Thursday, July 28, 2011

Physical Manifestations of Bad Memories

My mom's therapist told her about something called the "anniversary effect".  It's where one starts to have negative feelings around the anniversary of traumatic event.  It makes sense- the memory of those types of events are triggered by the date they occurred.

Two days ago I was two years sober and it was not a good day for me.  The last day I drank was horrible and painful.  Even though it lead to something so good for me, the memory of that day is still painful.  I was expecting to be more irritable, sad, ashamed, and angry- and I did feel all of those things.

What I was not expecting was how my body reacted.  Starting on Monday night my back started to cramp up until I developed a knot between my shoulder blades that was so painful it was hard to move my head.  The joints in my hands ached and my leg muscles became very tight.  Now, I'm not an athletic person (or even particularly active) and I spend a good deal of time hunched over the computer, but this was different.

The last time I drank I got alcohol poisoning and almost died.  It took weeks for my body to recover from that.  And I think my body remembers what that felt like, and is "celebrating" the anniversary of that night.

I got a massage because the pain was bad enough to make it difficult for me to drive (try merging onto the highway without looking over your left shoulder- not fun).  I explained the pain to the massage therapist but didn't tell him that I was two years sober that day.  I was afraid I would burst into tears just saying it out loud.  As he was working the knots and tension out of my shoulders, back, arms, and chest, I felt the pain being squeezed out of me.  Not just the physical pain, but the emotional pain.

Later I went to an AA meeting and someone who was celebrating 31 years sober talked to me after the meeting was over.  I had shared about how crappy I felt and she told me that it was a good thing to remember how bad it was.  That I needed to remember so that way I wouldn't forget why I got sober in the first place.  She told me that the birthdays would get easier as time went on and at around 20 years they wouldn't be hard at all anymore.

Yesterday the pain was almost completely gone from my body and my heart.  I told people about my sobriety birthday and received the congratulations that would have stung too much the day before.  I am proud of myself and even though the last time I drank was painful, I'm glad that it happened.  It got me here.

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