Sober Zombies…Recovery can be Miserable

By:  Michael Plahn

Addiction can be a terminal disorder.  The statistics for success typically focus on or involve abstinence.  I have known many many people over the years who have struggled with recovery from various addictions (some statistics show abstinence rates under 15%).  So, for a person who suffers from addiction to be abstinent (after following most of the well-known paths of recovery), is truly remarkable.  But, is abstinence all that matters?  Not if you are a Sober Zombie like I was a little over ten years ago.

I am open about my experience of being abstinent, but miserable.  I actually got worse when I stopped drinking and using drugs.  I was abstinent for over nine months, and precisely following the suggestions of a mentor in a well-known lay program, regularly meeting with my psychologist and psychiatrist, taking the medications exactly as prescribed, exercising 5-6 days/week, and living a moral life.  The result?  I was abstinent (which was miraculous), but to say I was miserable is a drastic understatement.  I was in so much emotional pain that I began to pray for the willingness to take my own life.  Thankfully I was not suicidal, but I was absolutely miserable with no hope of better days on the horizon.  I was, what I recently heard described as a Sober Zombie.

That was in 2000-2001 and I would have paid any amount of money, traveled anywhere in the world, and done anything someone told me, if they claimed to have a potential solution for me.  I was dead inside and desperate for help.  I spoke with my Psychiatrists and Psychologist, asked around, called physicians, tried to research, but I could not find an approach that seemed to offer me hope or a solution.  Eventually, I was even told by my Psychologist and Psychiatrist in joint meeting that they did not know what else to do for me…they had tried everything.  What the hell was I supposed to do after that session?!

Well, my story is one filled with grace and the intuition that a team of professionals, assembled in a holistic manner, might be able to help me.  As many know, this pain and desperation actually led to the birth of LifeSkills Authorities and our comprehensive approach to Recovery Coaching (although I sure didn’t know it at the time).

Through a series of events, I began personally assembling a team of qualified professionals (personal trainer, nutrition consultant, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Internist, and a mentor), and stumbled onto a different path offering a different way to live in recovery.  I made it and live an amazing life now.  But, most who are like me 10+ years ago (fortunate and blessed to be abstinent, but utterly lost and hopeless), are likely in trouble.  Many who experience even close to what I went through in my first year without alcohol, return to their addiction of choice out of self-preservation or, tragically, have a much worse fate.

I was an extreme example of a Sober Zombie (this descriptor is so eerily spot-on).  Over the years I have known and still regularly see many miserable recovering people.  Some fly under the radar, accumulating year after year of abstinence and go about their lives with a sad quiet desperation.  While others are so miserable that they seem to have a mission to make everyone they encounter miserable too.  Do you know anyone life this?

If you are living with or know a Zombie who is trying to convert others to the ‘walking dead,’ please contact us now.  Most of these people have bravely fought addiction (and are among the small percentage who are still abstinent) and now accumulate months and years of ‘clean time.’  To their family, many physicians, and other observers (even those in the helping fields), they notice the obvious, the person no longer drinks, uses drugs, or has abstained from their previous addiction(s) of choice.  Since abstinence is such an influential barometer for success, Zombies may get a pass for dysfunctional behavior because they have not yet fallen back into their addictive patterns of old.  But, without help, Zombies will hone the skill of pushing away those who love them the most, sabotage careers, and alienate the friends or professionals who may be their only life-lines to a better life.  But, most importantly, Zombies can get to a point where they will argue that they know what is better for them…even more-so than the world’s experts.

So, what’s the future for a Sober Zombie?  Not good!!  Honestly, my guess would be that most return to a life of active addiction our of mere self-preservation to make the pain leave (even for a moment).  So, if you know someone you think may be miserable in recovery, please get them in touch with me personally.  The LSA Recovery Coaching advantage has been called, “A guardian angel for anyone suffering from addiction or related issues,” for a reason…we have the antidote for the Sober Zombie.  LSA’s Recovery Crisis and Recovery Care programs can turn Sober Zombies into vibrant, healthy, peaceful, and joy-filled examples of recovery…a life that should not be missed.  Contact us now to help yourself,  a loved one, or someone you know before it is too late.


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