Once a ‘Functioning’ Alcoholic/Addict, Now an “Acceptable, Responsible, Productive Member of Society”
“The obsession with instant gratification blinds us from our long-term potential.” – Michael Dooley
I clearly remember that my attitude (well, at least part of it) coming into my first 12-Step recovery meeting was: “Although I’ve got a problem with drinking and drugs, I’m not like the rest of you — I’m a professional, a college professor.”
What I eventually discovered—from the countless examples of those around me in the rooms of recovery and (astonishingly) in my own case—was that while I may have been a “functioning alcoholic/addict” when I arrived, I could become so much more, if I earnestly sought and maintained my recovery, one day at a time.
No, this is not a blog-post trumpeting the U.S. Army’s slogan, “Be all you can be.” More accurately, I’m wanting to point out that recovery gave me a vision of possibilities for my life I never knew existed. And I believe even just one example (my own) can illustrate the broader picture of how recovery can truly transform lives.
My problems with substance abuse had finally gotten me thrown out of a 10-year relationship and the house I’d helped us buy (i.e., we’d paid off the mortgage)… so I was homeless when I walked into my first recovery meeting, and fresh out of jail. But in my mind, I persisted in avoiding the similarities between me and the others attending that first meeting I went to: “I’m different. I’m still teaching collegiate English and psychology.”
Fortunately, my first 12-Steps sponsor helped me to see I was what’s termed “a functioning alcoholic/addict,” but I nonetheless was “just like everyone else in the room,” in that I could not stop drinking or drugging on my own.
I began working the 12 Steps with him and in time, I had a spiritual awakening that freed me from my obsession and compulsion for substances.
But my sponsor didn’t stop there: he pointed out to me I now had a choice to tap into and realize more of my life’s full potential.
Beforehand, he said, when I was enslaved by my impulsive drinking and drugging, I couldn’t unfold my true potential, because I was consumed with thinking about and getting whatever I needed to self-medicate. But through maintaining my daily recovery, I saw he was right when he’d suggested: “If you keep your eyes open, you’ll see opportunities to create a new and better life begin to arise.”
I eventually chose to leave the teaching field and pursued a career more dear to my soul. (I’ve just passed the 20-year mark in that field!) I also was able to buy a new house and enjoy a new long-term relationship.
Continuing life in recovery has allowed me to see myself in a new light, worthy of more self-respect and self-love, and able to expand my horizons and achieve bigger dreams than I’d envisioned in the past… including to live as a more fully-functioning member of society, contributing much more than I ever had… all of which fills my heart with gratitude far beyond words.