Recovery isn’t easy. In my experience in my own life and in working with others, recovery can be quite uncomfortable and difficult. From the detox process through early recovery and building our lives back, recovering from addiction is a hard thing to do. So why do people do it? Because the gifts that come with recovering from addiction are absolutely amazing.
The life offered by getting sober is a life many of us couldn’t imagine. I often reflect that it is hard for me to imagine living how I lived when I was using, but it was even harder for me to picture a life like the one I have today when I was using. It’s one of those cliché things. We have lives we couldn’t have imagined for ourselves. But it’s true.
Of course recovery isn’t just about getting the physical things back in our lives. When we’re using, we often lose the things that matter most to us. We may wind up feeling alone, losing our homes or belongings, and sacrificing everything for our drug of choice. Although it takes time, recovery can bring these things back or bring new things into our lives.
When I was using, I was couch surfing without a home and living largely out of my car. I had a few “friends” who were sick of my behavior and my family was pretty done with me. It was a painful place to be. In recovery, I’ve built a life with the support of my loved ones that I really didn’t believe I could have. Getting sober at 19, I didn’t have any great education, no job history, and not a lot of life skills.
Today, I run my own business helping people and doing things I love, am gratefully married to a fellow recovering addict, and am closer with my friends and family than I have ever been. In the physical sense, my recovery has given me gifts I really didn’t even want. Wanting this life seemed like a setup for a let-down. However, I kept my recovery first, took the next right action, and ended up here somehow!
I’ve had the opportunity to travel to beautiful places like the British Virgin Islands and Peter Island, the Maldives, Death Valley, Belize, and many other amazing places. Life is full when we show up for it!
Although having my life look a little more peaceful and safe is wonderful, it really is nothing compared to the way I behave in my life today. My interactions with others are no longer filled with so much guilt, self-seeking, and reactivity. When I got sober, I had to learn to interact with other humans in a whole new way. So many of my relationships were based on me fulfilling my needs, and I was selfish in all of my actions.
Today, I have built close relationships with my significant other, friends, sponsees, and family. This took time to rebuild some damaged relationships and to build new ones, but it has been well worth the wait. I also find myself behaving in general in a completely different way. From the time I wake up in the morning to how I carry myself in my work life, pretty much everything has changed.
The beautiful thing for me to see is that although everything has changed, I’m still me. When I recognize this change in my daily behavior, I don’t feel like I created a new me. Rather, I feel like I got back to who I am deep down. I practice rigorous honesty in my life, communicate openly with others, and cause relatively little harm, especially when compared to the harm I caused in my using. I’m able to connect with who I am and live a life that keeps me on the road to recovery and feeling good about myself and my actions.
In line with rediscovering myself, I’ve really discovered a deeper spiritual practice. For me, this has been meditation, first introduced to me via 11th Step Meditation Practices. As I dove into a spiritual practice, I found new things that helped me bring my life together. Meditation has been one of the most helpful aspects of my recovery. I came into recovery as a super anti-religious atheist, and now find myself sitting in front of my Buddha statue and meditating every morning.
Part of my spiritual practice has been taking care of my body physically as well. I’ve learned to eat healthier, find exercise that works for me, and keep the body feeling good. Of course I experience pain and discomfort like we all do still. However, I make it a practice to really do my best to take care of myself. When my body is healthy, my mind is more clear. When my mind is clear, I take physical care more.
The gifts that recovery has brought into my life really can’t be summed up easily. My life looks completely different today than it did when I was using, and I didn’t get here alone. Yes, it took a lot of work on my part. It also took patience, support, and love from many people around me. I try to pause and be grateful every single day for where I am, and look forward to the gifts that are yet to come!
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