When I first found my way into recovery, I had a shudder go through me every time I heard someone say (or holler in a 12 Steps meeting), “Keep coming back!” You see, while I had hit bottom after abusing alcohol and drugs for over 30 years, I nonetheless had a very difficult time “staying stopped.”
In fact, at one point, my 12 Steps sponsor looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Y’know, it’s not that you’ve continued to relapse. It’s that you’ve never gotten clean.”
Wow! That was an eye-opener for me… and it gave me a seed of insight as to why I hated hearing, “Keep coming back!” I felt ashamed of my repeated failures and I resented not being able to “get it” (recovery), while so many of those around me were demonstrating they could stay clean and sober, one day at a time, year after year.
Now, however, some 23 years “clean and sober” years later, I find an unexpected fondness for the phrase. I even say it with sincerity and hope when someone relatively new in recovery is celebrating a “clean and sober” anniversary at a recovery meeting. And looking back now, I ask myself, what has made the difference in how I feel about that phrase?
Well, I think it boils down to 3 huge benefits a person can get IF they’ll simply keep coming back. The key ones, for me, are:
1) A “second chance” at living life, free from active addiction. Put another way, if I don’t keep coming back to recovery—which means, at its most basic, not drinking or using drugs one day at a time, staying connected with a Higher Power of my (your) own understanding, “cleaning house” of old attitudes and behaviors, and being of service to others (included in this is attending recovery meetings regularly and sharing with others in the recovery process)—I’m unwisely gambling that I can stay abstinent from alcohol and drugs on my own… which my track record has shown me I’d previously been unable to do. Divorces, crashed cars, lost jobs, even jail sentences fill the pages of my historic record, regarding the consequences of trying to quit (and stay quit) on my own. It was only by getting into recovery and consistently continuing to “keep coming back” that I eventually was relieved of my obsession and compulsion to drink and use drugs, and found “a new way of life.”
2) (And speaking of that…) Learning there’s a whole new way of life I can enjoy. In my experience, what I found was that repeatedly “coming back” to my daily practice of recovery eventually liberated me from the gnawing urges and withdrawal symptoms. (In other words, I stayed committed, day after day, to all the “action steps” I learned in early recovery: the recovery routine that taught me how to stay accountable to others, practice new, principled behaviors, and ask for help whenever I felt I needed it.) And that one transformative change truly did awaken in me a drive, even an eagerness, to learn more and more about how to live my life differently, without drinking and using drugs. It opened up for me the doors to enjoying camaraderie and connection with others, rather than isolation and feelings of separateness; and to having a stable sense of self-worth and self-love, rather than continuously being barraged by guilt, shame, self-loathing and a horribly distorted self-image. This all came from my willingness to “keep coming back!”
3) Being able to be supportive of and helpful to others. Before my feet got established in a life of recovery (before I’d “keep coming back”), I’d been self-centered to the max. Everything was “about me” and my desires, my needs and my impulsive urges. But that life, ultimately, left me emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, as well as feeling horribly alone, unloved and unlovable. And certainly incapable (at the time) of being a good friend to others, a loyal spouse, an upstanding employee or a person who could support or help a fellow man or woman in need. But by committing myself to recovery and being consistent with my follow-through regarding the spirit of “keep coming back,” I gradually transformed my sense of self into a positive, loving one and simultaneously found I was capable of seeing others in a positive light, such that I wanted to be of service to people, and found joy in doing so.
By letting go of my old beliefs, attitudes and behaviors and rooting myself in a commitment to “keep coming back,” I’ve received a life beyond my wildest dreams… and being clean and sober, one day at a time, was just the foundation I needed. Getting into addiction treatment, reaching out for help with a substance use disorder, and finding recovery is a game-changer you’ll never regret!