No Shopping Experiment: Relapse/Bypass, Results are In

I asked for it. I wanted to know what you thought of the Valentine’s “loophole” (Thanks Jen, perfect term) that enabled (another perfect word) me to shop the weekend before Valentines Day. And I got it. A trend emerged immediately: neighborhood/church/long-standing buddies gave me a pass and called it a brilliant bypass; recovery friends called me out. Some with resounding “cheater cheater pumpkin eater” and my favorite, “This is a no shopping challenge, right?”

I probably expected as much, which is why I asked recovery friends not to nudge me to reset my date. Resetting your sobriety date is expected in recovery from drugs and alcoholism if you slip or relapse. Your new anniversary is the day after your last drink/drug. Recovery friends hold me to a different level of accountability in my life, they expect more from me, and their definitions around things like “relapse” are much more stringent than “normies” (that’s what we call all you people who can leave 1/4 glass of wine on the table, or not look through your friend’s medicine cabinets when you happen to be in their home for a kid’s birthday party.)

I hate to polarize my “recovery” and “other” friends in that way, because collectively, I have the most amazing group of women who hold me. I am incapable of reading any map except the one on Dora the Explorer. I can’t set up a printer, change a tire, or do long division. But I am really, really good at making friends.

And did you hear that? I have church friends! Me. The girl who stayed up partying on Saturday nights til the sun came up and then felt the hollowing sickness of watching people start their morning jogs on Sunday and load up in their Honda’s to head off to church. I would stand on the porch of my apartment with a cigarette in hand, dizzy and nauseous with substance and watch them filled with the self-loathing and hopelessness I imagine I shared only with truck stop prostitutes.

And that is not my life anymore, in fact, it’s so far from the life I live today that reaching back to remember it is like stroking the hair of a stranger.

Even though I had a quiet knowing inside while  leaving the mall  that cold Saturday night, when comments came rolling in saying my Valentines gift was a relapse my visceral reaction was anger and self-sabotage.  “F— you. I’m going to back. I’ll show YOU a relapse!” This is why I can’t diet by the way. If I’m on a plan and I mess up–which is inevitable—I swan dive into a box of cereal/sleeve of graham crackers/freezer burnt ice cream. Just kidding. Ice cream would never last long enough at my house to get freezer burnt.

But even I could see that was about wanting an excuse to throw in the towel. To have a hissy fit. I talked to my super wise friend M–whose voice is like a seashell against my ear– and she said, that was just the Queen Baby Brain doing what the Queen Baby Brain does. It’s not really me.

While  getting sober, it’s common to have using or relapse dreams. Often, you wake up sweating and panicked, convinced you’ve blown it once again. Even years into sobriety these nightmares can pop up like jerk wackamoles reminding me that my drinking self is always close by. My sponsor has taught me it’s good to notice and pay attention to the dreams, but seriously, I don’t really know what that means.

Sometimes I’ll be at a party and a friend’s glass of white wine will be nuzzled up to my plate, like it knows, like there is a magnetic pull in the universe and it belongs butted up to me. I marvel thinking, if I extended my arm, picked up the glass and drank that– that’s how close I am to relapsing. To knocking down the Jenga tower, an arms reach away. The flavor would be so familiar as would the instant warming. It would be like the last five years were but a few moments, blinked away, and I would pick up exactly where I left off, which was a pretty pathetic place.

My feet have really been hurting the past few weeks (my life is fascinating! Thanks for reading this!) So, I’ve been wearing my Brooks wide running shoes more often than not, which I hate. I had a dream last week that I relapsed on five pairs of shoes from The Walking Company. (The Walking Company?!)  And I was horrified and spent over $500 and I was trying desperately to justify that my feet hurt and I really needed some comfortable, non-athletic footwear.

My subconscious is tragically shallow I’m afraid.

I have to remind myself, this shopping experiment is not the life or death errand that getting sober was. This is an elected challenge I joined in an effort to get closer to my real self. Because though I always thought it would be Aaammmazing to be a kept woman with a fancy car who shopped four times a week and lunched on asparagus and lemon water, I started noticing those women never actually seem happy. And okay, full-disclosures, I started acting like one of them– finding reasons to be here or there, anywhere really I could swipe my debit or credit and leave feeling a little taller.

Check one of these women out them out the next time you spot one. They’re easy to detect, always holding their heads a little higher than seems necessary, an oversize designer bag on their arm, and a look of boredom on their tight, made-up face. Why so bored, I stared to wonder?

And the best I can come up with is this: they aren’t putting anything back into the big stream of life, they aren’t adding to the quilt, being useful (to anyone but they’re Viagra-infused husband anyway), and they aren’t risking looking foolish. I am not a guru on happiness (in case you can’t tell) but I have figured out that contributing, making people laugh, being all-in on who I am (even as that changes), and risking foolishness light up my Joy-om-meter.

So the shopping gift scratched an itch, gave me a fix, and my husband handed that to me on the silver platter of love. Most enabling is done in love. Which doesn’t make it better or worse, it’s simply just is. I’m the type of girl who scratches an itch until it bleeds, almost every time. That’s not a metaphor, I mean, maybe it is a metaphor, but it is also literal.

So there I was last week, cruising Lulu Lemon’s website in search of new crops, and trolling Amazon for the perfect non-slip yoga mat. Because in yoga, the place of being in the now, simply noticing, and practicing non-judgment, I would like to have the perfect apparel and accessories in 3-5 business days so I can be just as cool– No! cooler– than everyone else!

I bought nothing else despite the grumbling junkie mind of “You’ve already screwed it up, dive in.” Which must mean, I interpreted the gift as a cheat. So, there it is. I am grateful to the friend who reminded me via my Facebook feed comment of, “Progress not Perfection.”

I’ll run with that–or rather, walk fast in my Brooks wide shoes, on my gimpy feet– for now.



1 thought on “No Shopping Experiment: Relapse/Bypass, Results are In”

  1. Glad to hear that you didn’t give in to the dreaded “fuck-its” and extend this relapse. Just because we relapse, doesn’t mean we have to stay there 🙂 Stay strong, sister!!

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