Untangling the Mess: Anniversary Issues and Recovery

 
 
By: Marilyn L. Davis
 
 
“I feel lost and confused, but happy and certain. I am like a ball of tangled yarn. The parts that are untangled are available, usable; the rest is a mess, useless until it is untied. That mess feels endless and at most times unyielding.” ― Astrid Lee Miles, Recovering is an Art

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Here It Comes Again: Anniversary Issues in Recovery

from addict 2 advocate manipulationThere are times that you simply cannot attach or associate your current feelings with your present life situations.  You’re full of conflicting and contradictory feelings; all jumbled and tangled together. You’re sad and that does not correspond to the events, or conversely, you are feeling upbeat and yet, the circumstances of your life should not produce happy feelings. At these conflicting times, look to Anniversary Issues.  Most people are going to remember important or significant anniversaries:

  • Birthdays
  • Weddings
  • Deaths
  • Graduations
  • Sobriety and clean dates

How Could You Forget That Anniversary?

However, there are other Anniversary Issues that you are not aware of that might influence your life and feelings today.  For example, someone with a past recovery date.  After relapsing, how do you suppose they will feel when the previous recovery date comes?  They may genuinely feel guilt, remorse, regret, and disappointment. 

This same person is now in recovery again. They are making amends to family, gainfully employed, going to meetings, and making their lives better. Their current situations prompt feelings of gratitude, pride, and hope.

Still, they have negative feelings.

Anniversaries Influence our Feelings and Thoughts

Becoming aware of Anniversary Issues is going to help you:

  1. Isolate your past situations from your present life
  2. Reconcile conflicting feelings
  3. Understand that you have not resolved or accepted past situations

Understanding the influence that Anniversary Issues have on today is helpful when you acknowledge the conflict with past events and current feelings without it adversely affecting your current situations. What issues would recur?  Start with the significant events in people’s lives: 

from addict 2 advocate

 

Create Your Anniversary Calendar

 
Creating an Anniversary Calendar can help you see how these significant or noteworthy events can affect your feelings today.  First, lists each month, January through December, and day, if you know it, then write any events for those months that tend to bring up old feelings for you. 
Jot them down until you have your year reviewed.   Write a brief description of how you felt and what you thought about that event. Here’s an example of my Anniversary Calendar for February: 
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from addict 2 advocate
Clearly, some of my Anniversary Issues were exciting and happy; others were sad and produced emotional pain.  Ironically, two of the major Anniversary Issues happened on the same day, my father’s illness and starting the recovery home, so mixed feelings occur from association for that day, regardless of any current life experiences.

Anniversary Issues Can Be Anticipatory

There is another interesting thing that happens to emotional memory – it is often anticipatory.  Again, we’ll look at that person in recovery.  If they think about how they felt a few days before they got into recovery, they might have felt guilty, angry, and afraid. Therefore, several days before the old recovery date, they may re-experience the same feelings without being able to attach them to their current drug-free life. 

People in recovery will often talk about being “crazy” the weeks before their recovery dates, with contradictory feelings and thoughts, and not understand that it is an Anniversary Issue.
Anticipating that these feelings may come up means that you can choose to isolate the various feelings and categorize them as Current and Anniversary and deal with them more effectively.
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Review Your Calendar
from addict 2 advocate marilyn l davis_____
Some people review their Anniversary Calendars monthly as a reminder of upcoming issues, others weekly. 
 
With this examination and review, you are less likely to be overwhelmed or confused if you have conflicting feelings in your life that you cannot reconcile with today’s events. 
 
Over time, you will become aware of Anniversary Issues and not let them govern your current feelings, but only after you have:
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  1. Identified the Anniversary Issues
  2. Looked at the issues
  3. Put your Anniversary Issues in perspective

When you find them, look at the issues surrounding them, and put them in perspective, then you’re not as likely to have as much confusion over your conflicted feelings.





 

Writing, and recovery heals the heart 

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