“It’s difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe. Everything beautiful in the world is within you.” – Russell Brand
Recovery gets a bad rap. The connotation comes off as something bad, difficult, and usually shameful. But look at the word. “Re-cov-er-y. Noun. A return to a normal state of health, mind or strength.” In this crazy mixed-up world, who doesn’t want and aspire to that state of being? I know one thing. It has changed my life. Recovery has created a life for me that I could never have imagined, and it just keeps getting better. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time.
The first time I went into a recovery program it was mandated. I went in kicking and screaming (internally) with an attitude of, just get through this – I am different from everyone else, I don’t really need this, look how messed up they are (pointing fingers). Because I was always able to pass myself off as a good girl, a nice person, a refined woman, I got a pass. I was in an outpatient treatment program.
It stuck for a while. But of course, I slowly but surely slipped into past behavior. A little here, a sneak of it there. And of course, my husband at the time was a willing participant – unless it was more beneficial to point fingers and let me know what a horribly awful person I was for no longer being the perfect wife he fantasized about. And God knows I was never that.
If you have an addiction, you know. The larger your addiction looms, the more out of control you become, the louder that voice in your head screams, “What is wrong with you?” “What a loser you are,” “Why can’t, why won’t you stop?” “What’s it going to take?”
In my case what it would take was blacking out. Waking up after a weekend of fun and wine tasting. A glass by my bed. A bottle of wine in the closet. And my daughter opening the door, looking at me with such disappointment and quiet desperation, then closing the door and leaving. My heart broke in two and I surrendered.
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. – Brene Brown
Off to detox I went. This time with a purpose. A realization that I was going to lose the one person in my life that meant everything if I didn’t get sober. To say it was difficult was an understatement. The 3 days in detox are safe. It’s like being in a cocoon, away from the world and monitored, with classes and meetings, surrounded by people with similar problems, and no access to the things and people that trigger you.
Re-entering the world sober is the hard part. Knowing the changes that need to be made (and I had so many) was overwhelming. In my case I was married to an addict and our entire social world revolved around alcohol and some drugs. My marriage was no longer loving, it was abusive and frightening. Giving up alcohol with its delightful numbing properties was scary in this situation. I remember coming home from a recovery meeting and there was a roaring party going on. It was a birthday celebration for my husband, so I had to smile and try to engage like it was all ok.
You may have a similar situation. It isn’t easy to begin extricating yourself from your problem.
The next few years had their ups and downs. The first year of sobriety was incredibly difficult. There was a lot of white knuckling (I don’t recommend this) and just getting through the days. But I was regaining a better sense of myself slowly. Enough so that when my husband came home after a day of drinking, becoming more and more belligerent and aggressive, I took our daughter and fled to safety. I realized I could no longer subject either of us to this kind of treatment.
She and I moved to a new home, and I decided then and there that I would never do things that I did not want to do. I wanted to live life on my terms. I took an out-of-town class where I met new friends. This was a key to my new sober life. Creating relationships that were healthy. I was able to rearrange my livelihood into a business I absolutely loved doing. It fed my creative spirit which had taken a back seat to my addiction and left such a void. I remember buying a car – one that suited me perfectly, and how empowering that was.
The next big leap was getting involved in a network marketing company with a friend. I met a new group of women I admire to this day. I was exposed to the most incredible trainings and teachers. I immersed myself in the coaches and self-help world I didn’t even know existed. I traveled and explored. This became my version of AA (remember, it doesn’t matter where it comes from for you). As the products were in health, I became a product of the product (as I was taught). As I became slimmer and more vibrant, people started asking me what I was doing. They asked me for my help. As I so desperately needed to find my self-worth and value, this was a new beginning.
In a few years, I made another big move to a new city, went back to school to pursue Health Coaching, and my current career and livelihood was born. After fifteen years into my recovery, I can only say that I could not have possibly known how things would end up. Each year gets better as I continue to grow in my body, mind and spirit.
Self-care is not an option. It is a must. Make sure to create loving rituals for yourself, like having beautiful flowers, massages, and spa experiences, even if they are at home. Use essential oils for spirit and health, eat whole nutritious food, leave sugar and processed foods behind. Create good sleep habits. Don’t allow yourself to get Hangry (tired and hungry = hangry and causes bad choices). Make sure you move your body. In fact, as I write this, I am immersed in Yoga Teacher Training. Yoga is adding onto my spiritual health, which is the one piece of life I still felt was lacking.
I’m sure you might have questions. I know I did. I took tests trying to prove I didn’t have a problem (didn’t work very well).
I have patterned this process I will share on the 7 stages of grief. Letting go of your addiction is a death of sorts. It will leave a void that you will want to fill, as you’ve been filling that empty void with every distraction and substance you can think of.
Confusion. Who am I? Am I an addict? (I started questioning this early in life as so many of my family members were alcoholics).
Possibly. It could be possible. (Uh oh. Really?)
Probability. I probably am. (Oh, Shit!)
Acceptance. This is who I am. (Here is the pivot. This is where change comes from.) Now I need to deal with it. Action.
Take Pride. Embrace myself. (This is where self-care becomes monumental)
Integration to Life. Create meaningful relationships, learn to live on your own terms, let go of relationships that no longer serve you.
There are so many paths to recover from your addiction. There is no one size fits all. We need to honor every path and the journey it takes to get there. I suggest you approach recovery with love. A good recovery program (of which the 12 steps is one) are designed to break the mental patterns that keep us stuck. We need to connect to new ways to perceive things, connect to new relationships that are healthy, and then re-enter “life.”
This is the age of addiction. We are all recovering from something. Smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex, overeating, bulimia, gambling, bad relationships, overspending, and we can’t even take our eyes away from our constant screen time. At some point we have lost our way. Our addiction replaces the uncomfortable feelings we have within ourselves. Addicts are masters at avoidance. We learn to skirt around and suppress our own feelings. Self-compassion is one of the best recovery tools I know of. It decreases the body’s cortisol levels and promotes the production/release of oxytocin, a neurological chemical that reduces cravings. So, this is not the time to isolate. Find people that will support you in your journey in a healthy, loving way. We crave connection. Recovery is a journey to wholeness. Mind, body and spirit.
We do not need to hit rock bottom. At any point, we can realize that our addiction is a disruption to our normal behaviors, morality and well-being. We can decide to change. We can focus on our strengths instead of our weaknesses. Learn from our past and make peace with our present. It takes time. Be patient. Acknowledge your mistakes, and then let them go. Write them down and create a ritual around burning each one as you release them. Remember, you are exactly where you need to be right now – there is no need to race thru life. Give yourself some slack, allowing yourself the time and permission to move on to better things. I bet you will find new aspects of yourself that will delight you.