The Early Recovery Journal

This morning, I decided to read through the journal that has followed me since August. This specific journal was actually a required notebook for my creative writing class. Every class period we were given a prompt to free write on. I was hardly in that class and when I was, I wasn’t sober, so most of what I wrote then is foggy and driven by the depression that my substance abuse fed. The first few weeks of entries don’t make sense, because pre-sober Donaven pretty much did whatever he wanted with the prompts.

What I’m about to share with you all is extremely personal (and a lot of it is pretty heavy), but I want to remind you, and myself, of the deep, dark pit that God has brought me out of. He’s still bringing me out of it, but the journey that’s found throughout these entries is worth sharing. My recovery has already been many things–crazy, beautiful, hopeful, messy, scary–but through it all, God has been moving. I can’t deny that. He’s all over the pages of this journal. To those of you reading this who are in recovery or who struggle with mental illness, maybe you can relate to some of the things I wrote about. Maybe you’ll be encouraged to know that you’re not alone. Journals are meant to be private places, I know that. That privacy is what differentiates my journaling from my blogging. But I’m choosing to share these months with you, because they tell a story of God’s faithfulness and ability to heal even the most broken of hearts. They also show how truly messy my recovery has been. They’re honest and verbatim from the page. Some of these are full journal entries and others are pieces taken from things I wrote that day, but either way, read what you want. It’s incredibly lengthy, but this is mostly for me. I definitely didn’t take your attention span or interest into consideration. My early recovery has been rocky and I need to be reminded of why I got sober in the first place. I need to be reminded of where I’ve come from and where God has promised me that I’m going.

August 25th, 2016
I hardly love myself.

August 30th, 2016
I’m a mess, you’re a mess, and together, I’m still too much to love. I can’t lose you, but my gut is saying that your next move is to run. Please, don’t go. We can take a few steps back, slow it down, give it time, but don’t give truth to my greatest lie–that I am unlovable. God damn it, please, don’t leave me.

September 1st, 2016
Chances are, I’ll never make it out of this dark, cold place. My music will eventually cease and my mind will stop producing something worth hearing. I might as well give my concert tickets away for free. I promise, I am not worth seeing live.

September 13th, 2016
It’s midnight and I’m in a bar, alone, drinking and writing. I’m pathetic. How can I be loved by God and still feel like a piece of shit? What did I do wrong in loving that boy? Where did I fuck up? Or maybe I didn’t and I’m where I fucked up. Maybe I’m just fucked up. I decide on the daily to keep living and that is my fatal error, but here I am, world.

September 20th, 2016
I regret not giving up. I regret sharing my story. I regret being vulnerable. I regret letting people in. My heart is broken beyond repair. Not even God almighty could glue its pieces back together. My suicide is inevitable and that’s morbid, far from funny. Everything hurts. Getting out of bed. Walking to class. Walking in general. Breathing. Loving people. Loving people, especially.

September 29th, 2016
I haven’t been sober for at least three weeks. I’m happy here, living my days in a haze. I’m tired of living. It’s not fair that I got stuck with this story, so I’ll numb it all and pretend like it hasn’t happened. This isn’t happening. Everything’s on fire and I will not allow the people I love to be burned.

October 4th, 2016
I guess I’ll just vaporize. Vaporize. Vaporize. I hate myself and I don’t want to be alive anymore. God, I was baptized last week and I meant it. I want to be Yours, but I am struggling. I am drowning. I am dying. I want to be Yours, but numbing-out has my heart and I can’t feel Your love if that’s all my heart is good for. There’s not room for both of you.

October 21st, 2016
He’s impacted me more than anyone else in my life. After my second overdose in 2014, he laid on the hospital floor as we waited for my social worker to give us an answer as to whether of not they were going to transfer me to a treatment center. They were and they did. Living with mental illness has been the most difficult journey I have ever taken. And the worst part is, I didn’t ask for it.

October 27th, 2016
make these feelings fade, whispering woods
take me away
drown me in your leaves, in your meadows
suffocate the life out of me

I didn’t write the first week I was in treatment. I was miserable. I was withdrawing and having to deal with emotions I had been numbing out for months. Detox was rough, but it was there that I was reminded that I am a beloved child of God. I started writing again when I transferred to West Pines Recovery Center on November 15th, 2016. My thoughts were still all over the place, but I was beginning to gain some clarity.

