*Image credit: Suzanne D. Williams
One thing that no one really tells you when you first get clean and sober, or at least no one told me, is that it’s not just about giving up drinking and using (or sex, gambling, etc.). It’s that we grow. Like, a lot. And it’s actually not that easy, even after we’ve done a lot of the work (assuming we’re in a recovery program where work is required).
What I’ve noticed in my nine years of clean time is that sometimes when stuff comes up that I need to work on, it feels like it’s coming from totally out of the blue. Before I got clean, I just numbed out with drugs, alcohol, sex, and other unhealthy behaviors that enabled me to anesthetize and hide from my issues. It’s a risky way to live because those issues don’t go anywhere. They just get buried deeper and deeper within our sub-conscience and manifest as unconscious bad behavior, suppressed emotions, and other ugliness. If that stuff gets suppressed for long enough, it can take a frighteningly long time for us to be able to access it or even acknowledge that it exists. We all have different pasts and different traumas, but I think it’s the feelings we experience and our reactions to them that most of us with addiction issues can relate to.
The only way out is through…
So, to my fellow addicts, if you’re experiencing growing pains in early recovery, or even if you have a lot of years clean, it’s TOTALLY normal. And the best way to deal with the growing pains is to just experience them. Ugh, right? But seriously, feel all the feelings. Talk about them at meetings and with fellow addicts (if you’re in a recovery program), with sympathetic and trusted friends, or your sponsor. Cry if you have to, and do whatever it takes. The only way out is through. Keeping our emotions bottled up is probably one of the BIGGEST reasons why we drank and used in the first place, and it’s why most of us addicts are so far out of touch with our emotions. Because we’ve never actually let ourselves feel them. If something difficult comes up for you later in your recovery, it’s likely because you’ve buried it really, really deep. It’s also probably something you weren’t ready to face until you had some serious clean time.
We DO change…
Many of us believe that our personalities are hardwired and we can’t change. And believe me, it’s not easy to change, particularly once we become adults. We’re so conditioned to think, feel, and be a certain way that once we grow up, it’s really hard to reverse what we think we know and how we’ve always coped. That said, if we really want to change, we can. Getting sober is the first step and it’s a big one.
If you’re a die-hard addict and you’ve successfully managed to stay clean for a significant period of time, think about what a miracle that is. After all of the times you said to yourself, “I’m only drinking on weekends,” or, “I’ll only get high in Vegas,” or, “I’m only drinking champagne at weddings,” and…sound familiar? And how did that work out for you? That is, until you actually got clean and remained clean? If you’re anything like other addicts, it’s more than likely that these promises you made to yourself were constantly being broken. But then, by some crazy miracle, you got sober and stayed sober. Remember, most addicts who do this are the exception and NOT the rule, so if you’re reading this, you consider yourself an addict, and you’re clean today, you have absolutely changed. Big time. See?
Which brings us to…Surrender.
What does surrender have to do with getting sober, changing, and growing? Well, for starters, it’s usually the point at which we recognize something needs to change because we’re utterly exhausted repeating the same old patterns. In the case of drugs, alcohol, and other addictions, we’ve surrendered to the fact that those things are a problem in the first place and that we have no control over our addiction. So, we get help, whether that be in the form of a treatment facility, the twelve steps, or some other recovery maintenance program. If you’re an addict who’s managed to stay clean without any of these, then you’re a legend. But let’s just assume that most people reading this who have addiction issues and are now clean, actually had some help to get here and stay here. And the first step was recognizing the problem. Then, surrendering, then doing the work.
If you’re an addict who can get clean and stay clean, then you can change. You just need to do the work. We just need to do the work. If you’re struggling in your relationships with others, your relationship to your finances, your relationship to your body, or your relationship to your thinking, you’re in good company. Most of us addicts experience these types of struggles in recovery, and when we start to feel helpless, the only way out, once again, is through. We absolutely have to do the work. And without the band-aids of drugs, alcohol, or other compulsive behaviors, it’s really dang tough – like, we really want to crawl out of our skin. That kind of tough. But we have a choice. If we’re in a twelve-step recovery program, we can do a 4th step inventory around whatever we’re struggling with. If we’re in therapy, we can address our issues with our therapist. If we have a really strong meditation practice, we can make specific issues the focus of our meditations. And yes, people in recovery do change, so you’re in good company. Accepting the fact that there’s no quick fix can help take some of the pressure off, allowing the space to do the work alongside our fellows in recovery who are doing the work as well.
Take. It. Easy.
Our advice? Relax and take it easy. Getting clean is one of the most challenging things that anyone can do in his or her lifetime, and sober addicts are some of the most resilient humans on the planet. We grow, we evolve, we change, it’s hard, and we get up and do it over and over again because if we’ve been in recovery for a while, we know how good it feels to come out the other side. Remember, recovery is a marathon and not a race. Let yourself feel all the feelings, and go easy on yourself as you go through the tough stuff. Because we promise, on the other side of that tough stuff is the growth, and experiencing that growth is better than any drink or drug you’ve ever had. Finally, if you’re going through it right this minute, stop reading this now, pick up the phone, and check in on another addict to see how they’re doing. It will help you to instantly shift your perspective and get out of your own head for a bit. It’s a pretty neat trick. We’ve got lots of ‘em.
Kembali Recovery Center is Here to Help:
If you or someone you know and love is struggling to stay clean, or simply struggling with the internal dialog going on between your ears, Kembali Recovery Center is here for you. Contact us today to learn about our four-week Residential Treatment Program and our Recovery and Beyond Program. Remember, you never have to do this alone.