When you first begin your journey in addiction recovery, it can be difficult to see anything as a blessing.
This is because you are still mourning the loss of your drug of choice. The typical alcoholic or drug addict is going to resent the fact that they can no longer indulge in their drug of choice in order to self medicate. They reluctantly gave up the love of their life, which was a chemical of addiction, and they are still bitter about it.
So maybe the struggling addict checks into rehab and they go through a medical detox process. Then they are in residential treatment and they are going to groups and lectures and meetings. And somewhere around this point, they hear people saying things like “Aren’t you so grateful to be clean and sober today? Isn’t this wonderful?”
And the struggling addict might think to themselves: “What are you so chipper for? This kind of stinks, being sober and all…”
I get that. I definitely get that because when I first got into treatment I was a bit surprised at how much people were going on and on about gratitude. I did not quite get it just yet. I was thinking to myself secretly “What is so wonderful about not being drunk or high right now? Why is that so darn amazing to these people?”
So getting to the point of real gratitude was a process for me. It did not just happen for me overnight on the day that I surrendered and walked into treatment.
The starting point for this journey is always going to be the point of what I call “Total and complete surrender.” This is the moment at which the struggling addict or alcoholic reaches a point of extreme desperation and misery. The amount of misery that they are experiencing is at an all time high, and for whatever reason, the person can finally attribute that misery as a consequence of their addiction.
Up until this point, the addict has been making excuses for their addiction and explaining why the world was at fault, why the world was wrong, why the world was making them so miserable–and generally saying and rationalizing anything in order to not blame their drug of choice for anything. That is denial.
When the addict finally breaks through their denial, they realize that the misery and the chaos in their life is really being driven as a result of their crazy behavior surrounding the addiction. Breaking through denial means that you finally place the blame where it belongs–on the drug or alcohol addiction. That really was the problem all along, you just did not want to admit it.
So at the point of complete surrender, the addict is super miserable, and they agree to seek help. That is real surrender. If someone says they are past denial but they refuse to seek help, then that person is still in denial. Real surrender involves accepting not only your disease, but also a new solution into your life.
So when the addict agrees to seek help and to actually do something about their addiction they will likely be directed to inpatient treatment. There they can begin the journey of healing that will ultimately result in their discovery of the true benefits of sobriety.
However, in order to “get there,” the struggling addict has to persist and actually follow through. Which means that they cannot bail out of inpatient rehab when the going gets tough and they become restless. It means that they have to actually follow through and take the advice of counselors and therapists and the people at AA meetings. It means that when they ask for help and they go to treatment, they have to actually do what they are told to do. And they have to keep doing those things consistently for a long time, which is a huge level of commitment.
It wasn’t until I had about 90 days into my recovery that I discovered the first massive benefit of recovery. Now keep in mind that other people around me, including my friends, family, and peers, could all see that I was experiencing all sorts of positive changes due to my recovery journey. But I could not see them yet because I was the one who was struggling to change.
But after about 3 or 4 months I had this revelation. It was a single moment and I will never forget it. What happened is that I was about to finish a day and go to sleep at night, and as I was climbing into bed, I realized that I had not experienced any cravings or urges that day.
This was a miracle. To call it a blessing of recovery would be a massive understatement. I had such a profound moment of pure gratitude at that point that I actually wept! Me, weeping with joy, because I was finally free from the obsession and compulsion to use drugs and alcohol. It really was a miracle.
That happened in the first few months of my recovery journey. Today I am just 48 hours shy of having 17 years of continuous sobriety. To say that I have experienced more blessings in my recovery following that first experience would, again, be an understatement.
Today I am blessed with good physical health and healthy relationships. I have these blessings because I was instructed to work on those things early in my recovery journey. During my first year of recovery I had a therapist who was pushing me to get into physical exercise. I also had a sponsor who pushed me to go back to school.
Because I was willing to work a recovery program, and because I was willing to take some suggestions from people, my life took on a much more positive track because I was investing in personal growth activities.
And this is really how you discover the blessings of sobriety–by working hard to make them happen.
But you have to have faith.
You need faith and hope in your life too–the spiritual foundation of recovery–because the blessings take time to materialize. They don’t happen overnight.
And so while you are working hard on your recovery, and while you are taking advice about how to improve yourself and your life, you are going to go through long periods of time in which you do not feel as if you are making progress.
That is a key point–that we are going to feel like we are drifting aimlessly at times when we are, in fact, doing the hard work of recovery. This is what demands faith and hope–so that we can stick it out long enough so that we can one day see the full benefits of our work kick in.
And when it does, you will fall to your knees and weep with gratitude, just as I once did….