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When I first got clean, I really had no idea what I was in for aside from the fact that I was walking away from drugs and alcohol. And for nearly a decade now, the phenomenon of craving has not come back (*knock on wood*). I also realize that for me, personally, it’s a one day at a time endeavor and those cravings can, and likely will, return if I’m not diligent with my recovery program. But that’s beside the point, albeit a very important factor in my recovery.
Over the years following the day I decided to ditch the booze and the drugs, my disease has manifested itself in so many different ways — ways that really have nothing to do with drugs or alcohol. By the same token, my life continues to evolve in big and wonderful ways, all thanks to recovery. But there’s ALWAYS work to be done. I’m still terrible at managing my finances, I still engage in unhealthy sexual behavior patterns, I still self-sooth in ways that maybe aren’t healthy…and I love to beat myself up for not being perfect. But, guess what? I haven’t had a drink or a drug since the day I got clean. And guess what else? I’m still human. And I kinda think this is what recovery is really all about — learning to be okay with being human, and learning that we can still f*ck up without having to drink or use over all of it. It’s about learning to accept ourselves, flaws and all. Which brings me to what this post is all about…
Alcohol and drugs are but a symptom!
Wow, what a concept. Now, if you’re reading this and you’re in early recovery wondering what on earth you have to look forward to, I’ll tell you: you have a LOT to look forward to. Putting down drugs or alcohol (or both) feels really good, but the recovery journey itself may very well blow your mind. And if it doesn’t blow your mind, I recommend working an actual recovery program, whether that be a twelve-step program or something like SMART Recovery. If you first get clean through a quality rehab like Kembali, you’ll probably be introduced to a long-term recovery program regardless. Just stick with it over the long-term. And I try not to speak (or write) in absolutes but just trust me on this one. Kembali is big on the twelve steps and I happen to be a proponent of the twelve steps as well, but your recovery is yours alone and you should find a program that resonates with you.
All of that being said and assuming you’ve taken the first steps toward getting clean, know that you’re about to embark on a very long journey. And this journey is going to involve peeling back many emotional layers while discovering aspects of your personality that might make you uncomfortable. I’ve not met a single person in recovery who doesn’t have some emotional baggage to work through. And some of us who’ve been clean for a long time may have worked through a lot of that baggage already, but there’s always work to be done. And, in fact, this is a good thing.
Don’t believe in the promise of a “quick-fix”
I happen to love that recovery is a life-long journey because whenever I hear about a quick fix for anything involving my own emotions, I don’t believe it. In other words, I’m not drinkin’ the Kool-Aid and that’s not to say there aren’t some great transformational workshops out there. There are, but when it comes to something as serious as recovery, I think that while a transformational workshop here and there can’t hurt, recovering addicts need daily structure and regular accountability. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years as someone who’s always tried to take short-cuts in life, it’s that quick fixes don’t work over the long-term. Sure, you can MacGyver your car’s busted exhaust pipe out of a paper towel roll and some aluminum foil but, sooner or later, your car will probably catch on fire.
Don’t put a band-aid on your emotions by getting clean, spending a month in rehab, then moving on with your life. Remember, once again, alcohol and drugs are…BUT A SYMPTOM. With no recovery program and community of sober fellows to lean on, you’ve got no safe space to work through emotional stuff that will inevitably always crop up. And sure, most human beings have emotional stuff to work through and they don’t go to recovery meetings to talk about it. But most human beings aren’t addicts or alcoholics. The difference between us and the rest of the non-addicted population is that we drink and use to self-soothe and avoid our emotions. Take away the drugs and alcohol, though, and we’re just left with our emotions alone, which most of us historically haven’t been too great at dealing with. Just like a diabetic needs insulin, we need a recovery program to help keep us sober because left to our own devices, we tend to always return to the booze and the drugs.
The road gets narrower as we peel back the layers
Listen, this post isn’t meant to scare anyone. Rather, it’s meant to drive the point home that most of us in recovery have emotional and behavioral patterns that drove us to drink or use in the first place. And those emotional and behavioral patterns aren’t going anywhere just because we got clean. We get to take a good, hard look at certain aspects of our personalities that aren’t entirely healthy, and we get to work on changing them. How cool is that? We become better people in recovery, and the road starts to get much narrower in the sense that we tend to get to a place in our recovery where we actually want to be better people all the time. Furthermore, we’re uncomfortable when we’re not. Things like lying, cheating, treating others poorly, treating ourselves poorly, among other things, are just not going to cut it after a while.
A lifelong journey that works (if you do the work)
Recovery is a beautiful journey and the fact that it’s life-long is probably what makes it the most beautiful. Because it works. It’s also free if you work a program like AA or SMART Recovery, and the level of growth that takes place in recovery is nothing short of profound for most people who stick around. Life just continues to get bigger and better and more awesome as we go and as we grow. While it’s not always perfect, and we’re not immune to things like disease, death, and heartache in recovery, we still learn that we don’t have to get drunk or high over these things. And this, in and of itself, is beyond precious and worth celebrating.
Kembali Recovery Center is here for you
If you or someone you love is struggling to get or stay clean, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn more about our Residential Treatment Program as well as our Recovery and Beyond Program. * All calls are strictly confidential.