Lessons Learnt in Recovery from Addiction
In an active Addiction, many of us caused significant harms. The lies and broken promises meant we often hurt others when their only crime was to love us.
Those who tried to help us would be pushed away, told to mind their own business and resented for the audacity of suggesting that our behaviour might be out of control.
Many had a vicious tongue when intoxicated — things would be said from a position of fear, and often the words would hurt more than the action.
“We will comprehend the word Serenity and know we have peace”
AA Big Book
Coming into recovery and finding sobriety doesn’t mean the individual gets away scot-free. The pain and hurt they caused linger on.
They might forget the gory details of the parties and drunken binges, but the pain caused is something they remember, often vividly with waves of guilt.
It will be these instances that will often keep those in early recovery from having a good night’s sleep.
Any expectations of peace and serenity being easily found as soon as the drinking and drugging stops are soon realised to be false.
Most of those in long term recovery we speak to will tell you this. Getting clean was difficult but staying clean and sober is where the real work begins.
If reading this fills you with dread, don’t be disheartened. Recovery promises so much and if truthful, our worst days in recovery are far better than our best days in addiction.
However, be under no illusion that life will again pop up magically. We will yet have our highs and lows and life will not always be there to serve us.
But if we are painstaking in our recovery and honest with our sponsor and therapist, if we are courageous, be teachable and learn to be of service to others, we will know what it is to feel peace.
We will learn to understand the meaning of the word Serenity.
After all, it is a promise found in the 12 Steps of AA and experienced by millions of recovering persons.
Why Choose Recovery
I recently spoke to a dear friend who was celebrating his 5th year of sobriety. I asked him if sober life was anything close to what he had expected.
He smiled and replied, “If I were to create a dream in my early days of recovery of what life would be like, I’d have sold myself short”. It is not a surprising answer.
Many will talk of being catapulted into the 4th dimension upon initiating a recovery program. It is this new dimension that is described as a ‘Spiritual Awakening’ but to describe it is virtually impossible.
However, let me try — I would say it’s a feeling of being right in the present moment. It’s a sense of safety and connection, at one with something bigger than you, no better and no worse than anyone else. Just calm within yourself.
In an active addiction, to be in the moment is impossible. With one foot in the past, holding onto resentments, we are constantly finding the tools as a driving force for self-pity and self-isolation.
In recovery, with the right guides and dedication to work through the barriers, we begin to be in the ‘here and now’. You will find peace in the present moment.
During your journey in recovery, there will be a point whereby you no longer regret your past. You will find newfound compassion for the old you and make peace with yourself.
There is much we can do to use our experience to benefit others, to show someone new the way through the recovery doors.
We can share our strength. This will help us find purpose, and often we are amazed by the hope we can instil in others.
Even when times are tough, it’s handy to remind ourselves “we weren’t spared from the shark-infested waters of addiction, to be kicked on the beaches of recovery”.
To have made it to recovery is a gift. Each day brings an opportunity to help another, to grow and to work through an old belief that prevents us from enjoying the present moment.
Some Lessons from Those Who Are in Recovery
Don’t do it Alone
There is no perfect way to work a programme of recovery. However, the only suggestion is not to do it alone.
A good sponsor or therapist will give you the strength and encourage you when you feel times are rough.
We all need connection in life, and most will experience genuine connection when they think they can relate to an individual or group. It is often this feeling of togetherness that helps us discover purpose.
Remember, recovery is a priceless gift. Many have not been so fortunate. Each day sober is a day to be thankful — our worst days in sobriety are better than our best days in addiction.
Through every tribulation we will be going through there is someone who will be having it worse. There is never a situation that can be made better by using substances.
Have gratitude for the newfound freedom. Serenity and gratitude go hand in hand. Gratitude is a muscle that will grow if we exercise it daily.
Look for the Teachings
Each day holds the opportunity to learn. By remaining open-minded, we are teachable. Look for the lessons each day is teaching us.
Even in times of challenges, there is something we are learning. Maybe it’s rediscovering something we already knew about ourselves, or perhaps it’s a new skill that we’ll develop for our new life.
Service Will Set You Free
If selfishness is the crux of the addiction, then service is the antidote. Leverage your experience to help others. Bring hope to others.
Memories of kind deeds performed will replace waves of guilt before we sleep. Helping others will fill the void that so many of us have tried to fill with alcohol, drugs and material objects.
Stay Focused on the Present Moment
The AA slogan “One Day at a Time” reminds us frequently that today is all that matters.
No individual can undo the past or control the future.
When feelings of anxiety or the sense of being overwhelmed are strong, find ways to bring yourself back to the present moment.
To retain focus on the here and now is not easy, it will take much learning but dedicate time to searching for the right recipe for you.
What you Think is not Reality
We are often guilty of latching onto a thought and believing it to be real. We are experts into picking at ideas and making molehills into mountains.
Thoughts are like bubbles — while some disappear quickly, others will float and linger longer. However, over time, they will fade.
Trying to read someone else’s mind is impossible, so don’t attempt to do another person’s thinking for them. Distinguish between thinking and reality.
This Too Shall Pass
Another AA slogan that reminds us that every negative feeling will pass. Some will say “enjoy the good times for they shall pass; and enjoy the bad times, as they pass too”.
This is a reminder that life is continually flowing emotions. We can’t hold onto pleasure nor should we be expected to. However, thankfully this means we can’t hold onto pain either.
Give time a little time, and this also shall pass.
We hope that these little lessons serve you well. Recovery is a gift and something to be enjoyed, not endured.