Just for today.

Hi, my name is Vasavi Kumar and I’m a grateful recovering addict and alcoholic.  I just got out of Mirmont Treatment Center and I am 38 days clean and sober. I can finally feel my feelings and think clearly without reaching for a substance or a drink.

I found myself hitting hitting what I call my “rock bottom” which was complete mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual bankruptcy.

My bottom consisted of:

  • Toxic friendships
  • A toxic romantic relationship
  • Progressive use of alcohol and chemical substances
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Lies, manipulation, and deceit
  • Denial
  • Using “willpower” to stop using

If our secrets truly keep us sick then my secrets led me to check myself into Mirmont Treatment Center on October 24 2017. Without going into a long-winded war story about what happened, my drugs of choice were cocaine, xanax, and alcohol.

Here I am, an Ivy-league graduate holding two Masters degrees, a business owner, and a licensed social worker- in rehab- amongst other alcoholics and addicts- feeling an immense amount of guilt and shame wondering, “How the hell did I get here?

The people I was surrounded by were by far some of the most creative, brilliant, kind, and generous human beings I have had the privilege of meeting. But we’re addicts. And we may be smart but we made some dumb decisions that landed all of us in rehab.

The stark reality that I learned quite quickly was that drugs and alcohol were my solution and I was the problem.

If you’re not familiar with what addiction is let me try my best to simplify what addiction is and isn’t.

Addiction is NOT:

  • A character defect
  • A problem that only affects homeless people
  • A conscious choice to completely destroy your life

Addiction IS:

a lifelong disease which if not treated will eventually rip your entire life apart. It ripped my life apart. It’s a thought disorder. The thoughts in our head can either drive us towards a brighter future or an impending death.

It’s easy to look at an addict and think that they don’t care about those around them. Addicts are often labeled as selfish and self-centered. And the truth is, in our addiction we are self-centered because our number one priority is to get high and to make the pain go away.

In our recovery, an addict would take a bullet for our family, friends, and loved ones.

But during our active addiction–

We can’t put down the pills.

We can’t put down the straw.

We can’t put down the needle.

We can’t put down the drink.

Even if it means we save our own lives.

This next part will be written in “I” form because too often I have preached to others and not shared what I am going through. Not everything needs to be a lesson but if I can own my experience and share openly and you happen to get something from it then that’s a win win in my books.

Since childhood, I’ve cared way too much. I cared about how others viewed me. I cared about taking care of everyone else emotionally. And because I cared about everyone else, I didn’t have anything left to take care of myself. I was empty. I had a hollow inside that I anxiously tried to fill. First with love, then with accomplishments and relationships, and then with substances. When the pain became too great to bear I increased the amount of drugs and/or alcohol I used until inevitably my core self became a distant memory and I moved throughout my life with a multitude of masks to get through every interaction I encountered including the one I had with myself.

I’m the kind of person that will put myself on the back burner to take care of everyone else. I don’t care who you are, what you do, or where you’ve come from. I’m a helper. I want to do good by others. All the while, I’m not taking care of myself and am suffering.

I don’t know how to accept help. I don’t know how to receive love. I don’t know how to ask for help. I can give help. I can love another person. And I’ll give you help before you even have to ask because I know how difficult it is for me to ask for help. I get it. 

I honestly didn’t feel like I deserved love and help. And I was ashamed to ask. I’m at the point in my life where I have to save myself. It’s a non-negotiable if I want to be able to be of service to others.

It’s taken 35 years to be real with the fact that I am an addict. A grateful recovering addict.

I’ve had the people closest to me warn me against sharing this because I would be judged or wouldn’t be trusted anymore, or would be looked at as incapable of providing my services. I know many of you can relate to not speaking out for fear of being judged.

How many of us have not shared the pain we go through for fear of people thinking we were in some shape or form incompetent and weak?

But it’s been my fear of being judged that got me HERE. My fear of feeling my pain that got me HERE. Avoiding my pain is what got me HERE. Not wanting to be judged and constructing my life in such a way that everything on the outside “looked good.” Meanwhile, I was sick and suffering on the inside.

Sure, I managed to “keep it together.” But addiction is a progressive disease which eventually left me powerless and my life unmanageable.

During my time at Mirmont Treatment Center I was on a strict schedule which began at 6:30am and ended at 9pm. My cell phone was locked away in a safe and I had minimum contact with the outside world. My parents and sister visited me every Sunday and my appreciation and love for them has grown much deeper. In my addiction I isolated from my family and tried my best to keep it together because I was ashamed, and let’s be real, my relationship with cocaine and alcohol became more important than my family and friends.

I spent six to seven hours in therapy- large and small groups. There was no escaping, avoiding, and lying anymore. After five days of detoxing, the real work began. My body no longer craved cocaine, but the problem- my emotional dependence to people, places, and things that eventually destroyed me still needed to be addressed.

I was in a trauma recovery group that helped me feel feelings that I had repressed for over 30 years. There’s freedom in letting go of pain. The problem was that I had started to become so comfortable with my pain that it became my norm. I gravitated towards toxicity, chaos, pain, anxiety producing situations, and, stressful people, places, and things.

I was a walking body of pain.

Since I was a child, whenever something painful would happen I would float. My mind disassociated from my body, I did this so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of what was going on.

Do I still think about using cocaine and drinking alcohol? Sure. I’m a recovering addict.

Do I still think about my former relationships that were toxic but “felt so good?” Sure. I’m a recovering addict.

Do I still want to lie and be sneaky so I can “look good” and avoid looking bad? Sure. I’m a recovering addict.

