Is there room for you in recovery? Can you fit in?
Someone in the forums recently pointed out:
“We need to change perceptions about who abuses alcohol. There is a large group of people that have no idea the damage they are doing to themselves, and the impression they have about recovery is that it is for die-hard drunks, older and more desperate men, or the extreme religiously focused types.”
These ideas are right on the money. There are many who struggle with alcoholism and addiction that do not even realize that recovery is possible for them. Or, they might realize that recovery does exist, but they believe it is not for them; that they could not possibly fit into recovery, or attend meetings, or whatever.
Let me just say it clearly here:
Recovery is for you. It can work for anyone. And it is the best possible gift you could ever give to yourself.
There is room for you to fit into recovery. But, you have to believe that, and allow yourself to surrender to the idea that change is possible for you.
Let me ask you: Have any of these excuses run through your mind at some point?
* I can’t be an alcoholic because…..
* I am not as bad as a real alcoholic.
* I don’t use illegal substances so I must not have a real problem.
* Recovery might work for others, but it will never work for me because [insert excuse here].
* I would never fit into a recovery program or be able to attend self help groups.
I know this type of thinking is out there and that people use these excuses, because I have thought about all of them to myself at some point in the past.
These are all rationalizations for why we should not change. Why we should not take action. Why we should remain unhealthy. All of these excuses serve only to block us from a better life.
First of all, anyone can be an alcoholic or an addict. I work in a treatment center and I have seen people from every walk of life come through that door. In addition, I have seen the disease strike very early in life, very late in life, and everywhere in between. You can be 14 years old and hooked on marijuana, or you can be 75 and suddenly realize that you have a drinking problem. And, everything in between as well.
Many people believe that a “real” alcoholic is sitting up against a wall in an alley somewhere while living out of a dumpster. This perception needs to be shattered. Most who are addicted continue to function at some level, all while their life slowly deteriorates. Many people drink for years or even decades before it causes them to lose their homes. Justifying your drinking by reasoning that you are not homeless yet is not helping you at all.
So maybe you just drink beer or wine or cocktails but at least you are not out there using illegal drugs, right? This is more rationalizing that only serves to hold you back. Alcohol is a drug. Period. Just because it is legal does not make it any less deadly (or less addictive). What does the legality of the substance matter if it destroys your life? It doesn’t.
You may have an image in your mind of what recovery is or of what recovery is supposed to be.
You may have a preconceived notion that all people in recovery have to do pretty much the same things, such as attend meetings every day, go to rehab centers, or participate in certain groups.
You may have an idea in your mind of what recovery is, and you may have already decided that this does not fit with you, or that it cannot fit with you, and so you dismiss the idea of sobriety altogether.
This is a huge mistake. You do not know what recovery is.
You do not know what recovery is like.
You can’t know what recovery is like.
I will tell you why.
The reason is because recovery is about removing the negatives…..we eliminate our drinking, we eliminate our drug use, and then….what?
We have these ideas about what will fill in the gaps: meetings, sponsorship, religion, counseling, etc. Whatever.
But you don’t know! How can you know until you have done it?
How can you predict what your recovery would be like until you actually eliminate the drugs and the booze?
This happened to me, actually. I was terrified that if I got clean and sober, I would have to dedicate my life to AA meetings and 12 step recovery. This fear kept me drinking for a long time. Turns out it was unfounded, and that I found my own unique path in recovery that was not dependent on meetings.
So maybe you have an idea in your mind that if you got sober, your life would be a certain way. Maybe you are scared of that future.
I am here to tell you that your idea about how recovery would actually be is WAY off. You cannot predict it, and your fears about sobriety are unfounded.
You might be thinking: “Well, if I do not go to AA every day, I will drink and I will fail.”
Or you might be thinking: “Well, if I do not get a sponsor and work the steps and attend recovery conferences every weekend then I probably won’t make it.”
Or you might be thinking: “Well, these people who are successful in recovery all seem to be plugged into religion, and they all talk about God, and that is just not gonna work for me.”
Whatever the case may be, your fears are unfounded. Your excuses are holding you back from finding a new life in recovery.
There are people who recover without AA.
There are people who recover without counseling and therapy.
There are people who recover without rehabs and treatment.
There are people who recover without group therapy.
There are people who recover without higher powers, God, or religion.
So do not think that you have to fit into a certain mold in order to be successful in recovery. Do not think that the only way you can quit drinking is to fit into these little boxes that others in recovery seem to fit into.
You can do your own thing and still recover. It is possible.
And, you can explore your options and find something that works for you.
Why you need recovery
First of all, you need recovery. Everyone needs recovery.
Wait a second….what is recovery anyway?
My definition of recovery is this:
You abstain from your addictions while seeking personal growth.
That’s it. Notice it is a 2 part definition though. You have to do 2 things:
1) Quit drinking and drugging.
2) Push yourself to improve as a person.
Now really, that is only one thing you have to do. You have to seek personal growth. Part of seeking that personal growth is to eliminate your addictions and quit drinking.
Really that is your only task in recovery. To seek personal growth. Part of doing so means that you cut out the negative stuff.
And why go beyond abstinence? Why not just quit drinking and be done with it?
Because that doesn’t work. If it did, then you would not need help. You would not need a program. You would not need to push yourself to improve as a person.
But the fact is, if you are an alcoholic, you can’t just quit. If you try, your addiction will pull you back at some point, because it is so natural for us to self medicate with alcohol.
You need recovery because your natural tendency is to medicate with booze. It takes a concentrated effort in order to consistently overcome that tendency.