November 15th, 2016
I feel a lot right now. I’m most surprised that I couldn’t control my crying during my intake interview when they asked about prior hospitalizations and I talked about Maggie. I cannot believe that I cried. I haven’t done that in a while. I can’t believe that I’m here. I need to be here. I know that. Lord, make me brave.

November 16th, 2016
I am not here to get good. This is not a morality issue of good and bad. I’m here to get well. I have to close the door on my substance use. This breakup has hurt me more than I’m willing to deal with or admit. One of the girls picked up a call for me earlier: “Donaven, a Kyle called for you.” My heart sank and I desperately wanted it to be him, but I knew it wasn’t. I don’t want to give up alcohol. 

November 18th, 2016
You don’t give Your heart in pieces, Lord, but I feel like crap all the time. It’s been 7-years and my mental illnesses are still winning. Nothing’s changed, except for substances have been thrown into the mix. I have an addiction? I almost checked myself out today. I almost left and gave up on this. But for Annie, for Drew, for the people who love me, I didn’t. Maybe I’ll get to a place where I’m doing this for me, but I’m not there yet.

November 19th, 2016
I really don’t want to be here. Hello, intense emotions. But there’s nothing in my history that says, “Hey, drinking is a great idea.” Today was huge for me, because I accepted my illness and decided that sobriety is for me. Last year in rehab, I couldn’t even admit that I was an alcoholic and an addict and I believed I could continue to party in moderation. Yeah, today was a big deal. I live with mental illnesses, but they don’t define me. I have to live a little differently because of them, but it’s worth it. Keeping mood and mind altering substances out of the picture is going to make living with Bipolar II and BPD so much easier. My sobriety is my treasure and therapy and treatment are great things for me. These are the cards I have been handed and I am not ashamed. My life is going to look so different without alcohol and drugs. I know that I’m still going to struggle, but with supportive friends, family, and sober communities, I got this. God’s got me.

November 20th, 2016
I’m stressed about what life looks like for me outside of here. Time is fleeting.

November 21st, 2016
I need to lend myself a soft shoulder when I share my life story today to the group. I’m not going to be able to hold myself together. There’s so much baggage and trauma that I carry. I’m going to fall apart. And I did. I cried tonight. I still miss Maggie. Crying is happening more and more often. I suppose that’s a good thing? I’m feeling again.

November 22nd, 2016
Recovery means taking back control of my life. The truth is, I have illnesses, including substance abuse disorder, but I’m seeking treatment and I’m getting better. If people want to know more, we can talk about it. I’m still wrestling with what being 100% public about my recovery looks like. I know that I’ve been given this story for a reason and that I’m supposed to talk about it, be a light, and lead by example. But failing when all eyes are on me could cause me more damage than good. I’m scared. God, I know that You’ve called me to use my voice to encourage and be honest about my story, but man, what a tall order. Please help me do that well. Earlier, I told my counselor to live her dreams and she responded with, “I will, but I need help to live those dreams.” Huh.

November 23rd, 2016
We’re not supposed to check social media when we’re here, but I did. Bad idea. I went through my entire Instagram to  delete anything that related to my addiction and I saw photos of Benji. I saw Nick. I saw Luke. I saw Bailey. I saw Michael and I in high school. I saw my sister and I throughout the years. So many emotions came with seeing all of that. Oh, man. When I get out of here, I’m going to make sure to ask myself daily, “Was today better than alcohol and drugs?” And if it wasn’t, I’m going to make it better. I have worked so hard. I have gone through so much pain and I’ve almost died to end up here. Recovery is worth it. I am alive.

