I am 13 years clean and still working on recovery

by P.K. Hill

Sunday Prayer. Gratitude. StepWork and a frozen ice cube tray of unexpressed feelings.

After 40 years of hanging out in the rooms of recovery dealing with my alcohol and drug addiction and with the guidance of my therapist I am connecting the final puzzle pieces of my relapses.

My relapses have always been connected to my feelings of loss and grief, fear and anger…and physical pain…but I did not want to go there. Grief over a stolen childhood and the devastating loss of family and friends who, like me, and though it was etched deeply into my psyche, failed to see the connection between my behaviors and the abuse perpetrated upon me as a child. The collateral damage of childhood sexual abuse runs deep along the synapse of our brains and infiltrates every corner of a victim survivor’s life.

The termites of sexual abuse and the shame and secrets of it… eventually chewed their way into my future.

Loss and grief were nothing more than two rungs on the ladder of self-destruction but when fully acknowledged and expressed they have transmuted… becoming two steps on the ladder of healing and sobriety.

In therapy with a trauma-informed therapist and while working the 12 steps, I am identifying my triggers to relapse and I am learning that each prior relapse began with me trying to curb physical pain and eventually disintegrated into the use of street narcotics to alleviate said pain. Each time I used prescribed narcotics for pain I found myself back in relapse and each relapse came with its own unique price tag. Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I was insane.

Today and every day of the last two and half years, I have lived in a constant state of physical pain. As if a weakness, and something to be hidden, I hide it well but it is reflected in my eyes and in the slope of my shoulders. I will not resort to narcotics.

Without an escape hatch from the physical pain I have been led to experience different kinds of pain…pain oft associated with loss, grief, and betrayal. I think in my addiction I used the pain medication to create a barrier, a safety gap between feeling the physical pain of the body and the inconceivable pain of the soul. Without the barrier and without the cushion I am feeling the pain of the soul.

Narcotics offered me a temporary respite from the physical pain but the narcotics also shut down my ability to feel joy, love, extend love, or to grieve loss. I never grieved the theft of my childhood, the loss of my innocence, the loss of my personal boundaries, or the loss of a hundred ‘other things of comfort’ that have slowly disappeared from my life.

For most of my life I have been holding my breath which has created tension and conflict in my cellular memory, my tissues and my tendons. This conflict manifests itself in physical distress.

Now I am at the crossroads again. I am 13 years clean and sober and in spite of some incredibly challenging toxic situations and experiences over the last decade (or perhaps because of them) I am still working a program of recovery.

Make a list of people we have harmed the book suggests. Everyone one of my sponsors over the years told me that my name needed to be first on this list. I failed to comprehend the need. “I’ll make amends to myself after I make amends to everyone I hurt”, I thought. So, I made amends to those I hurt or betrayed but my amends lacked true understanding. I get it today. I have to forgive myself before I can truly forgive another person. This is uncharted and unfamiliar territory for me.

I live in physical pain 24X7 and I no longer have the option to shut it down with narcotics because: 1. Like water frozen in an ice cube tray narcotics freeze all my feelings, not just one and not only physical pain. 2. For me narcotics, medically prescribed or used to self-medicate… always lead to relapse.

With the absence of narcotics to silent the physical pain other aches began to poke and prod their way to the surface of my mind demanding my undivided attention and holding hostage my breath. Anxiety took center stage. I want to escape but instead I return to my breath. It is quite uncomfortable and my body begins to shudder, burn, and spit.

Words tumble out of my brain and circulate around my heart… spiraling, spinning, and spilling out around me as if I am in the middle of a word tornado. I can visualize it in my mind. It is quite spectacular. The energy of it feels fun. There is hope in the spiral.

The. only. thing. we. have. control. over. is. our. breath.

Anxiety leads us to one of two places…constriction or dilation.

Constriction is fear. anger. pride. ego. jealousy. envy. resentment. pain.

Dilation is joy. love. peace. art. curiosity. unwritten endings. healing. abundance. trust. forgiveness. birds. nature. felines. beauty. walking.

I am grateful I understand the meaning of both words.

When I choose my words carefully…when I choose my thoughts carefully more balanced actions follow.

The ice cube tray is defrosting. My feelings are slowly melting, mingling, and reforming themselves into sacred droplets of hope. I am accessing the tight and harnessed feelings of yesterday as a tsunami of emotions leak through cracks in walls that no longer serve my Highest Good.

Following my breath into the anxiety with my intention focused on gratitude is scary…but to continue to run as fast as I can into my past in order to escape my present has not worked so well…and has not been of much benefit. So into the breath I go…

Today I choose to embrace, with gratitude, the progress I have made; one day at a time, one breath at a time, one step at a time, one feeling at a time.

And one word at a time, the journey continues…✍

CSA Survivor Advocate LifeCoach-writer
Storyteller and Truth Teller
Trauma-informed speaker a/v @hill642

8 thoughts on “I am 13 years clean and still working on recovery”

  1. Its wonderful to see you step by step, give to yourself the things that you desperately needed and deserved as a child. I know even after 25 years of sobriety and 4 years of child sexual abuse, that it’s not easy to finally develop things in later adulthood that should have been present many decades before. Thank you for your example in courage, humbleness, the sacrifice in privacy for your candidness, your tenacity and commitment to un-covery, discovery, recovery and personal growth.

  2. All of your writings have been and continue to be powerful in meaning. But for me, this message knocks it out of the park! Your words and feelings so align with my Adam. Your journey was his journey. So proud of your progress and strength. So grateful that our paths came together.

  3. Thank you P.K.,
    I can identify with the things you say of childhood abuse and it’s many effects. It definitely touches every part of your being. Physical pain develops as well as certain mental pain.
    Thank you for sharing and wishing you strength and persistent courage to maintain the fight.

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