Taking a nice hot bath after a long night at work can be heaven. Just letting the hot water wash over my skin, washing over my spirit, and rinsing the various smells of the restaurant from my skin. I find it so relaxing, as I sit there listening to the water run, as it runs all over my skin. I wash my face, sometimes over and over, and I think rubbing my face with water helps me to let go of all my daily thoughts, focusing me to get back into the creative mode. Running water in the bathtub was also the only thing that could remotely soothe me during opiate withdrawals. Maybe it is because I am a Picses. It is the feel of the water running over my skin. I like to sit right by the water, letting it tingle my skin all over, comforting it with a warm and constant touch. The sound, like a waterfall, fast and flowing, falls on my ears soothing them to relax, and let go.
Tonight, I happened to look down and notice my veins. Warm water makes them rise towards the surface, and I happened to notice them, bulging and blue. My eyes followed the path of my veins, noticing how strong and healthy they look. I touched one, pushing my finger into it, noticing the nice give, as it pulsed beneath my fingers. I pushed and felt my thumping heart beat, and I felt their elasticity.
I took a deep breath, and I allowed my mind to indulge in the fantasy for just a moment. You see, part of being in recovery is the fine balance we must walk with our addiction. Addiction is not a disease that just goes away. It is something that is always with you, and you have to learn to manage that. It is different for us all. For me, it is maintaining a balance with my thoughts of addiction. So many people think that once you are in recovery, that you will eventually be able to just push those thoughts aside. Eventually, you will be able to stuff those things down, walk away from them, or maybe just stopping having those thoughts all together. But as an addict in recovery, I realize that these thoughts will never completely disappear. This disease will always be with me. And stuffing them down, or walking away from those thoughts is not the answer, either. Stuffing your feelings down is never the answer, I think. Eventually, things will boil over and explode, and if you are an addict, stuffing down natural pieces of the disease…well, the consequences can be dire.
In the beginning, I had to avoid all of it. In the beginning, you often have to walk away from the thoughts of drugs, of needles, of veins. In the beginning, you manage those addictions by avoiding them. And you begin to manage your life by focusing on yourself and your recovery. Over time, though, you cannot just simply walk away from the thoughts of using. Those thoughts will always persist. But, for me, it is all about keeping it in check. It is all about maintain that balance in my head, and in my spirit. I am a creative, a writer who is infatuated with words and loves all pieces of the story. And sometimes, I just have to indulge in those fantasies for a minute. I know that in early recovery, this is a dangerous thing. It took me a long time to be able to tell my story of addiction. In recovery, the focus was more on myself, as I worked to find the person I had lost. In recovery, my stories were often forbidden, and many of the stories I tell today are not appropriate in the rooms of NA. I kept these stories to myself for a long, long time.
Sometimes, I would scribble all kinds of thoughts down in my journal. Back then, they were more rambling and incoherent, just a bunch of thoughts on a page. The stories I can extract from the scribblings are only because I was there. Back then, my life was so jumbled and everything inside my mind and body were so jumbled, that my view of the world was also much the same.
Back then, it did not even really seem like a story to me. It just seemed like a life. My life. And it was all I had known for a long, long time. It took a lot of time and space in between to be able to put all the pieces together. It took a clear head, many miles away to even begin to see the plot. The details have always remained so vivid, but it seemed for the longest time the story was chaotic, with no beginning, middle, or end. And sometimes, back then; I just could not deal with all the thoughts without stepping right back into the arena of relapse. So, I left it all alone for a number of years.
But, years away and miles apart from all of my old life, I can finally look back and indulge in my stories once more. Today, I have too much to lose. Today, I am too happy. Today, I know where it always ends…and I know that I do not want any of that in my life. It just does not work for me. Believe me, I tried. But, the end result was always the same.
So, I sit in the bathtub, watching my healthy, strong veins rise to the surface of my pale, white skin in the undersides of my forearms. I turn my arms over in the yellow bathroom light, brushing them with my hand. I trace them with my eyes, and I sigh heavy. I look carefully, noticing the scars that still remain. I see myself, just for a minute, invading each one of those veins. My eyes follow them, realizing just how well I know the veins in my body. And I remember invading them all, multiple times, tracks of red running long and lean along the path of my veins. And I look down at my veins tonight, pulsing strong and healthy. I look at their thickness and deep blue color, and I realize how good it is to have healthy veins today. I remember the days when they hid from the surface, scarred of the repeated invasion and drawing back each time sometimes touched my skin. But, today, they are bursting forth with the life force of my blood.
Much like me…today, I am bursting forth with life. I run hot and healthy, thick and strong, just beneath the surface. My scars still show sometimes, but my roots have found a way to grow through the concrete, and my resilience is palatable. I look down at my healthy veins, realizing how good it feels to be healthy. And I would not trade one prick of that needle for all that I have now. The thoughts may occasionally drift in and out of my thoughts, but then I look around at my life, and I am positive that this is a much happier place. I would not trade my new life as a recovering addict for even a few minutes back in that life…I know, it is just not worth it.