“When you relapse, you don’t lose your sobriety, it’s still there. You just lose your sobriety date. If you don’t want to drink or drug, you don’t.” –someone during an AA meeting

“Nothing is more creative, nor destructive, than a brilliant mind with a purpose.” –Dan Brown

November 24th, 2016 (Thanksgiving Day)
If it weren’t for Annie and Drew, I don’t know if I would’ve had the strength to check myself into treatment. They are my biggest fans, aren’t they? I am grateful. This is the second consecutive Thanksgiving that I’ve spent in rehab. But at least here I can focus on my eating disorder. Ugh, I don’t even like writing that. I like to pretend that I don’t have it, that it doesn’t exist or that I made it up–that it’s all in my head. I mean, I already have so many issues and stigma-heavy labels attached to me. If I say that I have an eating disorder, it feels like I’m just trying to give myself every mental illness out there. But there I go again, caring about how people percieve me. This is about me, my relationship to food, and my view of my body. God, You know that I’ve struggled with severe body image issues since 2008. I have my ideas on where they stem from, but it’s the one thing that I don’t talk about very openly on social platforms, like I do with my bipolar/depression. I’m not sure why. I need to work through that and learn how to be comfortable with saying, “I am in recovery from Bulimia.” I know that my honesty could encourage other guys out there who wrestle with an eating disorder and/or body image issues. I am anxious. I feel overweight. All at once, I feel too scrawny. There is so much food today. I’m wearing many layers today, because I don’t feel comfortable in my skin. Man, this is the most I’ve written in days, but this is something I don’t talk about, let alone write about. I’ve gotta get this out on paper. My body-image issues are why I like my clothes so tight. It’s why I walk with my chest out. It’s why I avoid scales. It’s why I wear hats. I hate being exposed. It’s why I never wear shorts. But Donaven, you are bigger than an eating disorder. It has no power over you. If you can conquer substance abuse, you can overcome this, too. You are supported here. Be honest. Eat until you are satisfied and then stop. You can do it. It’s always been about control.

November 25th, 2016
I’m anxious about getting out of here. I feel like I can’t breathe. What’s next for me? I’m irritable. I just want to get high. This is dumb. All of this. Recovery. Treatment. Sobriety. I hate myself. I ate way too much yesterday and the nurse made me step on the scale. I don’t want to go back out into the real world and deal with life. It’s all too much. But I want to be better. I need to finally be better. I still can’t believe that my heart broke so easily. Wait, yes I can. This is me we’re talking about.

November 26th, 2016
I’m depressed today and don’t want to be here any longer. My dreams were not great last night. I don’t remember any details, but I know that I woke up this morning hating myself. I am garbage. I went off on another guy here. Told him to shut the f– up during group this morning. I’m really not having it today. I’m isolating. I know it. I called my grandparents and told them not to come visit. I don’t deserve them. I don’t deserve anybody. One of my closest friends told me that he wasn’t going to visit me while I’m here. My mind is racing over that. That stings so freaking bad. I don’t even have the energy to write about the emotions that brings up. Thank God for Michael. He called yesterday. If that friendship isn’t God-ordained, I don’t know what is. We’ve been through hell together. He is my greatest friend. Two of the girls here left me the sweetest note in my journal today: “God loves you! And we love you!” Everyone can tell that I’m having a really bad day. Depression is trying to kill me.

Alcohol and drugs became my bestfriends. They became abusive partners, though. My real bestfriends would never abuse me, but in my addiction, I ended up abusing them. Looks like substances taught me how to be a friend and for that, I am so sorry. I pride myself on being an outstanding friend. Maybe I’m not as great at it as I thought.

If you really love God, maybe it’s time to grow up. Maybe it’s time to realize that true love never takes advantage of the other person’s patience and longsuffering. Love doesn’t ask questions like, “How much is too much?” or “How far is too far?” It doesn’t say, “Hey, if I walk away and do my own thing for a while, I can always come back.” Instead, it grieves over the thought of breaking that precious fellowship even for a moment. It sticks close to home and tries to stay clean. Its desire is always to please and honor the beloved.

Without him I am enough. I am loved. I am worthy. I am alive. Breathe. Don’t let him have this kind of power ovet you, Donaven. Let him go. You are more. Yes. I am strong. I am brave. I can do this. I don’t need a drink or a drug to move past this. Love me, God. It is so appropriate that I brought this journal to rehab. It was for my writing class and my pain is in the front of these pages. I can’t believe I was that bad. I was really hurting and I still am, but I’m sober now. 19 days today. Keep it up, Donaven. I can’t believe how messed up I had become. No more. You own your addiction now. God, thank you for meeting me here.

