Identity Crisis

  1. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer but this may come across that way. Just having a difficult time lately. Sort of an identity crisis maybe.

    This new clean, sober life.....will I ever really adjust to it? I'm finding myself daydreaming about using and am stuffing those feelings with food unfortunately. I think it's because I don't really know who I am right now. I've always seen myself as a nurse who works in critical care areas, always striving to work in the most complex, fast paced, complicated departments.

    Now that I work in, what I see as, a slow paced easy-going less challenging area of nursing, I look at myself differently. I know this is a disease. But lately I can't help but beat myself up about what I've done and what I've lost in my career. I've been lucky to go through this in a confidential monitoring program vs the BON. I'm lucky I didn't have any charges brought against me. I'm lucky I still have my support system. I've lost little, yet some days I feel as if I've lost it all regardless.

    Lately it's like I'm just trudging through, waiting for the next day. I only signed my contract 3 months ago so it's difficult to feel as if I've made any progress at all.

    Don't get me wrong, most days I feel so grateful for what I have. It's the days I don't that are just really tough and make me question myself. I'll be honest, I'm really bad about going to meetings - I don't know that they are helpful to me. I have a sponsor but lately there have been problems in that area as well which I won't get into.

    Anyway, I'm sorry if this is coming across very negative. I'm just struggling a little and wondering if anyone else has felt similar to this.
  2. Visit AntelopeTongue profile page

    About AntelopeTongue, BSN, RN

    Joined: Oct '12; Posts: 36; Likes: 108
    BCEN; from US
    Specialty: 5 year(s) of experience in Emergency

    15 Comments

  3. by   1sttime
    You are definitely not alone in the way you feel- my first year of sobriety I was figuring it out- feeling lost. I tried the 12 step programs- they didn't work for me.

    My first year of sobriety, I ate (someone that was one weight for my adult life) I gained 25 pounds. I saw this as replenishing the nutrients that I lost in my active addiction. I started running (half a mile to begin with) and now a couple of years later feel like I am on the verge of regaining health that I never thought would be possible.

    If you go by the definition of a 12 step meeting- it is two people getting together and talking. So now my meetings aren't sanctioned 12 step meetings, but getting together with other addicts one on one and talking about life and navigating the world with restrictions. My sponsor is not someone I check in with every day, nor does he assign me step work- just another addict who has been clean for many years, and who also does not believe in the 12 steps.

    I don't know your circumstances, but at one year your brain will be functioning better- you will be amazed. Then shockingly each year you will think "wow, I am so much better than I felt a year ago". At one point instead of trying to fix myself I had the thought "this is my balance, and what I have to work with".

    One of my friends said that in the beginning, you feel like you are adrift in the ocean with no land in sight. You can feel alone and hopeless- not sure of which way to go. Eventually you will see the shore. I am happy to report that I am now back on land and feel completely different about my relationship with substances, and life.

    Part of this allowed me to experiment with other career options, stepping out of intensive nursing jobs, and even out of nursing. Giving me new insight to what makes me happy- I don't know if I ever want to return (even though I will have a clean license).

    I hope this was helpful, give yourself time to heal, replenish your body, and know that the path you are on can be an opportunity (it just won't be apparent right now).
  4. by   AntelopeTongue
    Thank you!! Seriously. It sounds like,mentally, you totally get where I'm at and I appreciate your feedback.

    I think it's so awesome that 12 step work is so helpful for many. I just can't get on board and I've really tried. It's just not happening and I've really been beating myself up for it honestly. I've got 7 months clean and everytime I hear someone talk about how the 12 steps changed their life and they couldn't stay clean without it, I start questioning everything I'm doing or not doing.

    I can totally relate to the feeling of drifting with nothing to hang onto and no land in sight. Makes total sense. It's funny because I know that other people can relate to what I'm going through. I know I'm not alone in this. But there are just times when I need proof of that I guess. Like today.

