you are somehow less of a person. Maybe they think you are a thief, that you can't be trusted, or that you’re a bad person. They might think people with addictions are gross, selfish, bad parents, or drains on society. Even if judgement isn’t outward, you always wonder what that person is thinking.

Stigma is difficult to overcome, and difficult for others to look past. It’s also a big barrier in helping people with addiction. If no one cares about people battling addiction, than why would they care about something like the opioid epidemic? Despite the staggering number of people affected, it remains an issue that people brush aside. Despite being recovered, people still fear being judged for having a substance use disorder.

2. You Worry About Relapse

Even with one year of sobriety, or five, twenty, or even more, there are still thoughts about relapse. It’s always in the back of your mind – the possibility that some event, some incident, or something difficult is going to happen that will cause a relapse. If something happens to my parents, will I even care about my sobriety anymore? Things like breakups, job loss, the loss of a family member, or a traumatic event can trigger unhealthy coping mechanisms in anyone. The addiction monster has a way of convincing you that you are weak, that it doesn’t matter if you are sober, that you can’t do it. Sometimes the monster wins and relapse happens; it remains a fear for even the most recovered among us.

It’s hard to admit that we worry about relapse because it’s a lot easier to reassure family members and close friends that those days are over. We’re not worried, so they shouldn’t worry either. I’ll never do it again is a lot easier to hear than the truth — which is that you worry too, no matter how sure you are that you’ve closed that chapter. You can’t predict the future. It’s a terrifying unknown. This is why recovery is forever. Addiction seems to take advantage of cracks in your emotional armor; you get comfortable, and as soon as you have a crisis, it sneaks in, wreaking havoc. Relapse is extremely common so you need to have coping mechanisms in place.

3. You Miss the Addiction

How do you even explain this to someone who has never been through it? Addiction doesn’t always feel as awful as it’s portrayed. Sometimes it feels like a comfortable, thick blanket, insulating you from the pain in your life. Yes, much of it is terrible. Much of it is overwhelmingly regrettable. However, at one point the drug or alcohol use probably felt good. Sometimes it feels like a relief not to care, to succumb to the monster, and to feel numb (or good) for the short amount of time that it allows. When those triggers happen, the monster reminds you of the warm blanket: Sometimes, I wish I could feel that way again.

In addition to immeasurable pain, drug addiction is responsible for a rapidly increasing number of deaths . The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in December 2016 that drug overdose deaths nearly tripled from 1999 to 2014, with 33,091 deaths in 2015 alone attributable to opioids. The first count of Fentanyl deaths in 2016 is up 540% in three years. With this level of destruction, how is it possible for anyone to miss their addiction? Well, if these substances didn’t have the ability to affect the lives of so many in such a profound way, the numbers wouldn’t be that high. The appeal of addiction is almost impossible to explain to people who haven’t experienced it, but the pull is there, and it is very strong.

4. You Are Sorry

Addiction is toxic and forces its host to do anything for it. Forget your morals, your beliefs, your guilt, your love, and your fear, because the need to get high overcomes all of those core foundations. In the deepest grips of addiction, you do not love, fear, or feel anything more than you need to feed your addiction. For that reason, it causes a lot of regrettable action, or neglect. No matter how many years have passed since you last used, how many amends you’ve made, or how many times your brain will try to move past those indiscretions, you are still always sorry. Guilt is powerful, and only in sobriety do you really understand and see the overwhelming consequences from your actions when you were in your addiction. I will never forgive myself for the things I’ve done to the people I love.

However, forgiveness is important. It’s important so that the guilt doesn’t result in further relapse. It’s important in order to uncover the reasons behind substance misuse. And it’s important in order to repair relationships. But guilt has a way of lingering under the surface and popping up when you least expect it. It’s important not to let the monster use that feeling of guilt as a way to ruin your sobriety.

5. You Are Proud of Your Recovery

You’ve gone to battle, you’ve been crumpled beneath the foot of the monster, and you’ve seen the absolute darkest parts of yourself. However, you got up and raised your shield. You’re crying, bleeding, wounded, limping, and your sword is dull, but you're up. Recovery is being in a battle you’ve lost before, and you’re still ready to fight. You’re allowed to be incredibly proud of your ability to face the most difficult parts of yourself everyday. In truth, it’s amazing to be able to say you’re in recovery. I am not just a person with addiction, I’m recovered. I’ll be in that recovery forever, and I’m ready for it. Relapse rates can be high, but it’s still important to remember addiction is treatable and recovery is something to celebrate.

If the stigma of addiction wasn’t so harsh, it might feel better to talk about this accomplishment with those around you. However, that doesn't have to change the pride you feel inside for keeping that monster at bay. That pride helps to fuel the sustained success of your recovery, so it’s important to celebrate the milestones and talk about your accomplishments - even if it’s just with your support system.

Addiction isn’t something that you go through once; it’s a chronic condition that remains part of everyday life. Even if people don’t show it or talk about it all the time, it’s there. These feelings exist, whether they are spoken about or not. People with addiction aren’t monsters who only care about themselves, they are warriors who fight their inner monsters. Sometimes they succumb to the monster, sometimes they work with the monster, and sometimes they defeat it.

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Chelsy Ranard is a writer based in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She is a recovered addict, passionate about addiction recovery advocacy, and lives for iced coffee. Follow her on Twitter.