How to outgrow early recovery
I’m taken back into those first few months of early recovery, some fond memories, some hard battles. Some lost and some won, one thing was certain from the start, recovery needed to be more than just not using. I wanted a new life, I’ve so often heard people say, ‘I want my life to go back to normal’ the way it was before I started using. The truth of that matter is the life you used to have, you needed drugs to cope, so I knew straight away I wasn’t interested in what life used to be like. It was time to outgrow that old life but also, I had to keep growing.
You see one thing I didn’t realise before was the change had to be continual. I wanted more than what the steps had to offer, I wanted more than what the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous had to offer. I was so comfortable in those rooms, surrounded by dysfunction. Yet when I was around “normal” people I felt uncomfortable and out of place. That dynamic had to change for me, I wanted nothing more than to be a productive person. It’s not that I wanted to be normal, I just wanted to feel like a human being. I was so sick of feeling like I was evil, I was sick of lying and hurting everyone I cared about.
So, the process started, I wanted to know why I was an addict or what made me behave in this strange way. I started writing and reading a lot about different theories because the disease theory on its own didn’t make sense to me, I remember a lecture at the treatment centre where I cleaned up, where they said if addiction is a disease then I don’t have it. That statement made a lot more sense to me than some victim angle, blaming disease as the culprit for my disastrous behaviour. So, what then was left to answer the question, why am I an addict?
This question bothered me for months, I read books, researched and watched YouTube till I was blue in the face. I really liked the direction Dr Marc Lewis was going. The neurological side of addiction was very fascinating to me, I wanted to understand what happened in the brain that caused me to go back and back for more “pleasure” at the expense of everything around me.
I found the harder I looked, the less I understood. The less I understood the more questions I asked. Eventually leading to a place where all those questions became irrelevant.
I wasn’t going to solve the mystery of addiction, I was an addict, full stop. It started there and it ended there. Something new surfaced, how did I stay clean this time and what was different to all the other times I had tried to clean up in rehab?
There are a few important points to make here.
- Knowledge within itself is useless. For many years I knew all there was to know about what I believed was recovery. I still couldn’t get through a day without using. If knowledge equalled recovery most of us would have got clean a long time ago. Knowledge becomes useful when it is backed by action, dreams, ideas and goals are nothing without applying yourself and making the necessary changes. This is a program of action after all.
- Understanding the fundamental basis for recovery became everything. Here is what it means to me. Within myself I did not have nor would I ever possess the power to control my addiction. Once I start the ball rolling, I use over and over again until it kills me, it was that simple. Powerlessness.
- I needed to able to stay clean and sober and most importantly sane without NA and AA before I could walk into those rooms and carry any sort of message of hope. I was sick of always having to depend on something. I had always heard throughout every rehab that it was NA or die, I didn’t want to live that life. What if I find myself in a situation where the rooms are not accessible? I would eventually relapse because my recovery depended on being able to get to meetings. There must be a way to apply the same principals in a different environment.
- I was not the man of my ideas and intentions. If I was I would never have been an addict or broken all those promises to the people I loved. I would have stayed clean the first attempt and lived a successful life. It was and still is too some extent easy to live in that fantasy, it’s easier to see myself as what I project I want to be rather than the recovering addict in early recovery. Staying present and accountable helped me see myself for what I was, the ideas were important but I was not that person, yet.
- I gained an understanding of myself more than anything else, I learnt where I fall short, where my weaknesses are, I also learnt where my strength lies and how to ask for help. Understanding those few points is what keeps me in recovery. I don’t over-estimate my importance any more than I under-estimate it. I believe I have a realistic view of myself and my abilities. I’m not scared to try new things or admit that I’m struggling.
On concluding I feel that it’s important to say that we are not and never will be perfect, we as humans are fallible, we as addicts are hyper-sensitive and critical. Finding the balance between easy and firm on yourself is the key.