In discussing the change that comes into a life in recovery we can find many common elements. People comment all the time that they went to a meeting and heard “their story”. They thought they were alone and unique but then find others stories and realizations about their lives to all too familiar. the characters may be different but the story is the same.
There are the common stories of ‘hitting bottom”. The bottom… when we come to a place that we simply cannot continue doing things the way we have been. It comes the same way whether it is played out in a jail cell or in the kitchen surrounded by loving family. My own bottom came for me one Father’s Day when, surrounded by a huge dinner prepared by my family, I could not eat because I was constantly sick from my drinking. I told them then and there that I had to get help.
This was my bottom with alcohol that took quite a few years to ramp up to. I had previously hit bottom with a cocaine and crack addiction 27 years earlier. That addiction cost me my business, my home, my family, and every possession I had in the world. my repeat performance with alcohol was brought about by the fact that I never got any tools to understand my addictive behaviors or got a program to stay clean.
I stayed clean from dope but turned to our very socially acceptable and even encouraged drug of choice. This drug of choice is so popular we build whole buildings just for consuming it. It is part of our language. Frustration with the day is expressed as “I need a drink”. Advertising tells us we cannot really connect with friends and activities without “Jose” or “The Captain”. This addiction is easy to maintain even when it runs to dangerous levels.
If I had gained the understanding of addictive behaviors and reasons I was using way back then maybe things would have been different. A Personal Recovery Program to get past the use and get back to life.
Getting past our unhealthy behavior and getting on with living is the next switch that has to flip in the progression of recovery. Initially our motivation is to simply stop unhealthy behaviors. That seems like the finish line. After gaining a bit of initial success we realize this finish line was actually A Starting Line. Instead of moving away from what we don’t want we can consider moving toward what we DO want. It is often surprising at this point to realize we might not really KNOW what we do want. Maybe this was part of the reason things went in circles. A big part of a Personal Recovery Plan is establishing Well Formed Outcomes for goals, dreams and direction. This is one of my favorite parts of working with people on their plan.
This the real exciting part of recovery. Flipping the switch from the old “away from bad” to the new “toward the good”. Our family begins to see the difference and relationships deepen in new ways. Our enjoyment in and involvement in activities is rewarded by the simplest things. A child’s smile or a hug that lasts a little longer because it means something new. These little things are huge and they fuel our momentum in this new direction toward more good.
We are not turning our back on the past or denying it. We are making it a foothold for the future and going forward. This moment gives us the opportunity to flip the switch again…now…in this moment.