I’ve Been To Rehab Four Times and I May Never Stay Sober. I’m Still Recovering.

Our definition of “recovery” needs more nuance.

Nicole M. Luongo

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Image Credit: Artem Labunsky via Unsplash

It’s simple, hun — you have the disease.” Tom says this as he hands me a wooden chip inscribed with the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

An Australian biker who somehow landed in Westbank, Kelowna, Tom is paternal. I’ve never been told that I have a disease, but his words incite relief. I cannot stop drinking, and illness is better than badness.

I have done horrible things.

I accept a tattered copy of the Big Book and devour it, highlighting, underlining, and earmarking earnestly until I have it memorized. I meet others who do the same. We form unexpected kinships, our lives irrevocably intertwined through a singular, obstinate pursuit of wellness. I repent. They hold me. I have never felt such intimacy.

When I leave 28 days later, we promise to stay in touch. I never speak to them again.

I am 18 years old.

I have been sober for 45 days, and something is very wrong. My legs have stopped working, and when I try to articulate how physically enervated I am — how utterly incapacitated — my councillors tell me to pray.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I am drowning in a vast, violent emptiness. Anhedonia. Near-catatonia.

The obsessions, the compulsions, the counting, the rituals; these I must relinquish to a Higher Power (though without them, I’m not sure who I am).

“Stop thinking so much.”

“You need humility.”

I eat 1,175 calories a day — no more, no less. Identical meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To deviate would trigger a binge. Pleasure is not safe. I attend group sessions and while other women weep, I try to stay awake.

Am I a sociopath?

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