I used to hate routine.
In early recovery I realized that I was facing two intertwined addictions: alcohol and chaos.
When I was at the worst of my alcoholism - when denial had a firm grip on me - I used to feel so sorry for people who did things like get up at 6am to jog, or went to bed early so they could tuck into a good book, or who sipped one glass of wine all night and then STILL walked away from it, unfinished.
I would see well-adjusted people and think: they must be so bored, as I clutched my wine glass a little more tightly.
That's what alcoholism did to me; it made me believe my life of scrambling to keep up with the day-to-day obligations of life, the untangling of half-truths and outright lies, the grey or black-out nights, the nursing morning hangovers and the obsessing over my next drink, was exciting.
Of course, looking back on it now I realize my life was empty, shallow - a mile wide and an inch deep. I had lots of friends, but I didn't let many people get too close for fear they'd find out my horrible secret.
When I finally embraced recovery because I wanted it for myself - this took months - I began to embrace routine, too. Eventually I began to need routine; I craved predictability like I used to crave alcohol: without it I became fearful, timid and reclusive.
I discovered that not only did I not love chaos, but that any new situation made me profoundly uncomfortable. I didn't like calling people that I didn't know; a call to my bank, or a store, would make me nervous. I wanted to know the system of every place I went in to; I didn't try new restaurants or stores for months.
Basically, I realized that at heart I'm an anxious, shy person. I felt so brave and confident when I drank - I'd walk in anywhere, talk to anyone. It was a shock to find out that wasn't really me.
This got better, over time. I am still hesitant to try new things; going to a new conference, for example, makes me anxious. A new city, a hotel I've never stayed at before, a party at someone's house who I don't know well, a play group or house party where I don't know many people (what if they lost my reservation? what if I get lost on the train? what if nobody talks to me?) makes me uneasy, but I do it anyway. I practice stretching my wings - not too far - but enough so that I don't let fear govern my life.
Mostly, though, I cherish routine.
I never thought I'd feel this way. In early sobriety I complained so much about how bored I was, mourning my old "exciting" way of life, that a friend joked she was going to get me a tee shirt with a big red number 5 on it (as in ... on a scale of 1 to 10, I loved 1 or 10 and hated 5, thinking it was boring, and all I heard from everyone is that to stay sober I had to embrace 5).
The last few weeks have brought some change into our lives. My husband got a new job, and we're both excited about the new opportunity, but I had become accustomed to him working eight miles away, home predictably at the same time most nights so we could have family dinner or I could go to a meeting. Now he's commuting into the city - leaving before I'm awake in the morning and coming home half an hour before the kids have to go to bed. It's a big adjustment.
Someone has been sick in this house for three weeks, knocking me off my routine. I missed exercise, yoga and meetings (both cancer support groups and recovery meetings) for almost two straight weeks.
I've been having trouble sleeping - lying awake staring at the ceiling until 2 or 3am every night. I had an undercurrent of anxiety that followed me everywhere. I got sick, and spent the better part of a week in bed - sick enough to feel poorly but not sick enough to sleep.
The anxiety grew, my monkey mind wouldn't leave me alone. It took me a while to realize what was out of whack: routine.
We all got better towards the end of last week, (knock wood) and then the kids had a four day weekend (MLK day and a professional day for teacher training) so once again I couldn't go to my normal activities.
My anxiety peaked on Monday night; I couldn't sleep, had lost my appetite and felt near tears.
Yesterday everyone woke up healthy and trotted off to work and school. I stared at the four walls of my house, simultaneously soaking up the silence and feeling completely out of sorts. I paced from room to room, sat down to work on jewelry, got up again to pace some more, meditated ineffectively, tried to read and then it hit me: get back into your routine, Ellie.
I went for a walk, then did some yoga. My mind quieted immediately.
I slept like a baby last night.
Today I woke up feeling refreshed and grateful.
After the bus rumbled away, I meditated for half an hour, then went to yoga. I did some work, and then sat down to write this. The anxiety is gone. POOF.
My name is Ellie, and I'm a grateful recovering chaos junkie.