When we first become sober we can experience elation for several months. This so called ‘pink cloud’ is a timely gift, we are so thrilled to be unshackled from the smallness of our world and tedious demands of the vicious cycle of our addiction, that our spirits fly. After a few months everything begins to settle, our experience of our new world shifts, and our ride on the emotional roller coaster begins. Having a propensity towards thrill seeking, the thought of a roller coaster ride sounds like fun, and we tend to overlook the emotional part of the phase. Normal life can present stressful situations which can be greater or smaller in form: we have to face these challenges, and go through the wide range of feelings that accompany them to continue on with a life of recovery. For some reason we are able to face the larger and more dramatic crises with some resolve. Possibly since they are more apparent to others as a challenge, support is more openly offered. However, it is usually the smaller events and occurrences that produce stress and frustration, which are more insidious and threaten to overwhelm us.
As females in the throes of using, we invariably overlook eating as well as other fundamentally necessary habits, which would contribute to self-preservation. Oftentimes we loose our monthly period, and regain it in early recovery. For a woman who’s been using or drinking for many years, the first sober encounter with a nasty bout of PMS can be intense. Being sober during PMS is like putting a magnifying glass on issues, because they are not cushioned by alcohol. It is like experiencing them for the first time.
The emotional roller coaster knocks our self-confidence, and exacerbates those feelings of terminal uniqueness. This can lead to behaviors that are antithetical to what we are supposed to be doing as sober women. When we should normally be engaging with people and going to meetings, instead we want to stay inside and isolate. Learning to tolerate discomfort while sober is one of the most important cornerstones of recovery. Most people are very fragile in recovery, especially in the beginning, and can easily relapse when faced with unexpected challenges and stress, so you can see how PMS would create the perfect storm for relapse. It is helpful to be vigilant and note our cycle on a calendar: if we feel off center, it is the approaching PMS that can account for this.
It is not only PMS. Which presents difficulty. Hormonal swings at all stages of a woman’s life are inevitable—and inevitably troublesome. Hitting menopause can catapult us into areas we are totally unused to. Depression, aggravation and hopelessness are common emotions and can send us into a black hole. A valuable habit is to keep our bodies moving by exercising at least twice a week for 40 minutes to help keep depression at bay. Moreover, it really helps to have enough of a stringent program to buoy us up, by doing everything we do to maintain our recovery. Keeping in touch with a support group of peers, going to meetings, getting active, doing the steps and talking to a sponsor. A strong program of recovery will guide us through all the ups and downs we are faced with.