November 27th, 2016
Not sure if I’m ready for real life yet. God, give me peace. I’m trying to not let life outside of here stress me out yet. I need to take it one day at a time, minute by minute, moment to moment. Breathe, Donaven. I’ve found strength in my vulnerability and hope in my humility. I will set fire to my white flag and keep on trekking. Alcohol and drugs are not worth the amount of time, energy, love, and money they take away from me. I am an investment. “You are strong, you are brave, you are loved.” I’m more certain now than ever that my purpose is to work as a LCSW in a recovery center. I don’t think I’m going to finish the semester and I have to be okay with that. I come first. I am enough.

Today I am the oldest I have ever been. I’ve never lived this day. I’m the most sober I have ever been. I won’t die today because of substances. My mind is clear. I have breathed the most breaths I ever have. I am the strongest I have ever been. God has given me another day.

November 28th, 2016
My sister called today. I love that girl. She’s one of the strongest people I know and I want to honor that strength in a tattoo one day. She’s watched everything that I’ve been through and she experienced the same upbringing I did and yet, somehow, she’s perfectly fine. Either that or she’s due for a major breakdown. Regardless, she amazes me.

“The evolutionary force, present in all of life, manifests itself in mankind as human love.” –M. Scott Peck

I finished a spoken word today. Can’t wait to get home and record it.

November 29th, 2016
Freedom! I did it. I survived rehab and I’m sober. I have all the tools and resources I need. I cannot believe that I have been given the opportunity to get sober at 21-years old. Thank you, Lord. Ha! I went straight to school after I was discharged and guess what the topic of my first class was? Substance abuse. What a sick joke. Triggered. No matter what else happens today, I know that I am loved. I’m learning how to breathe again and how to sit in my skin, content.

November 30th, 2016
Today, I am grateful for mercy. I deserve so much worse than the current state of my life. My hope is in You, Lord. I’m learning how to love You again. Continue to teach me how to live a Godly and dignified life. I’m fighting the good fight. I don’t want to lose You again. Time and time again I lose sight of You and I am sorry. I don’t want to live apart from You. Breathe on the coals of my heart.

God, thank you for the love Annie has for me.

December 1st, 2016
Thank you for good days, Lord. Live in the moment, Donaven. Stay present. This is one of recovery’s gifts to you.

December 2nd, 2016
God, calm my anxiety. I trust You. I’m struggling with coming to You as I am. I won’t hate myself for who I am, God. Never again. I refuse. Please, take me as I am. Donaven, you’ve chosen Jesus. Following Him means that He directs your life. I choose You, God.

December 3rd, 2016
I’m learning that God’s instructions and actions don’t always appear reasonable from a human perspective. I recognize my helplessness without You, Lord. I can’t stand upright, smile, or remain sober without You. I trust You. I’m leaning on You. You alone are my strength. Keep me humble in my recovery, Lord. Put me in my place. Continue to lead me where my trust is without borders. You’ve done great so far. Haha.

December 6th, 2016
I talked to my parents. Maybe they can finally be who I need them to be. I almost used last night. I had it in my hand. I didn’t do it, though. Thank you God for giving me the courage and ability to stay sober. I love You. I cried on the bus ride home yesterday. Recovery is all sorts of ups-and-downs. I needed that cry, though. I get to feel and what a privilege. It’s 11pm and in one hour I will be a month sober. I might end up here again if I relapse, but I don’t need to worry about that now. This is a whole new life for me and I’m grateful. I’m excited. I’m loved. I’m alive. My heart is so Yours, God. Thank you. I am so joyful. The stress of the last few days would’ve had me drinking and using, but You’ve saved me from that. You’re breaking chains. Thank you for the Edge Church and the love and support they’ve graciously given me. I know that I’m going to be okay. When they baptized me in September, I truly was surrendering to You, but I wasn’t willing or ready to give up my addiction. I was still in denial that I even had an addiction. But I’ve finally given it up to You and this freedom that I’ve found… man! I love You, Lord. If I put You first, I know that everything else, including my broken heart and my recovery, will fall into place. If I don’t keep You first, I’m screwed.

