The Empty Room At The End Of The Recovery Rainbow

copyright banner salted photo header


I’ve been lost for a long time. Sometimes it feels like I’m a casualty of my own narrative, sometimes like I’m a victim of circumstance.

Lately I’ve felt like I’m being attacked by my recovery.

It’s as though behind every door my recovery opens, there’s an empty room. Every time I try to reach out to someone who used to be a part of my life, there’s just an empty space. When there’s a warm body, I’m ignored or told my untreated behaviours make the relationship impossible.

I feel as though my recovery is putting me at risk of a relapse, or maybe dragging new causes for deep depressions into my life.

I literally, for example, have no one in my life now except my girlfriend and my son. Whatever friendships I had ten years ago, are gone. Evaporated. When I started my recovery, in order for it to work, I had to make myself the priority. I relied on people to contact me, in order for friendships to continue I needed them to come to me.

But very few of them did. Very few made the call to find out how I was, very few made it a point to knock on my door to find out if I were still alive.

This was something I worried about a lot when I first entered treatment. Not enough to prevent me from entering recovery though, I was as close to being dead as I ever want to be, and treatment was the only way back from the brink.

But the idea that I’d wake up and not recognize myself, or wake up into an empty life, was something I considered on a regular basis.

Six or seven years later I do recognize myself, I do know who I am, but I have woken up to find out the people I once considered friends have moved on without me, to the point where we don’t even recognize each other anymore.

There have been four incidents recently which have shown me just how far gone the situation has become.


The first was my neighbour’s insane rant when I asked him to put his fire out — the smoke had once again filled my apartment. In the middle of everything he almost stopped, or paused, and laid out his own judgment on my life.

Keeping in mind we’ve been neighbours for almost six years, but we’ve never spoken, he told me I was an “asshole” for forcing my “wife” to live in another apartment in our building. He told me I was an “asshole” for being on welfare, and I was an “asshole” for forcing my landlord’s son to mow my lawn.

As he’s wandering around his backyard yelling this nonsense — I’m not married, or on welfare, and I pay rent so my landlord will mow my lawn — I was thinking “nobody in this town knows me. I am totally fucking alone in this town.”

I’ve never been able to make a connection here, because I’ve either been too sick, or too involved in my own recovery, so now who I am has been left to the perception of people like my neighbour.

I came back here, to a village that’s about as close to Home as I’ve ever gotten, because of the familiarity, because of my parents being here, and because I thought the friends I had here would be an important part of my recovery. But, six years later, there’s no one to speak for me when an ignorant ass starts bellowing insults.


The next incident was a week later when I quit Facebook.

At the very end I sent a message out to some people I wanted to maintain some level of contact with. I sent out the URL to my photo blog, and my email address, mostly to people I graduated college with, people I had worked with, people I blog with, and a few people from high school.

…turns out I screwed up and some people got the message twice, and some not at all. Regardless…

Just before I made the deletion official, I received a “Reply All” response from someone I haven’t seen, or spoke to, since college. I was, she said, an “asshole” and there’d be no way she’d be interested in contacting me.

…the fact she “Friended” me while believing I was an asshole is just another reason why I dislike the platform so much.

I’ve never held any illusions about my behaviour in college. I was untreated and… erratic. My inability to think through some situations led to my being in an almost permanent state of anger, my manic outbursts of energy which, in one instance, led to the destruction of the television news clippings for the entire class… and I was laughing while doing it.

Plus the sex stuff. I dated a few of the women in my class, and in one particular incident I treated one of them very badly. I wrote about this recently…

Again, I’ve always known about the destructive behaviours, and even in some cases understood how much they hurt the people around me, but I also thought people understood what caused those behaviours.


The third incident was the day after I deleted my Facebook account.

I was in the local convenience store waiting to be served when the younger brother of someone I once considered one my best friends walked in. His brother was someone who let me live in his basement so I wouldn’t be homeless. I took photos of his band for two years in Toronto. I’ve met the younger brother, and hung out over drinks with him…

I was just happy to see a familiar face, but it was pretty obvious that’s all I was to him in that moment… familiar, but not friendly. It had been too long, his life had continued — he and his older brother have a successful brewery, and I haven’t been able to maintain contact with them.


The fourth incident came from my step-father. Two weeks ago my mother asked me to help my step-father with a huge landscaping project. That night he took me out, showed me the plans, talked about what I could do to help, told me he’d even pay me for the work.

Then he told me he’d call me to let me know when to start. He’s been very reluctant to rely on my help over the past few years, because in the beginning of my recovery I was so unreliable and unable to maintain any focus.

So I was really happy to be asked to help with such a large job — it involved moving about five tonnes of flagstone.

Unfortunately he never called. I’ve asked him about the job a few times since our first meeting, and each time he tells me he’ll call me. But he hasn’t, and the job is just about done now.

My step-father sent an email to my psychiatrist after I moved back home, complaining that whatever treatment plan we were working on couldn’t possibly be working because it had been three months and I was still unable to be outside for more than a few minutes at a time.

He still doesn’t know I read it — in Canada a psychiatrist has to hand over any correspondence he receives regarding the patient.

And he hasn’t changed. To him I’m still three months into recovery, and he can’t trust me.

