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respect (noun): consideration; high regard; esteem
I don’t think Aretha Franklin’s famous song, “Respect,” has lodged itself into our cultural consciousness by accident. I mean, look at it this way: When she sings, “All I’m askin’… is to give me my propers…” she’s echoing the sentiments of all humanity, each and every one of us. Because isn’t it true that we all want—and appreciate—a “proper” amount of respect, right?
Relating this to recovery, what I’ve learned, after having spent many years “working a program” of recovery, is this: getting respect from others starts with respecting myself, respecting others and respecting my recovery. Am I right?
Well, sort of. You see, perhaps the most important thing to understand in this regard is, there’s a chronological order here that really needs to be paid attention to. Meaning, if you don’t first respect your recovery, you will eventually not be able to respect yourself or others. Therefore, I need to put my recovery front and center in my life — I need to respect my recovery first. Period. Full stop. End of sentence.
How do I know this? From experience. Mine has taught me that by respecting my recovery first – taking care of “practicing these principles in all my affairs” – then I have the foundation beneath my feet to turn to the next most component worthy of my respect: taking care of myself. But if I let my recovery take a backseat to anything, the next thing I know is I’m prioritizing “this, that and the other” and quicker than I can say “Christopher Columbus” my recovery simply loses out… my focus and attention are elsewhere… and the self-centered addict voice within me creeps back into the driver’s seat. Car-wrecks, ruined relationships, chaos, mayhem and NO respect NOWHERE swiftly follow. My experience has taught me this.
The good news is, when I respect my recovery first—putting my attention and focus on it from the get-go and doing that on the daily—I have the inner and outer resources I know are required for me to naturally be respectful toward myself and others. Meaning, Part One gives rise to the ability to naturally fulfill Parts 2 and 3.
Looking back at my life, having an active, untreated substance use disorder (a.k.a. chemical dependency) set me on a full-tilt boogie crash course in discarding my values, dishonoring myself and disparaging my relations with loved ones and friends, all to get my cravings satisfied by alcohol and drugs. And, going along with all these other “dis-”es, I was continually disrespecting myself and others. I not only debased myself, trashing my health (including the health of my body, mind and spirit), I also wrecked a long-term love relationship, and broke the trust of all my family members and many friends. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I also destroyed my career and demolished the caring, trusting rapport I’d had with my former employer and dear friend.
It was only when I learned about the nature of addiction and the nature of recovery—what one learns in treatment and/or 12 Steps programs—that I could begin changing my behavior. And in time, this led to me fundamentally changing how I thought. Both of these ground floor changes ultimately proved sufficient for me to maintain sobriety, one day at a time, heal the wounds in my body, mind and spirit, make amends for my past, and start living a new way of life.
But quickly enough, I also learned—from my 12 Steps sponsor, my counselors and the example of successfully recovering alcoholics and addicts in my recovery network—that a commitment was involved each and every step of the way, going forward.
After a good while in recovery, I started recognizing that making those commitments was a way I could show respect to the facets of my life that truly needed it, the dimensions of my world I’d previously only denigrated with my attitudes and actions.
So these days, to the best of my ability, I show respect for my recovery, first and foremost. Meaning, I do everything necessary each day to stay connected with my Higher Power, my 12 Steps sponsor and my recovery network, and I practice the recovery principles I’ve learned, as well as I’m able, throughout my day in every situation. Close on the heels of that, I practice respecting myself, by honoring my core values in my behavior and following through on my daily routine, which includes proper measures of self-care and self-love. Doing these first two diligently and giving proper amounts of attention to them, regularly, provides me with the foundation I need to show up in others’ lives with the respect they deserve and want from me. (I’ve seen, over and over again, how much people sincerely appreciate signs of respect shown them, no matter how small.)
I’m grateful recovery has taught me so much about respect, and has brought me to cherish the gifts of respecting myself and others. It’s made it so easy for me to remain committed to respecting my recovery first, one day at a time.