“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.” – Will Rogers
When we’ve “finally had enough” and come into recovery—via an addiction treatment center, an impaired professionals program or a 12 Steps fellowship—most of us are told that abstinence from drinking or using drugs is an essential beginning—”we don’t drink or use, no matter what”—but there is more to recovery than that… plenty more!
And the “why” of that, we’re informed, is because in order for us to sustain our recovery, one day at a time, we need to begin healing from the disease of addiction and grow out of the past attitudes and behavior patterns we’d relied upon—our self-centered, self-seeking, inconsiderate and dishonest old ways—and learn a whole new set of skills for “living life on life’s terms.” And therefore the “plenty more” recovery requires of us has a great deal to do with becoming familiar with new principles for living substance-free lives and practicing new approaches in response to people in our lives and situations that arise.
One potential problem area for many of us—which has caused a great many to relapse—is dealing with our past “baggage,” whether it be relationships we’ve damaged and not yet resolved, legal matters we’re facing, financial challenges we need to address or emotional and psychological wounds that we’ve never given sufficient attention to or healed, and often times have bandaged with truly maladaptive strategies.
The fact is, any one of these dimensions of our lives can rise up like a monster from the shadows, either during our early days in recovery or when we’ve got many months or years of recovery under our belts. And as we all know, “monsters” of any kind can be scary! Our having to face—on the spot—some of the relational, legal, financial or psycho-emotive aspects of our lives can be quite overwhelming and if we’re not anchored in our recovery and surrounding ourselves with a core network of people in recovery we can readily turn to for support and guidance, being overwhelmed can quickly make the “quick fix” of a drink or a drug seem like a justifiable alternative to the scary feelings, challenging issues or inner voices of doubt and desperation.
This is why the aforementioned mantra, “We don’t use, no matter what,” is a powerful tool we’re suggested to bring forward and utilize. By committing ourselves to abstaining from alcohol or drugs and our new lives in recovery, one day at a time, we’re drawing a line in the sand that we just do not cross. Period.
I recall, early on in my recovery, feeling as though cutting myself off from old friends I’d spent years with (and yes, with whom I’d drunk heavily and used) was going to be too difficult for me to do. Feelings of loyalty arose and not wanting to abandon them, too. And loneliness came up in me, as well. But having experienced my “bottom” sufficiently clearly, I knew those feelings would inevitably trigger me back into drinking and drugging if I didn’t stay committed to my new life in recovery! Since I’d begun establishing new friendships with people in recovery, I simply “bit the bullet” and cut those old ties with the people from my past around whom I’d never been able to stay sober or clean. The results? I haven’t drank or used in well over twenty years and I’ve actually never “missed” those old relationships once! And I’ve gone on to build tremendous friendships with so many people, all the while growing as a person myself, because I’ve stayed abstinent and committed to practicing the principles of recovery in my life, to the best of my ability.
I would add in closing that in the other highly daunting areas of my early recovery life—legal, financial and psycho-emotive challenges—I chose to “stick and stay” in recovery, to not pick up a drink or a drug, one day at a time, and just handle each one at a time (my 12 Steps sponsor encouraged that), asking for help whenever necessary and having faith I never would have to “do life” alone, as long as I didn’t choose to isolate myself. I’m grateful to say I’ve faced and successfully made my way through major justice system consequences, my parents’ deaths, the end of two long-term romantic relationships, the purchase and eventual loss of a house, and a major switch in careers, while staying clean and sober through all of it. And it’s literally because I’ve remained committed, one day at a time, to a life in recovery, which does include not drinking or using, no matter what!