I think it is fair to say that most people, when they first arrive in addiction recovery, do not really know who they are.
The problem is that we have been covering up who we really are with our drug of choice for many years. We have medicated our emotions and our feelings so that we did not have to feel anything, so that we were numb.
The things that we wanted in life and our dreams were basically forgotten because we knew that we could not achieve them due to our addiction. We chose our drug of choice over our dreams and ambitions and therefore our dreams faded.
So recovery is essentially about getting on a healthy new path in life and then figuring out who you really are, and what was underneath all of that drinking and drug use.
This is a scary path to be on, and it is also the reason that many of us stayed stuck in denial for so long. I knew that if I got clean and sober that I would have to face the person that I had become, and I was afraid that I was a complete monster. I did not want to sober up and have to meet the person that I had become, so I stayed stuck in my addiction, being comfortable in my denial. Getting sober meant facing the truth, and I was afraid to uncover that truth.
But eventually I became miserable enough that I no longer cared about this fear I had, and I was willing to do anything–including to face that fear of having to face the “real me”–in order to avoid the misery and chaos of my addiction. I was done with drinking and drug use because I could finally see that it was the source of my misery. I wanted out, even if that meant I had to face and confront my biggest fears, of having to face the real “me” and what I had become.
So I surrendered completely and I asked for help. I was willing to do whatever I was told to do this time. In the past when I tried to get help, I was only willing to do certain things. For example, at one time I was in a rehab facility and when they recommended certain things for aftercare I balked at these things and refused to do them. So of course I relapsed–not because I did not follow their aftercare perfectly, because that is not the secret to success in recovery. No, the secret of success is in having the willingness to follow the aftercare recommendations perfectly.
Do you see the difference? The magic is not in sitting in AA meetings every day, going to IOP groups, and getting a sponsor. Those things can be helpful, sure, but they are not the actual cure or anything. The willingness to do those things and to follow through, however, is what really transforms the addict or alcoholic’s life in recovery.
So you ask for help, you go to treatment, and you follow up with some sort of recovery program. At this early stage in the game you still don’t necessarily “know who you are” yet. But you are on a path of self discovery and you are going to learn who you have become now that you are clean and sober.
I had the fear at one time that if I were to get clean and sober by following the direction and advice of other people that this would somehow negate who I was as a person, that I would be like “the hole in a donut.” I feared that I would be a non-person if I ever got clean and sober because I would simply be living by the suggestions of others.
My fears, it turns out, were unfounded. The truth was that even after I came into recovery and I was taking suggestions from other people, I was still my own person and I still had my own identity.
What I was really doing is taking suggestions from people that I trusted in recovery, and then I was testing out their suggestions and seeing how those things applied in my life. I tried exercise and meditation, for example, and I noted that my preferece leaned towards physical exercise. I went to meetings and I also connected with people online in recovery. I found the things that worked best for me and I moved on from the things that did not really “click.” In doing so I was discovering my true and authentic self in the process–who I really was and what my preferences were in recovery.
I did not really find out who the “real me” was in recovery until I surrendered to the point that I was willing to listen and take suggestions from other people. I started to do this when I was desperate for change, and as I started to implement these new positive changes in my life, I slowly started to see improvements in how happy I was and how much freedom I had.
The first few weeks of my recovery were tough, because I did not really see any progress at all, even though others around me could see the progress. I was going through the tough changes so it just felt like work. I could not see my own progress initially.
After a few months though, I had a revelation: I was actually happy again without the drugs or alcohol! This was a miracle to me and I never thought that I could get to this point. And here I was, only a couple of months clean and sober, and I was actually happy in my life.
When I had this revelation it really showed me that the process worked, and that it was actually working in my life, and it was producing real results. Up until this point, the idea of a better life in sobriety was just a theory for me, a dream that other people achieved.
So I got excited. I had evidence that the process of personal growth was changing my life, and I was excited to keep investing in my future. I became more and more willing to do the work of recovery, because now I could see that it had real benefit, that the payoff was real. I had gotten a taste of real freedom and so I was excited to pursue it even further.
I realized that I could set just about any goal and achieve it, simply because I was clean and sober and I had lots of resources and help available to me. Through this process of personal growth and learning I was defining and learning exactly who I was in recovery.
The personal growth that I was pursuing was based on establishing healthy habits. I became a product of my habits, and so I was becoming a healthier and happier person based on the suggestions that I was taking from people in recovery. My life got better and better because I was doing the work.
Finding out who you really are is part of becoming a clean and sober person who is on a path of personal growth. The bonus is that if you do this work, not only will you remain clean and sober, but your life will get better and better also. Good luck on your journey of self discovery!