LH Blog: On to the next phase
After a long journey, I'll be heading to Baltimore to begin the next chapter of my life. It's unclear what it will bring, but the foundation I've built is a good start.
It is without fail that when it comes time to depart from a treatment program and return to what addicts call the “real world,” it’s both exciting and terrifying.
On one hand, the concept of fully recouping one’s freedom brings a sense of elation and motivation to continue on the positive path they’ve begun to carve out in treatment.
On the other hand, thinking back to failed attempts to get sober — often times there are many — and contemplating what one must reconstruct from the remaining rubble of their life seems like a living hell.
With just more than four months clean and sober, I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle.
After 125 days without pouring out or lining up something to escape reality, I now prepare to leave treatment on Wednesday morning to begin the next chapter of my life.
I’ll still be attending some sort of meetings, of course, but that’s a bit different than the comfort provided by living in recovery-focused housing.
Rather than living with a group of sober guys under the umbrella of a rehab program, I’ll be spending some much-needed downtime in Tennessee with my lovely girlfriend before we both move to Baltimore.
I cannot wait to see the love of my life after all these months of her patiently waiting and supporting me as I attended treatment.
I cannot wait to move to a new city to live with her, once again starting fresh as I navigate through a sober lifestyle.
I probably could, however, do without the anxiety and other feelings that surface when thinking about my future.
The most obvious priority is to stay clean and sober while living an honest lifestyle. That’s something I’ve experienced before, albeit not with a success rate worth bragging about.
This time, though, it feels different.
Although I have always cautioned myself and others about optimism in regard to recovery, warning that complacency will undoubtedly lead to failure, I feel pretty content this time around.
This is the longest period of clean time I’ve ever had. I’ve taken this more seriously than I ever have.
In addition, I am actually enjoying sobriety, I have a strong support system and the fact I’ll be living with my girlfriend in a new city is itself a powerful motivator.
However, something that remains unknown is whether I will manage to continue my career path in journalism and stay in a job that, although stressful, is what I find most rewarding.
It’s also the only thing I can imagine doing for the rest of my working life (unless someone would kindly launch a GoFundMe to allow me to retire at the age of 27 amid a struggling economy).
Joking aside, which treatment has repeatedly reminded me is my most commonly deployed coping mechanism, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious about whether I’ll be able to get back into the field.
Although much of my professional journalism career has taken place in tandem with a nasty addiction, I can proudly say I have written solid, compelling work that has made an impact on the communities I’ve covered.
I’ve won statewide awards. I've also worked at reputable newspapers where, despite my struggles with addiction, I performed very well.
Ultimately, the fact I feel more confident than ever in my sobriety — and in turn my ability to produce impactful journalism — will be a driving factor in my potential return to reporting.
But with that fact comes a question I'm not sure I want the answer to: Will a prospective employer believe in me the way I believe in myself?
Baltimore is a city with a thriving journalism scene, a quality that many other cities can’t boast about.
At the end of the day, though, my aspirations and skills may not matter. What matters most is whether a company understands I can still be an asset to both the newspaper and the community.
In any scenario, whether it be applying for a job, making amends with people I’ve hurt or simply trying to prove myself as an upstanding member of society, any hesitancy felt by the person across from me is both deserved and understandable.
Maybe it will just be a test of whether I can prove this time around will be different.
No addict has ever muttered those last six words, right?
It is without a doubt that the next few months in particular will be quite a rollercoaster. The journey could continue on a relatively smooth path, or it could hit some turbulence and truly test where I’m at mentally.
The one thing I do know, as noted earlier, is that the priority is to stay clean and sober. If I can do that, at least I’ll have something to show for all of the insurance money these places have gotten from me over the years.
It would be nice to have free health care for all right about now, wouldn’t it?
On second thought, maybe now’s not the time to get political.
With Wednesday approaching, it would be a disservice not to thank my family, girlfriend and friends I’ve made both inside and outside the walls of rehab centers for the support they’ve given me over the years.
In many instances, I probably didn’t deserve it. But the fact that you all were there when I needed it is all that matters at this moment.
So, in conclusion, I'll see you Wednesday as I begin the journey by first taking a detour through Tennessee, Delta Air Lines.
I’m sure there’s nothing you could do to make this experience more uncomfortable or annoying than it has to be.