I thought it might be helpful to look back and talk about some of the mistakes that I made in early recovery. I certainly made my fair share of them, but I was lucky enough not to relapse over any of it. (That which does not make me drink makes me stronger, etc.).
So here are a few of the mistakes that I made, maybe you have made some of them too:
1) Hesitated too long to start “living” again – I went to a long term treatment center and lived there for 20 months. Really I probably should have left sooner than I did, whereas most people ended up leaving early and relapsing. But with me I was insulated, scared, and feeling overly secure while living their–instead of getting out there and attacking life and personal growth the way I should have been. My sponsor pushed me at the time to get a job and to go back to college, both things that I was afraid to do at first because I thought I had to focus on my recovery more. This was an excuse of mine that was driven by fear. Going back to school, getting a job, starting to live a real life again–those things are recovery. My mistake was that I thought avoiding those things and simply concentrating on “my program” was the right path to go, even after several months of clean time.
2) Was on a misguided spiritual quest – The simple brand of faith and spirituality that has worked for me in recovery over the last 8 plus years was only arrived at after struggling for at least 2 years with a spiritual quest for ultimate knowledge. This was my goal at first and eventually I discovered that the answers were in a daily faith that works, not in some mystical answers I was seeking in all sorts of different books. But maybe I had to seek for a certain period of time so that I could find the path I am on, even though the path was there all along….
3) Waited too long before reaching out to others in recovery – This is such a big part of a successful recovery that I think everyone should start doing it before they think they are truly ready. The benefit we get from helping other addicts and alcoholics is huge. The big key for me was that I did not have to follow the crowd necessarily and help others in traditional ways (such as through meetings and sponsorship), but could find other unique ways of helping others that were better suited to my personal strengths. My mistake was in trying to force myself into a traditional role of helping others, instead of finding my own path.
Really it feels like the common thread in the mistakes that I made was that I did not trust in my own path, in the idea of creative recovery for the individual. In most cases I was motivated (or paralyzed) by fear of some sort that was based on what I saw in traditional recovery customs. Now I can look back and see that the strongest path for me regarding my growth in recovery was found when I deviated from “the crowd.”