Addiction Recovery: Sickness or Backsliding?

March 25, 2010 — 6 Comments

In active addiction, part of my avoidance tactics included taking something like a small nagging headache and turning it into a reason to miss work, lay in bed all day and pretty much take a vacation from life.

Since those minor aches and pains show up more and more in active addiction…I spent a lot of time “sick”.

The tendency to either fake or exaggerate illness as an avoidance tactic did not go away just because I stopped taking drugs.

It seemed that anytime I had an extremely full day or I wasn’t in that great of a mood, my brain would want me to pretend that I was sick as a way of getting out of life.

It took a lot of hard work but I can say that since entering into addiction recovery I have not given into these impulses and have not once been “sick” for the sake of laying low. I felt that I was able to modify my bad behaviors. But let me tell you what I am experiencing now…

It seems now that anytime I come down with a cold or some other type of illness I am super hard on myself and feel guilty when I let myself get the rest I need. It is always in the back of my head that I’m not truly as sick as I’m letting on and that somehow this is my addictive thinking creeping back in.

How do you even deal with this type of situation? I can understand that I am frightened of getting back to my old ways and using “sickness” as an avoidance tactic was definitely one of my more famous tactics but…WTF.

I guess, just like anything else in recovery, I will become more and more comfortable with this situation. It’s not like I’ve had to deal with it a whole lot…you only really get sick so many times.

See the thing is, I’ve never really heard of anyone else talking about this type of situation. I guess that is part of the reason why it seems so fucked up to me. I truly am at a loss.

Just like most things in life my confusion is coming out of fear. The fear that I will somehow allow my avoidance behavior to creep back in and destroy all of the hard work that I have done. It’s times like this when I realize just how afraid of slipping back into my old ways I really am.

It’s not only that I disliked who I was in active addiction…I’m afraid of her. Can you tell?

6 responses to Addiction Recovery: Sickness or Backsliding?

  1. Erin,

    I think you are already dealing successfully with situation through honesty and serious introspection. A healthy recovery is a progressive process that calls for continuous improvement, and we do this by taking a hard look at how we tick.

    Sometimes I find that the very things that I learned early on to help me stay sober have to be throttled back as my recovery matures. Take for instance the way I try to solve problems almost immediately upon running into them. This works well for me and keeps the stress levels down, but when I try to do the same when it involves others (especially my wife) I have found that a little more patience is necessary.

    You should be bolstered by the fact that you have identified this “sick” tendency, now just like anything else in recovery you must figure out how use this knowledge to your advantage. My sole advice is not wonder about the veracity of a sickness because most of the time this will be fairly obvious, instead ponder the fear that this question has inspired.

  2. This is hard to say. I think in general we take more mental health days than anything else. However, who says we do not need those days as much as being physically sick. Addictive thinking is another word for “distorted thinking” and guess what? You do not have to be an addict to have it.

  3. Pat – I hear you on the distorted thinking…I just call it addictive thinking but it is definitely distorted!

    With the mental health days…I guess my goal is to live a life that consists of ways for me to feed my mental health daily so that I don’t hit a point where I say “oh man, I need to take a mental health day”.

    For me these mental health days never felt healthy…they felt like I was hiding out from the world and magnified my problems until they seemed unmanageable.

    I don’t disagree at all with your point that we all need to take care of our mental health as much as our physical health. I just feel that I used to go about it the wrong way by feigning sick and I fear being back in that place again.

    This subject is actually one of the hardest things for me to talk about…it makes me feel embarrassed. I know, I know, we’re only as sick as our secrets but I’m still not at the point where I don’t find this subject embarrassing. I’m sure I’ll get there someday.

  4. I think even the healthiest, most stable person on the planet is going to need a mental health day every now and again.

    And Erin, being afraid of your old behaviors will only breed a different set of distorted thoughts/behaviors. Maybe instead of hyper-diligence against those old behaviors (with it’s associated fear and confusion), you could find some way of reminding yourself who you are NOW.

    “I am physically sick, not avoiding, I will rest today and be back to my healthy self tomorrow.” or you know…something like that.

    Do you think that would help? I gotta tell you, talking myself through stuff like this really helps me out.


  5. changing behaviors is the hardest thing to do. I have recently relapsed & I feel the same way about feeling ok with my self if I take a mental or physical break if I,m not feeling real great. I’m afraid that if I appear to not be feeling well that my family assumes that it is from using or detoxing. I,m a stay home mom of 5 children and I,m finding it hard to be ok with my self for taking time out for me. I feel the pressure to be the perfect mother wife etc. Not because my family puts that pressure on me they could care less if the house is clean but to me I,m not doing my job if things go undone. I’ve been around the rooms of recovery and talked with fellow addicts that assure me that it is ok to take a break, rest take a day to myself, but I am so hard on my self for all my mistakes that I to am afraid that this will lead me to another relapse because I feel so crappy sometimes. thank you for the comment about reminding myself about who I am Now not who I was then.
    Thanks for listening.

  6. my hubby is addicted to the internet and the tv. He rings n sick all the time and fakes illness each time we have an argument. He has lost one job already through it. He will come out with this big speech on a saturday how he has a very busy day on monday at work and has to be there no matter what! they depend on him! he then rings in sick for 2 day? I dont get it till i read your post. thx

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