    I'm so jealous that you have a sponsor who isn't into the steps. How do you even find someone like that? Because, don't get me wrong, I really do love having a sponsor honestly. I think it's great.

    It's good to hear you've found your health again. Maybe I just need to give myself time to get there like you said. I just feel like I'm using food as a coping mechanism now instead of drugs and #1. I'm obviously not really dealing with whatever it is that's bothering me if I'm doing that and #2. I have been very fit in the past so this is making me feel like a fat slob, and making my self esteem go even lower.

    Anyway, your feedback makes me feel at least a little bit better. I guess just knowing that someone who gets what I'm going through took time think about me and my situation and extended some hopeful thoughts is sometimes just what is needed. And yes, usually my sponsor is the one I go to with feelings like this but, like I said before, there are some issues there that make me not really want to go that route right now.
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    As I recall, it took me around five years to feel "at home" in my sobriety, so please take your time getting used to your new life. It's been almost 25 years since I took my last drink, but I'm still on guard because it would take only that first drink to ruin what I've spent so many years building. The price of sobriety is eternal vigilance. But recovery truly is one day at a time, sometimes one crisis at a time, sometimes one white-knuckled MINUTE at a time. We make the choice to stay clean and sober each time we're tempted to lapse back into our old ways. That's how we get through it.

    I went to AA for a short time immediately after giving up drinking, but it didn't fulfill my needs like I'd hoped, so I've done it on my own with the help of family and friends. I hope you have a support system that will encourage you to stay on the narrow path and celebrate your successes with you. You can do this, I promise!
  6. by   Omaapecm
    This to shall past! These feelings are all apart of recovery and discovery of ourselves. We all must remember that our addictions do not define us and neither do our Proffesions. Stick to you program and this will all be behind you. Good luck!!!
  7. by   dirtyhippiegirl
    Hey!

    I can really relate to the loss of identity in sobriety. I've posted bits about it in this forum, even. For me -- I sobered up and basically realized that when you took the booze away, there really wasn't much more then a shell of me left. A lot of people talk about sobriety as if you're re-finding your old self but I took it more as an opportunity to re-make myself from the ground up.

    I'm a pragmatic person and an Atheist without a spiritual bone in my body, so the suggestion from AA that I needed a spiritual fix to my identity problem rang hollow. (I have also had some crazy sponsors but that's another post.)

    Instead, I started to make lists. Practical lists. Fleshing out my likes, dislikes, what did I want to try? Not try? I do volunteer work to satisfy my need to help, feel useful in the world, and to connect with other link-minded people; I volunteered extensively at a no-kill shelter in early sobriety, have done some time at a wildlife refuge center and have also submitted an application to do hospice volunteering, etc. Along the way, I decided that I really wanted to be someone who did interesting things and that other people wanted to talk to about all the interesting things I was doing. So I've gone skydiving, zip lining, did Couch To 5k. We took a large trip to Rome over the spring and have taken smaller weekend trips. I've taken pottery, knitting, and cooking classes. I suck at pottery but can plan a mean trip itinerary.

