“Be as committed to your recovery as you were to your drinking or using.” – Anonymous
I clearly remember feeling overwhelmed early on in recovery, given the number of suggestions I was getting to assist me with healing my body, mind and spirit from the ravages of substance abuse and turning my life around. Indeed, it seemed every dimension of my life had been afflicted, twisted and painfully darkened by the years I’d spent enslaved by my addiction to alcohol and drugs. So, yes, the innumerable “recovery tools” people were offering me—derived from their treatment center staff, counselors and therapists, 12 Steps sponsors or fellow recovering alcoholics or addicts—were certainly relevant to fulfilling my desire to recover. However, with the quantity of suggestions I was being urged to follow, I often felt I was swimming in an ocean with windblown waves coming at me from all sides!
No sooner than I’d get the concept of “surrender” clear in my head (“yield, give up, stop fighting”), someone else who I respected would come along and suggest I’d do well to consider the characteristics of who or what I was going to be surrendering to.
Adding to my sense of being overwhelmed by the quantity and magnitude of these recovery suggestions were my engrained past habits of non-conformity and what I’ll call “behavioral inconsistency” – I only did “x, y or z” on any given day when I felt like it. In other words, my addiction had compelled me to justify, rationalize or defend my doing or not doing anything, based solely on my self-centered moods, impulses and cravings. Years of living this way had made me irresponsible, unreliable and immature.
So, when I did hit my bottom and began following through on my stated desire to adopt a “program of recovery,” I found it to be challenging, at best, but more often extremely demanding. I struggled, early on, with upholding the commitments I’d made, not just to myself, but to others who cared about me and my recovery from addiction. And the result of my not abiding by my recovery commitments was stark and grim: I couldn’t maintain any significant amount of sobriety or “clean time” – I’d fall back into drinking and using drugs, knowing I was edging closer to my own death. I was also continually letting down my family, friends and employers.
One day, my sponsor plainly told me, “You aren’t committed to recovering. You’re still just doing whatever you want… and that’s going to kill you.”
Hearing his words felt like a slap in the face, but his telling me the truth of what he was seeing stirred something in my gut: a vow to myself to ignore the myriad voices of justification and rationalization in my head, and just “follow the program” to the best of my ability. (I surrendered!) From that point on, I began throwing myself with more gusto than ever into the suggestions I’d been given.
I recall doing what I could to “keep it simple,” though, including making a daily list of recovery “action steps” I would take, checking them off each night if I’d satisfactorily done them. And that helped me from getting overwhelmed by my efforts to “do the program.”
With this empowered sense of commitment, and by putting one foot in front of the other (with regard to the daily fulfillment of the recovery suggestions I’d been given), I began accruing not just more days in a row “clean and sober,” but an unfamiliar, yet extremely rewarding and palpable sense of feeling good about myself and my life within my heart and soul. And in time, after several months of remaining committed to the program of recovery I was now following, I woke up one day and realized I was free from the obsession and compulsion to drink or use drugs. That was more than 22 years ago, and not once since then have I felt an urge to drink or use drugs.
What this freedom has meant for my life is beyond description. I could tell you I’ve had renewed and rewarding connections with all of my family members; the experience of a healthy and loyal 10-plus years’ long relationship; a 20-plus years’ long new and successful career; a profoundly joyful sense of care and camaraderie with dozens of friends; and a sense of self-worth I’d always longed for. Yet, I’ve received so much more than these “gifts” I’ve just described – I’ve been blessed immeasurably and often, ever since committing to my recovery program… with benefits far too numerous to count or describe.
Truly, my life in recovery has been beyond my wildest imagination… and it all started that day I committed to being as integral with the recovery suggestions I’d adopted as I could be. I’m forever grateful to those people who’d provided me with those suggestions. They saved and enriched my life, in spades!