December 7th, 2016
ONE MONTH SOBER. THANK YOU, GOD. I CANNOT STOP SMILING. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Drew and I are hanging out and I couldn’t think of anyone else I’d want to celebrate my sobriety with today.

December 8th, 2016
It’s midnight and I’m wide awake. I’m feeling a lot tonight. We’re just hanging out, but I don’t feel like enough. Stable enough. Loving enough. Manly enough. I don’t want to be too much. I don’t want to lose him. History has shown that he’s not going anywhere, but these are the fears I wrestle with, Lord, and I don’t know why. Normal people don’t fear these things, right? I’m not sure if I can ever be the friend to him that he’s been to me. I don’t understand why he’s stuck around. I really don’t. Breathe. I am worthy. I am enough. I am loved. Asking all of these questions is pointless. It always ends in depression and oblivion. That’s not my life anymore. I am new. I’ve just gotta let it be. Have faith that this friendship is strong. The journey to 2-months sober has begun. I’m saying goodbye to Geoff today. I am so sad. God, I know that hell cannot stand against Your love. I’m going to be alright. Always.

December 10th, 2016
I trust You in my daily living, Lord. You are my treasure and my reward and I’ll let nothing ever come before You. The truth is, though, I’m struggling to love You and I’m not sure why. You deserve all of me and yet, part of me is hesitant. I suppose it’s just my flesh trying to lead me away from You. You see my heart. You know that I’m pursuing You with all that I am. 

December 13th, 2016
Oh, God, how I need You. Yesterday was rough. It started with me running into an ex-friend (is that what I call him?) at work. I haven’t seen him in over a year and honestly, I was okay with never seeing him again. He hugged me and that alone caught me off guard. There’s a lot that I want to write about in regards to him, but I’m going to choose to let it go. I think I’ve finally stopped mourning that friendship. I’m not going back to feeling bad about it. Took me long enough. But of course when he asked me how I was, I told him way too much about what’s going on in my life. “When I’m nervous, I have this thing, yeah, I talk too much.” I basically vomited my life onto him. Some things never change. I took some time to let myself bawl my eyes out after that. I was surprised that I was so emotional. It came out of nowhere. I wanted to tell myself to man up and get over it, but that encounter kind of destroyed me. I guess I haven’t stopped mourning? I was reminded of what I lost in my addiction and borderline/codependent behaviors. I was reminded of that feeling of not being enough for someone to stay. I was irritable and out of it for the rest of the day. I left work early and told a lie to do so. I rescheduled with my AA-sponsor and they seemed upset. I’m letting people down again. My heart was aching and what did I turn to? Drugs. I had them in my hand and I was willing to give up my sobriety for temporary relief. Thank you for keeping me safe, Lord. Thank you for keeping me sober. I want more of You, God. You swooped in and saved me yet again. I was accepted into UC Denver today. I trust You in this process. It will work out for Your good and no, I don’t know what that looks like. Thank you for being faithful.

December 15th, 2016
Last night was insane. This week has already been hard and I realized that I still care about him deeply. He added me back on social media and texted me asking me how I was doing. I figured he was drunk and I was right. He was a little. That hurt, because I hadn’t really heard from him since our messy breakup. I felt like I wasn’t worth sober-him. But I am. I was so confused. I would drop everything to be with him again. I drunk texted him abusively after we broke up, so I’m not so much upset about that. There’s grace there. I miss him. But I can’t make the same mistakes. I went through hell to start moving on. I’m guarding my heart this time… but I mean, despite all that we’ve been through in the short amount of time that we’ve known each other, he reached out. He still cares? Oh, this is dangerous territory. My heart is fragile. Especially now, in early recovery. I needed him when I was drowning in my addiction, but he bailed. But I understand. Today I am grateful for sobriety.

