To call it “right living” sounds a little sanctimonious, but I’m not trying to paint sober folks as holier-than-thou saints. I quote this lovely passage from the AA literature because it speaks to my personal experience.
After 44 months of continuous sobriety (as of Tuesday), the “promises” they talk about in the 12 step universe are definitely coming true in my real world.
Living alcohol-free and working a recovery program is bringing me more satisfaction than anything I might have achieved or acquired in my 20 years as an addict. No, I’m not, like, totally satisfied with where I’m at. There’s much to learn and room to grow. Still, waking up today, compared to four, five, 10 years ago?
Translation: No comparison.
Even if the rest of humanity is happily imbibing, I’m 100% certain that abstaining from consciousness-altering substances is the right choice for me. Sobriety is the one thing I’m secure in and confident about during this topsy-turvy transition period, which finds me trying to live out the 12th step as a professional drug and alcohol counselor with zero prior clinical experience.
I’m more like a “recovery cheerleader” at this stage of the game, my passion literally spilling out in sessions as I listen to clients share their redemption stories and celebrate their sober milestones. 🥲
Am I proud of how far I’ve come since I quit drinking? F*ck yeah! But as the opening passage illustrates, progress in recovery doesn’t necessarily look like “success” in society. For me, it shows up in the showing up, taking part in the little daily workings of human life, when I used to opt out. Leaning in to challenges and sitting through uncomfortable moments, when I used to run away. Being present for others, when I used to disengage, shrink back into my own head and get mired in my own shit.
It’s tackling the painful, frustrating, deep-seated core issues that came raging to the surface when I stopped self-medicating, even though it’s infinitely easier to keep stuffing them down or avoiding them altogether.
Sober life doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? You’re right. I know. But you’ll have to trust me on this: When you’ve experienced a “rock bottom,” or when you’ve sat stuck in whatever deep, dark, hellish hole you dug for yourself, unable (or unwilling) to see any reason, much less a way, to crawl out, then simply lifting your head without the crippling weight of regret, standing up with solid ground beneath your feet, putting on shoes (that you designed yourself 😉) and stepping outside, then moving at your own pace toward whatever the day has in store…it’s all strangely satisfying. It feels like winning. It just feels right.
Again, that’s been my personal experience.
I remember volunteering to share that experience at a 12-step speaker meeting a few years ago. This was back when I was still tracking each sober day on a whiteboard in my basement, and watching pounds melt off my body in the absence of alcohol sugars. Basking in this “pink cloud” euphoria, I gushed that I’d decided to apply to grad school and shift careers in mid-life, pursuing addictions counseling as a way of paying forward the gifts of recovery.
An older gentleman in the group raised his hand and said, “I want what you have.”
I’ll never forget that moment. Up until then, I didn’t think I “had” much of anything, other than a few red hash marks, a happier husband, maybe a little more direction and hope for the future.
Now, I realize, I had everything I needed to live “right,” according to my value system. Having converted that foundation into action, I’m starting to reap the rewards.
The purpose of this blog has always been to chronicle my journey, explore the truths behind my addiction and process the trials and triumphs of my recovery. If the story told here resonates with someone out there, all the better. That’s great!
Someone messaged me the other day looking for advice on how to stop drinking. What could I tell them, except what I know to be true? Whether you’re a Facebook “friend,” real-life acquaintance, or treatment center client, if you ask me what works, I’ll give you suggestions based on my lived experience and real-world education. I’ll offer you my support, as a recovering addict who spent half her life f*cking around in stubborn, selfish denial and wasted more than 20 years before she finally found out.
I won’t tell you my way — cold turkey, no rehab, AA meetings, reading books, writing blogs, taking walks, getting sleep, doing service work — is the “right way.” I can’t tell you that the road I traveled is accessible to everyone.
If you’re looking to change something about your life, you can find “advice” anywhere. It’s up to you to take it, leave it, use it as food for thought as you contemplate change, or fuel for your engine as you carve out your path. There’s no clear-cut route, no foolproof plan or one-size-fits-all solution. I don’t know what, specifically, will work for you. I just know there is a way out from where you are.
Satisfaction does come with building a life you don’t need to escape from, little by little, ODAAT. What that looks like is for each individual to envision, and go out and claim, for themself.
When it comes to recovery, if there is a universal truth, I think it might be willingness — which is intertwined with openness. You have to be open/willing to do something different than you’ve been doing, if you want to get something different than you’ve been getting.
Willingness + openness = readiness. And readiness = power. If you have that, as far as I’m concerned, you have it all.
Now, the question is, how will you use it?
2 thoughts on “Willingness”
Spot on, Jen! One of my old mentors used to refer to it as “W.H.O.”
Unfortunately, it’s scary to see how desperate some of us have to become before we attain these.
As always, thanks for the post.
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Jen – I’ve said it before and I”ll say it again. Your posts are so honest and raw. I pray everyday that my husband “gets it” before he totally destroys our family. God knows, he’s halfway there. Thanks for being so honest and sharing your journey.
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