“If we have trouble seeing the miracle of recovery, we’d better look again.” – Just For Today
I recall vividly how quietly scared I was when I first came into recovery. One of my foremost fears was simply that I was never going to get free from the grip addiction had on me – it just seemed too powerful, given my years of substance abuse and the many attempts I’d made to quit on my own.
And since I was also a professional (an adjunct professor), I came in with more than my fair share of shame and guilt, emotions that only compounded my sense of anxiety and hopelessness.
But what propped me up immediately was hearing the stories shared by a wide variety of people who’d been in recovery for, not just many months, but many years. They, too, had suffered in the throes of addiction; they, too, had felt helpless and hopeless in the face of their obsession and compulsion to drink or use drugs. And they, too, had done great damage to their relationships, jeopardized or lost their careers, and wreaked havoc on their health and well-being in their pursuit of another high or to escape the pain of their lives.
The difference, though, between them and me was that they had recovered, they were free of the gnawing obsessions and compulsions associated with addiction. They were maintaining this freedom, one day at a time, through what seemed—once I learned what it entailed—to be a relatively simple routine of “daily action steps.” And even more, their lives were clearly 180-degrees turned around from what they’d described about their days of drinking and using drugs.
Their examples gave me hope! Their smiles, laughter and positive attitudes lifted my spirits and provided me with the encouragement I sorely needed… to hang in there! I was seeing something I couldn’t deny was possible – meaning, if they had been afflicted as I had by the demoralizing and destructive effects of addiction and recovered from it, then I might be able to, as well!
The fact is, I did have a very rough time in the beginning days of my recovery. So many aspects of my life had gone down the toilet that my slow, struggling steps forward seemed to barely make a dent. But some of those people around me—both “old-timers” and those in my newly developing recovery network—were quick to point out what I just wasn’t seeing. That is, slowly but surely I was my recovering my sanity, my health, my sense of self-worth. And though the reparation of my relationships and my making amends to those I’d harmed took both courage and time (and guidance from those who’d walked a similar path before me), these fellow recovering alcoholics and addicts indicated to me “things were improving,” in spite of how I sometimes felt disheartened. Indeed, I came to see (with their help and through their examples) I was recovering!
Yes, seeing these men and women who’d stayed sober and clean for years spoke to me deeply and inspired my spirit.