So, we give it a label. We call it “recovery.” And we say: “I am in recovery.” And that label means that we are making a special effort to avoid drinking. That label means that we are going to push ourselves to grow as a person, such that we no longer need to self medicate with booze in order to feel better about ourselves.
You need recovery because you need an excuse to NOT drink. And it has to be a good excuse. One that really makes a difference.
So if you actually push yourself to improve your life in recovery, then you will have that excuse that you need to avoid relapsing. If you make real growth and keep making positive changes in your life, then you will create a powerful incentive to avoid booze in the future. Life gets better quickly in recovery when you quit drinking.
If things go bad in your recovery for a long time, you will probably drink. Why wouldn’t you? That is how we medicate ourselves.
So you need to turn your ship around and make positive changes. You need for things to go well. Not every day necessarily, we will still have our bad days, of course. But you need to change the general direction of your life, such that you have something to live for.
And this is what you cannot predict. Once you quit drinking and start taking positive action, you cannot predict what your life will be like in a year from now. New people may come into your life, you might find real purpose that you never had before, and so on. Things will change. And you may find what was important to you in the past (being drunk or high) is no longer important to you in the future. You may find that you get “high” on new things in your life that you never could have predicted before.
So you need recovery. You need it because it is a path of growth.
You need recovery so that you can become the person that you were always supposed to be.
Why recovery needs you
So, why does recovery need you?
The idea is that recovery needs you because we can help each other to learn how to live a sober life.
This has certainly been true for me even though I have basically opted out of the “traditional” recovery path of going to 12 step meetings every day.
The fact is that I have found other ways to connect with recovering alcoholics and addicts, and you can too. Or, you could just go to meetings.
But I would argue that regardless of which path you choose, recovery needs you to be successful and to be sober, for a number of reasons.
Recovery needs you to:
….be an example of sobriety to show hope to those who still struggle with drinking.
….be an example of someone who can recover from alcoholism in spite of your own unique challenges (that others might relate to).
….be a leader and a teacher for others who want to learn how to recover and live a better life.
….be an example in your community and for people around you who may look up to you (even though you may not realize it).
….show the world that anyone can recover, regardless of their situation or how far they have fallen due to their addiction.
….grow as a person and make the world a better place, while no longer fueling the negative fires due to your addiction.
Recovery needs you because the difference between YOU being a drunk and drinking all the time is so incredibly different from YOU being in recovery and actually helping other people to do the same thing.
This does NOT mean that you have to become a sponsor in AA to help others.
This does NOT mean that you have to spend all your time trying to change the world or go work in a drug rehab.
Just being clean and sober is enough in most cases. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Is there any more effective way to teach, instruct, and lead others? I think not.
If you live a life of sobriety, think of the effects that will ripple down through the ages, across many different relationships, as you continue to thrive in recovery. Say you stay sober and over the next 5 years, you have only a handful of conversations that inspire only one person per year to make a change in their life.
This is HUGE.
If you just reach out a tiny bit over your next few years of sobriety, if you just reach out and help one or two people, think of the ripple effect that this could have as THEY in turn reach out and eventually help others.
Recovery needs you because your sobriety can literally change lives.
Yes, it is that important. Do not try to believe that you are so insignificant that you cannot help and inspire others to change for the better. Of course you can do that…and you will.
Start taking positive action every day, make the decision that you are in recovery now…..that the drinking and the drugging is over, that you are going to live a positive life from now on. Recovery needs you to do this.
How you can fit into recovery without sacrificing yourself or your values
When I was still drinking alcohol every day, I was threatened by recovery. I was threatened by sobriety.
I felt that if I got clean and sober, that the best parts of my personality would be gone.
I felt that if I got sober, I would have to follow a strict program of recovery, one that told me exactly what to believe and how to live.
I was afraid that if I went to AA and got a sponsor, that I would no longer be making my own decisions for myself.
I worried that I would become like a non-person, like the “hole in a donut” as they say.
ALL of these fears were unfounded.
I was also afraid that if I stopped using alcohol and other drugs, that I would no longer be “cool.”
What a joke.
The fact is, dependence on alcohol or other drugs is pretty darn lame. It is pathetic on so many levels. That we cannot see this while we are using is really amazing. We think we are so cool getting high and wasted, and yet take the chemicals away, and we become nervous, quivering masses of jelly. Pathetic.
So you might think to yourself: “Getting drunk or high is part of who I am…..it is part of my identity.”
And you might also think to yourself: “Going to 12 step meetings or group therapy is so not me!”
And so it all comes back to the question: Is there room for you to fit into recovery? Can you still live a happy life without self medicating every day? Can you find your place in recovery?
Is there a life for you without drugs and alcohol?
Is there a life for you in recovery, a life that will actually work for you?
And the answer is YES.
YES, there is a life for you in recovery.
YES, you can fit into recovery. How? I don’t know. No one knows…..And that is the adventure of it. You are going to stop drinking and stop using drugs and start taking positive actions every single day. From there, your life will change and evolve in ways that we can never predict.
But you have to commit. You have to make that decision, and accept the label fully: “I am in recovery.”
Then, you have to live it.
Positive actions, every single day. No excuses.
Life can be worth living again. It can be amazing and filled with joy. But you have to give yourself that chance. It takes time. Life in recovery always gets better if you are willing to work for it.
So ask yourself: “Is there room in recovery for me?”
Answer: YES. Yes, there is room in recovery for you. Have faith that the right path will reveal itself to you, if you abstain from alcohol and drugs and start taking positive actions every day.