It honestly feels as though he hasn’t noticed any change, or any progress in my recovery. It feels like no one’s around to notice the changes… my parents have never understood, or shown a willingness to even try to understand, anything about the disease beyond what they’ve witnessed through my behaviour.

Which is like trying to understand a tornado from deep inside the root cellar while it passes overhead.

So what I’ve been left with, after six difficult years of hard work and saving my own life, is an empty room.

It almost feels as though I’m supposed to make amends to these people. Apologize for doing the insane things this disease made me think were sane at the time. Apologize for the abuses I’ve done to others in the name of abuses done to me.

Maybe that’s the next stage of my recovery… making some people at least understand that I’m not the same person anymore, and letting others know I still value their friendship, even if it hasn’t shown for so long.

I don’t think I can just walk away from people who, maybe not so much now, but back in the day meant so much to me. But, at the same time… I may have been an “asshole” to some, but a lot of them walked away from me.

I think the only way the next stage of my recovery even gets started is if I go out and start finding these people, because none of them are seeking me out. Figuring out who I hurt might be the first step. Making a list or something.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Facebook, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Empty Room At The End Of The Recovery Rainbow

  1. Lydia says:

    I’m sorry you’re having a rough time. I’ve found, with most people, that out of sight is out of mind.

    I’m not naturally a very friendly person, though my wife is. I’ve learned by watching her that relationship, friendship, takes work. She actually cares enough about other people to seek them out over time. Sometimes others don’t respond, and sometimes they do, but sometimes it comes down to that effort on her part. Without it, relationships fade away.

    The other thing is that I need to show up. I’ve built personal relationships with people I work with and people I go to AA with by showing up for literally years. That’s the way I am. I need lots of shared context and activity until I can begin to really be a friend.

  2. thordora says:

    ugh. I just wrote about friend type people and my inability to attach correctly not 10 mins before reading this. I just don’t get people. It’s HARD. I have no real friendships, and only my inherent need to get out pushes me to talk to people. Even then-I’m still just as weird as I was at 17, so it’s no easier, especially in a city where everyone knows each other and grew up with each other.

    I’m lucky I suppose, that my episodes really only affected my married life, but since I poured nearly everything into that, it’s been hard to bounce back. My ex could never ever look at me as recovered, ever, and still scoffs when I tell him I’m stable without meds since he left. I’m not perfect, and there’s still a hell of a lot of work. But I’m better, and could never be with him.

    I could never start over in my little hometown, which I think is a lot like where you are right now. It just wouldn’t happen, cause I’d always be “her” there. Not me.

    I wish I had words of wisdom. But it seems that sometimes recovery is worse than living in the mess. At least inside the crazy, you don’t notice or care.

  3. Oh sweetie, that all sounds very sucky, but I’m glad you feel you can do something positive about it.

  4. Gabriel... says:

    Hi Lydia… the parallels between recovering from a mental illness and from an addiction always astound me. I’ve written before about how much we need some kind of Bipolar Anonymous program, if for no other reason than for getting us out into the world, and into some sort of social setting where we can practice and find out how far along into our recovery we actually are. It’s exactly those personal relationships people can get through AA that we’re missing by not having a BA… or an MDA.

    Hi Thor… that was an absolutely true story about me, Mary and her mom, by the way.

    I think one of the problems I’m having right now, and am probably just really waking up to, is I can’t leave. Coming back here to recover always made sense as long as I could get away from here once I recovered. Staying in the City didn’t make a lot of sense because of cost issues, and also here there was some support with rides, the occasional meal and having someplace to initially live rent free at my parents’ home.

    Staying here after I recovered, or hit a certain point in my recovery, didn’t make any sense because there are no jobs here, because there’s very little to do here — I’m about to have my 204th “dinner and a DVD” night with my girlfriend, and because there are very few opportunities for social activities here — should I join the “Horticultural Society” or “the Historical Society”?

    Hi Karen… did you ever see the Simpson’s episode where Homer climbs “the Murderhorn”? He struggles and struggles and finally pierces the clouds and thinks he’s at the top, and yells “Yoo-hoo”, only to have the clouds separate and he’s like only halfway… that’s how I feel right now.

  5. markps2 says:

    The goal to recovery is to stay alive and healthy isn’t it?

    “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.”
    my 2 cents
    RE: Old friends, there is that saying “You Can’t Go Home Again” because everything and everyone is changing.
    RE: Being an Asshole . If people don’t tell you what the problem is, there is no way to fix it/the misunderstanding.
    re:two appartments. it gives you both your own space-if-you-need-it. if you got married and had two appartments then it would be weird.

    I remember a blog post of your landlord being an asshole, giving you a surprise bunch of hydro bills.
    Who is an asshole and who is a good guy? You eat your neighbors shit and you’re good? He didn’t like you standing up to his shit, so got angry.

  6. Bromc says:

    I notice your recovery.

    I think people grow and move on. Especially when they start families.

    But if it is important to you to seek these people out and apologize, then you should. I just hope you don’t expect too much. I’d hate to see you not get the responses you want-for one reason or another-and be hurt more. If you’re apologizing, do it for you, not for what you’re expecting out of them.

    And, for what it’s worth, you’re not an asshole. Not in my book.

  7. Yo is Me says:

    i’m sorry you’re going through this. i miss your facebook updates 🙂

  8. Pingback: Recovery Week 184 In Review | …salted lithium.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s