    There is so much more to life! But I really had to make it happen.
  8. by   3ringnursing
    My first year recently under my belt I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Surreal, isolated and very much alone. I go through the motions, but feel … off kilter. You aren't the only one. This is going to take some getting used to. It helps knowing that others are out there too.
  9. by   restlessrecovery
    I don't want to be a Debbie downer either but I have felt the same way since I started my recovery 2 years ago. I feel neither here nor there. I can't be an addict but I can't be the nurse I used to be either. I worked on the hospital floor in pediatrics, med-surg, and neurology for my 16 year career as a nurse, and now work for an insurance company. I feel like I make absolutely no difference in the world. I was the charge nurse and was about to get a promotion but now have to take any job I can get. I have gone from a respected part of the nursing community to an absolute disgrace. If I thought I could find anything else to do that would pay my bills I would but all I know is nursing. It gets worse, I did end up with charges, a AG compliant that documents publicly every gory detail of my intervention at work, and I just got my license put on probation after 2 years of compliant sobriety with Indiana's nurse assistance program. The board supposedly passed my license through with my explanation of everything that had happened to me by "mistake". So they made a complaint against me so they could get me back in to hear my case. They are working on litigation that will see that this doesn't happen to other people but what the hell about me!!! I have a sponsor but I need another one because she never has time for me, my therapist is a joke and makes me feel like a complete loser, and ISNAP (Indiana State Nurse Assistance Program) exploits me by charging me ridiculous fees and when I write my case worker it takes her a month to write back. I don't think NA is really helping me either and on days like today I feel like ripping my hair out. I don't understand how its "protecting the public" to put absolutely every detail of my intervention, and I do mean every ******* detail, and a summary of what has happened to me the past two years on display for everyone. I think they should just say what I did in a brief summary. Its kind of ironic but in my complaint I started crying and said "now everyone is going to know" and that was quoted in my public complaint. I feel so humiliated. If this is a disease, which I very much believe it is, why is it necessary to do this to us? Even if I get my charges expunged it states my charges in the complaint so basically there is no expungement for me even though it is the law in my state. I've done everything to a t that the board and ISNAP have wanted me to do and for what? Indiana also posts the board meeting minutes in a paper that they send every nurse in Indiana so EVERYONE I have ever encountered nurse wise can possibly see my name and read about my intervention. Sorry I just need to vent cause I'm so frustrated and don't know who to talk to. I have had a total identity crisis and I don't really know where to go from here or who I am.
    Last edit by Silverdragon102 on Sep 20, '16 : Reason: changed to all **
  10. by   malamud69
    Sounds like you are simply a human being...do your best to not be swayed by slogans and vague definitions of "recovery." Too much of that is passed around under the guise of some unique-life changing mumbo jumbo...if you truly do not want to ingest the "substances" that ruin your existence, then you won't...live your life and do what you must to regain who you must become...the "answer" is not found in any book...12 steps or platitude ridden "support" group...it's always been inside of you...
  11. by   SororAKS
    I had a few years of feeling like I didn't know who I was. It was as if a tornado had gone through my life and left a barren, unfamiliar landscape. Gradually I realized there really was a person in there that could emerge and could do some good for others, but that came when I started to forgive myself.

    I have done the AA/NA thing on and off throughout the sixteen years of clean time I have, it has its good points but doesn't work for everyone. The heavy emphasis on Christianity gets old, but I learned to look past it and find my own spirituality. I also figured out there are other options for recovery that don't involve quite the same things.

    The feelings will subside. It is difficult at times because we feel depressed and mired down. The trick is to not allow that side of your brain to make decisions for you that are not in your best interests.

    Keep us posted.
  12. by   Meriwhen
    Don't know how long you've been sober, but be kind to yourself right now. You're learning to live life in a whole new way, and it's going to take some getting used to. And it will take time.

    As far as going to meetings...I'll be honest: 12-Step/SMART/other recovery groups are great but they are not for everyone. Some people do very well not attending meetings. If you're doing OK not going, then carry on doing what works for you. But always keep in mind that if you are struggling or feel you need the extra support and help, they are always there. And by going to a meeting or two or 100 doesn't mean you're committing to working the entire 12 Steps.
  13. by   AntelopeTongue
    Thank you for all of the heartfelt replies. Although I'm not a big fan of meetings, the feeling of having support from other nurses who know what I'm going through does make a big difference. I really appreciate that.

    As some of you have suggested, I'm going to try to be more kind and patient with myself. That is easier said than done but it's something I'd really like to work on. Also just knowing that this is a process that can't be avoided is helpful. Pretty much all of you have said you've felt like you have been in my position at one point or another in your recovery. So I'm not alone, and that's comforting.

    I spoke with my therapist the other day and she reiterated some things I've been feeling. I really wrapped my identity up in being a nurse who worked in some critical care aspect or another. That is "who I was". That isn't really healthy as it is. So, I'm trying to get back to some things that help define who I am that do not have to do with work.