So what’s different now?

One day at a time.

Just for today can I be clean and sober?

Just got today can I surrender to my Higher Power?

Just for today can I have compassion towards myself?

Just for today can I allow myself to play and relax?

Just for today can I do the right thing?

Just for today can I breathe through my anxiety?

Yes, I can.

You know what’s the most uncomfortable part about rehab?

That when painful feelings surfaced, which it did multiple times a day- I had nowhere to run. I had to plant myself down and breathe through whatever feeling I was experiencing.

There was no cocaine to numb my anxiety.

There was no alcohol to chase my worries away,

There was no xanax to knock me out.

There was no family or boyfriend to take my frustration out on.

There was no working on my business to feel productive and stay busy.

All there was, was me.  

Correction: My effort, God’s power.

I’m so grateful for my community members. Even though we all come from different walks of life we’re bound together by one simple truth:

We all ended up in the same place.

Our drugs of choice may be different from one another but we’re all running from the same thing– our pain.

To my community at Mirmont, thank you for being you and I pray for all of us, thought I know that a power greater than all of us collectively is watching out for our well-being and peace of mind.

I’ve been future-tripping about what’s next. That’s my addict mind keeping me from being HERE.

Of course I want to work with my clients again. Of course I want to get back on my hustle, be interviewed on podcasts, and go back out into the “real world.”

But I’ve decided to invest this time in myself and get the treatment I need so I can get back to doing what I love doing the most- being of service to others.

I’m no good to anyone if I’m not taking care of myself.

So what’s going on now?

I’m returning back to Austin, TX and going through the second phase of treatment which will be me living in a recovery house and slowly transitioning back into my life and all that comes with it.

I’ve made a commitment to my parents and sister to keep communication lines open and not isolate anymore.

Side note: My yoga teacher in rehab was adjusting me and I said to her, “I want to be like you.

She replied, “I want to be like you because you’re brave and you chose to heal.

That’s right.

I chose to heal. I chose to heal by facing my pain head on. I chose to heal by allowing myself to be supported by the people in my life who actually care about my well-being. They’re not perfect and may not always say the “right” thing, but they care and that is what matters.

Addiction and the addictive personality shows up as:

  • Manipulation
  • Dishonesty
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Compulsion
  • Taking everything to extremes

This manifested for me early on in my childhood prior to ever picking up a drink or a drug.

Being in recovery means working towards moderation. It’s not easy but neither is living a life dependent on drugs, alcohol, and toxic people, places, and things. 

A life of chaos.

Today, my mind is clear. My anxiety has gone from an unsettled fight or flight reaction to a peaceful state of being throughout my entire body.

I’m back on my medication for bipolar disorder and anxiety and I haven’t touched a substance even when I do feel pain or experience a feeling that I would normally run from.

I’m seeing that I am finally coming back to my core self. You know how?

I’m laughing again.

Following the rules and living a life of moderation goes against my nature. My rebellious, obsessive and compulsive nature which helped me build my business also led me down a path of destruction. But if no changes are made, my addiction will get worse. That’s the nature of the illness.

I can’t unlearn what I have learned here. What I’ve always known intellectually, I can now feel in my entire body.

My life is not meant to be a constant state of

  • Physical restlessness
  • Mental irritability
  • Spiritual discontent

Life is meant to be enjoyed. Life is meant to be filled with belly laughs. I’ve starting to become much more comfortable with my pain. I’m fortunate and grateful for how far my pain has gotten me. It’s now time to see what the other side of living clean and sober feels like.

I want you to know that if you’re struggling with addiction, that it is in fact a disease and through prayer, community service, and awareness, you can live peacefully and never have to reach for a drink or drug again.

I didn’t put myself in rehab for my family. I put myself in rehab because I was sick and tired of suffering. I was sick and tired of using drugs and alcohol to deal with life. I was sick and tired of being cynical. And, I missed laughing.

I’m sober, That’s the first step. I’ve gotten drugs out of my system. And the next phase of my life involves living in recovery. I’m curious like a child to understand even more of who I am.

Today, I can feel my feelings and I know what to do when I have an uncomfortable or painful feeling. And it doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol.

When in my addiction I couldn’t see beyond myself. But today I am no longer guilty for having my feelings. I no longer need drugs and alcohol to deal with my feelings. The process is simple and it’s worth it.

Eventually I started believing my own lies and thought I “needed” cocaine and alcohol to survive. At the time I did need it. I thought that was the only way.

I can’t think of a single time while doing drugs that I was actually having fun.

There were no “fun times” while using. There was pain and delusion.

I numbed and suppressed my feelings to the point that when life happened and a feeling would surface, I couldn’t deal with it.

I had to be open and honest to get the help I needed.

Help looked like:

  • Checking into rehab
  • Attending daily AA/NA meetings
  • Mindful breathing
  • Yoga/meditation/walking
  • Trauma in recovery counseling
  • Reading
  • Putting my recovery first
  • Praying
  • Getting back on bipolar and anxiety medication
  • Communicating and staying in touch

 

I’m slowly getting back to my real self. The self that I was before drugs and alcohol took over my life. I’m laughing again for no reason at all. I have more energy to do the things I used to love. The space between my thoughts have become less and less.

Our bodies are so quick to bounce back but it takes time for our minds to recover from the chemical and emotional damage we have put ourselves through.

Because of my addiction I lost everything. I’m not talking about material things. I’m talking about loss of my sanity, self-esteem, and any sense of self-respect.

My story is one story I will never forget to remember because it is what keeps me sober, one day at a time.

Here’s to living one day at a time,

Vasavi