It’s so easy to get caught up in life and forget that I’m an addict. When other troubles are acting up, or someone I love is hurting, I can slip away from the vigilance needed.
It’s also easy, and deadly, to get caught up in results–to fall into dissatisfaction when life is getting harder and not easier. It’s easy for me to flirt with despair when my mental health symptoms rob my life in recovery of health and joy. It’s easy to feel that I’m on a trip to a city that’s not living up to my hopes, having spent too much and not having a good enough time. To feel lonely and bored in my metaphorical hotel room.
That’s when it’s tempting to pick up that handy phone and press the button for the concierge. The gentleman or lady who can get things, recommend activities, obtain tickets or otherwise do things to meet my whims if I am willing to pay. The concierge can get me tickets to the hottest show in town, and a shiny limousine to take me there. And when I have been entertained, my polite driver will ferry me to the most decadent restaurant in town. In the sumptuously appointed lobby, the maitre’d will greet me obsequiously and ask, “Do you have a reservation?”
Do I have a reservation? Do you?
Fellow recovery types probably know where I am going with this. Reservations are conditions we might place on our recovery, and the term is used not just to convey doubt but to imply that we are “reserving” a place in our lives for relapse. We might have a list of “ifs” that describe our conditions for staying in recovery, the conditions we think we need to make it worthwhile:
If my spouse lets me move back home.
If my job takes me back or I get a better one.
If I feel good physically.
If nobody in my support group ever acts like a jerk.
If my family forgives me.
If my life gets better and stays that way.
We also might have a list of “ifs” that describe specific situations we think, on some level, will make relapse okay or necessary. Loss of a loved one, being ill or dying, or even reaching a certain age are common ones.
Professionals who work with addicts encourage us to think about reservations because they know how dangerous they are. They’ve sat with countless repeat clients and heard countless accounts of how the relapse began. Not always, but often, the subtext they hear has to do with disappointment. Disappointment with recovery, a feeling that the contract has not been met, followed by habits and changes that open up the way to an insidious thought that using might be a good idea.
Every so often I try to picture myself sitting in the client’s chair in one of these offices, trying to explain to them how I relapsed. I’ve had the experience before, and I know I could have it again. What would I say? What would be different? What explanation could I give that, no matter how articulate and touching, wouldn’t come down to “Life without my drugs was really hard and it wasn’t fair?”
Make no mistake, distinguished concierge–those tickets are tempting. I can imagine holding them in my hand, seeing the elegant printing and feeling the promise they represent. In order to resist them, I’ve even resorted to mental imagery and watched them catch fire in my hand, a fire that spreads and burns up my arm to engulf my body. Or I’ve watched them turn gray and slimy, melting over the skin of my fingers and filling me with revulsion.
Make no mistake, distinguished maitre’d–your establishment’s dishes seem elegant and delicious. I can imagine their tastes and textures, or the contentment indulging in them would seem to bring. In order to resist them, I’ve even resorted to mental imagery and placed little cards on your tables with names such as “Rehab,” “Jail,” “Psych Ward,” and “Morgue.” I’ve imagined the arms of your pretty chairs wrapping around the horrified diner, breaking bones and choking off last desperate gasps.
I know the concierge and others will always be there, ready to alleviate my boredom or loneliness. Just like in A Note From My Addiction: all I have to do is ask, and they’ll be glad to help. They’re just doing their jobs, after all.