    I've found one thing I'm excited about. My dog had had a lot of health issues lately and she is pushing through so gracefully and still is loving life ALL the time. She is in a great spot now and so I've signed my dog (and myself) up to take classes to be a certified therapy dog. That way we can do some volunteer work together. It's the first thing I've gotten excited about in awhile. I will let you all know how that goes. My dog is pretty much the love of my life so this should be fun.
    Wishing you all a great weekend.
  14. by   SororAKS
    Bravo for you and your dog! Animals have inherent wisdom and can teach us a lot. I had a beautiful, wise, and strong Rottweiler named Kieta, who died in April 2015. She taught me so much about life, strength, grace, and of being quiet to listen for things not obvious. We had a close connection, so much that when I moved out of state, I felt her presence at times...and in my dreams, she came once, a few months before she was diagnosed with a liver tumor. I saw her lying motionless on her back, on the grass, with a small puddle of blood on her RUQ...crystallizing as snow fell on it. After she died, I made the connection between her message in the dream and her tumor. She has also visited me on occasion after her death. Make no mistake about what they can teach us. Cherish your relationship with your dog. Let her teach you about unconditional love for yourself. She loves you, and not because you work as a critical care nurse. She loves you because you love her, pet her, spoil her, and care for her. That reflects the inherent goodness and humanity within you.

    When you have a bad day, when you have doubts about yourself, when you aren't sure who you are, and when you feel like s**t, look at her. I'll bet she still loves you. If you were stripped of your specialty of critical care, or even your license (perish the thought, just an example), she would still love you. This is another lesson my beloved Kieta taught me. When I used to cry, she would put her face really close to mine, smell me with her big black nose, and lick my tears. She loved me even when I felt messed up and had messed up my career. Why? She saw my inherent goodness, exclusive of the external trappings of "ER Certified Emergency Nurse", "Nursing Supervisor" etc.

    I found out who I really was when those titles didn't apply anymore. I faced the demons and shadows within, once the titles, the job, and the pills, were out of my life. That was also when I decided I'd do everything I could to never go back there. That was 16 years ago on August 24, 2000. Since then, my horizons have expanded beyond anything I could have dreamed of. Much more than I ever felt possible. I found that with a little willingness, open mindedness, and honesty, my world would expand.

    I talked about some of the attitudes I had that cultivated my substance abuse in a separate post. Another of those was thinking that nursing was my whole world. I did that. If I worked hard, got really good at what I did, and survived two brutal specialties, I would have "bragging rights" and no one would know how insecure I really felt, or how tenuous I felt every day I went in to work. I say tenuous, because deep inside I knew there was a different person within who was not being acknowledged, was ignored, and was not able to fully express herself through this type of work. Yes, I had moments where I could express caring, and did. Those were far more rewarding than the so called adrenaline rush prevalent in critical care. So were the moments when, through doing careful assessment and listening to the quiet, still voice within, I could catch subtle signs of decline before the patient went downhill and intervene. But they weren't enough.

    Nothing was enough. Nothing is ever enough, until we learn to embrace our unconscious, and allow it to have a voice in things. Until we learn to separate our inherent worth as a human being, from the work we do and from external conditions, we subject ourselves to the whims of the external world. Until we learn we are indeed sacred and divine, we will continue to judge ourselves. Until we can view ourselves as just human beings, in the moment, without judgment and adding all the criticisms that come, we will continue on the negative feedback loop and be slaves to it.

    The good news is, we can learn to separate ourselves from the distractions that clamor for our attention and get quiet. We can then let the thoughts come and go, like the direction of a river, we let them flow away. Then, we discover that we, the human, remains; and we can allow that to just be. Just be, without judgment or comment.

    But I digress. Thanks for listening. Good luck with your new ventures, the discovery that you are not your job, and a new way of thinking. Thinking and making the right choices, leads to a better way of living.

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