Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

The Scare: Foundational Calm amidst Winds of Fear

As my husband and I walked into the diagnostic center for the second time in one day, I couldn’t shake a rather surreal feeling. On one hand I considered this to be simply another medical test. Lord knows I’ve had my fair share in the last several years. On the other hand, when I allowed myself to consider why I was taking this particular test, there was a fierce pull of air from my lungs. For a split second, I couldn’t breathe. For a split second I couldn’t feel centered.

And then I felt a hand in mine. No words were necessary. We’d been through tough stuff together and had proven to ourselves we could withstand just about anything. I had practical experience to draw on. Just as quickly as I felt the wind knocked out of me, I felt a sense of calm return.

This brings me to the next lesson learned in recovery; the ability to remain calm when fear could easily set in.

When we walked up to the counter to check-in for the chest x-ray, the woman behind the desk looked a bit surprised asking, “Did you forget something?” After explaining why I was standing in front of her again within only a few hours, a look of sadness flushed over her face.

An amazing thing happened. In the past, I would have reacted to a facial expression such as hers by thinking she knew something I didn’t. Was she looking forlorn because she had some sort of inside information to the depth of my “condition”? Did she pity my situation because she’d seen this same scenario play out poorly with another patient?

None of those thoughts came to mind. I squeezed my husband’s hand a little tighter, smiled and said, “Good thing we’re here to rule everything out.” My husband and I sat down and waited for my name to be called. I exhaled. I was calm.

The test took less than 15 minutes. We asked a few questions about next steps and were told to go home. The x-rays needed to be reviewed by a few doctors and their analysis would take some time.

Within an hour my cell phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID and recognized the number; the doctor. The x-rays confirmed a mass and would require a CT scan to gain a better understanding. He had arranged for me to have the test the following morning because the diagnostic center was closing for the night.

He asked if I had any questions. I remember thinking what an incredibly odd thing to ask me. Did I have questions? Was he kidding? Yeah, had a million of them. Perhaps he’d come for dinner because I’d have felt so much better taking up that much of his time if I offered him something in return like a home cooked meal.

Instead, what came out of my mouth was the last thing I expected to be saying. I said, “Not right now. I think it’s a good idea to get a better understanding of what’s going on and then determine what’s to be done next.” I knew from previous experience a doctor wouldn’t be requiring further tests if he had answers to questions like the big ones looming in my head. Once again, practical experience allowed me to remain calm.

I hung up the phone, took a deep breath and glanced out the window. The wind had picked up and the trees were swaying but not breaking apart. They had a firm foundation through their trunk and into their roots. I realized how that image reflected exactly had just happened to me. Although the doctor’s phone call brought about winds of fear from news I wasn’t expecting, I swayed but didn’t break. The firm foundation built all these many days in recovery kept me upright, calm and steady.

This, my friends, is change. This is the essence of what I’ve become. In that moment I realized how I’d shifted from recovery being what I knew to what I understand; from intellectual knowing to intuitive understanding. In that split second, when the doctor asked if I had questions, I found myself able to remain calm in the midst of a proverbial storm.

I took a deep breath, walked into the family room, sat down with a smile on my face and told my husband that starting the next morning we were launching a search and find mission.

He smiled and said, “I’m in!”

I closed my eyes and thanked all those who walked before me, cheering me on as I continue on the recovery path.

Up next…a weekend fending off any drama.

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One thought on “The Scare: Foundational Calm amidst Winds of Fear

  1. Claudia Donohue on said:

    Beautifully written. Analogies and insight are mind gripping. How could any one in recovery not want to experience your sense of serenity and reliance on your recovery lessons.

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