December 16th, 2016
The AA Big Book cannot replace Your Word, God. I’ve had that conviction since the start. At least being in the Big Book holds me accountable to spending time with You. Um, so I went on a date last night. It was okay. We’re definitely just supposed to be friends, if anything. The whole time, I couldn’t stop thinking of Kyle. I might love him. No, I know that I do. We’re supposed to get coffee tomorrow.

December 21st, 2016
So, he totally bailed on coffee the other day. I told him how it made me feel and I got nothing. He’s straight up ignoring me and I am so confused. My heart can’t handle this right now. Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe everyone’s right. But I love him. My depression got the best of me after he bailed and I ended up staying in bed for two days. But I stayed sober. I don’t know how, but I did. Thank you, God. After a conversation with my old roommate today, I’m solid in my resolve–I care deeply about him and I’m going to fight for us and let this play out, even if he’s being a jerk. There’s something special about him that I can’t let go of. I’ve got a world of chances for him. I know this is a big risk. In other news, my heart aches because I know that I’ve hurt people and I don’t think I can fix that.

December 23rd, 2016
The coolest kid I know. It’s his 21st and I’m reminded that I can’t go out with him to celebrate. I mean, I could, but I don’t want to trigger my brain. Today, I’m grateful for people like him in my life. Don’t know if he considers me a bestfriend, but I consider him one of mine. We’ve been through a lot. Kyle swears he wants to get together. I’ll be surprised if he reaches out and follows through without me chasing him down. Man, this can’t go on.

December 25th, 2016
God, thank you for sobriety and for people who love me. I tweeted Kyle and he completely ignored it. Should I take a hint and stop pursuing this before I get hurt again? But he’s the one who reached out to me first. Sigh. My heart and mind are so distracted from You, Lord. You need to be the focus of my celebrations today. You are first, today and always. I want to follow You no matter what it takes. Breathe.

December 27th, 2016
Lord, I love You and I trust You with all of me. My self-esteem is hurting today. I still haven’t heard from Kyle and it’s destroying me. So much is unresolved. I just want to hold him. Mend this heart, God. I know that I need to spend some time with You. Give me wisdom in all of this.

December 30th, 2016
Jesus, I relapsed two nights ago. And no, this isn’t Kyle’s fault. This isn’t my grandparents’ fault. This isn’t anyone’s doing but mine. I justified getting high, because I was with an old friend and no, this isn’t her fault, either. My recovery is mine alone and I allowed other people to tell me what it can look like. I know what it needs to look like: complete abstinence from all mind-altering substances. I used last night, too. I opened the door and I have a choice: close it now or continue to flirt with what’s on the other side. I never want to be that Donaven again. I got rid of it all. I don’t know how to be honest about this, so for now, I’m not going to. Oh, man, what a slippery slope I have found myself on. Gotta jump right back into my recovery and keep moving forward. These lapses in judgement don’t erase the work I’ve put into my recovery. Remember that. I’m sorry, God. I didn’t even put up a fight. Kyle swears he’s coming over tonight so we can talk about what’s next for us. If there even is anything next for us. God, give me the words to say to him. I care about him so much, but if he can’t make up his mind… I have to walk away. But I can’t. I know I won’t. I know this heart of mine. It loves incredibly hard. He can’t come before my sobriety. I don’t think a relationship with him is what I need right now. But man, it’s what I want more than anything. Dang it, he’s already becoming an idol again and I doubt he even wants to be with me.

As you can see, my recovery has been eventful and that doesn’t even cover the last 3 months. In that time, I have relapsed more times than I can count, I have tried to end my life, and he broke my heart again. I don’t know when I’ll be able to love again or when I’ll be able to trust the words you’re worth fighting for out of anyone’s mouth. I do know that Satan wants me dead and you know, that actually gives me hope. Satan wouldn’t want me out of the picture unless God was planning to do something incredible with my life. Despite the craziness of my early recovery, I’m not falling apart. I’m definitely struggling, but I still have my joy and nothing can take that away. Christ loved and pursued me when I was at my lowest last year; He’s not going anywhere.

So much life change is getting ready to happen and I can’t wait to share it with you all in due time. But for now, know that I am focusing on my sobriety, my relationship with Jesus, and my closest friendships. Thank you for letting me be vulnerable here.

With hope,


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