The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It really is connection – FRIENDSHIP. It has taken many years but I finally like myself again and have the “peeps” I feel good to be with in my life. For me, a few close friendships are absolutely vital to my Recovery. I can’t do this alone, it is too hard… the connections I have with my friends now are all HEALING. The ones that aren’t I just don’t give my energy to anymore. I finally understand the “love yourself first” concept – in sustainable Recovery, you must be able to recognize what empties you and what fills you up emotionally and spiritually.
For some people, the substance they are addicted to is like an old friend: available, reliable, trustworthy and comforting. Until that “friend” betrays you in the midst of the eventual fallout from addiction: job loss, relationship
failure or worse, tragedy and death. I am going to tell you part of my addiction and recovery story and try my best not to be cliché. Everybody’s story is unique and has very strange and dark elements and mine no less so. However, mine at times played like a Grisham novel – sinister forces portraying themselves to be friends but sucking the life out of my family for personal gain – that is the backdrop to my addiction story.
I bought a new pot of face cream. The package promised to “erase fine lines in a week,” which is great because it’s my birthday today and I wanted to have a wrinkle-free face by that milestone… I mean, I actually bought the cream – $37.99 – because the box said it would work its magic quickly. Isn’t that what we all look for? And it got me thinking. Getting sober is like standing in the Lotion and Creams aisle in the drugstore. We are all looking past the seductive packaging for the quick fix…
Recently, I wanted to take my gratitude process a bit further. Knowing the wonderful, creative force gratitude is in my life, I decided that I wanted to be grateful for everything – not just the “good” stuff. I wanted to include things that fall into the “challenge” category – a work situation gone sour, a financial struggle, a broken heart. Honestly, it has not been easy to summon up gratitude for these types of things. I do, however, have two tools that I have found helpful…
It has been said, you can’t be envious when you are grateful. Anger has no foothold when you approach life with a heart of thanksgiving. You tend to be happier. It has even been said that gratitude is the antidote to fear. When you have gratitude in your life, you have a good foothold on what is important. It shouldn’t surprise us then to find that a spirit of thanksgiving in our outlook, life, and overall attitude is essential in addiction recovery.
I’m not going to try and wrap this up in a pretty bow. When the initial high of sobriety fades, life is still life. Sometimes, that life is amazing and shiny and wonderful. Sometimes, it’s dark and lonely and scary. Other times, most times for me, it’s a mix of the two. And that’s ok, for today. Hopefully it can be enough for you, too.
Popular wisdom suggests that you can create gratitude out of thin air. That the only thing that you need to be grateful right now is the decision to change how you are looking at things. To some extent I can believe this. For example, you can essentially force your brain to shift into gratitude by sitting down and writing out a list. Make a gratitude list. Nearly every sponsor in AA and NA has instructed their sponsee to do this at some point. Sit down and write out every single thing that you are grateful for. Oh and just to be sure that you are actively seeking for things that you are grateful for, make the list 50 items long.
I tried living my life and working my recovery with a spotlight on my flaws and my assets. It was tough. I felt lousy when I didn’t live up to an asset, and very guilty when I acted out on my defects. This thing called a “conscience” came alive. Day after day I became more uncomfortable in my life until I had to surrender once again. The words “all” and “entirely” provide a strong message to me. I couldn’t trim weeds from one area of the garden and expect weeds in other areas not to flourish.