What if my alcoholism is my greatest asset? Not when it was alive, active, and devouring me––no. But when I came to my senses long enough to catch my breath. More like the moment it became my reality check, and then the climb back up from that. If I hadn’t hit the place where I was able to admit that my life had become unmanageable, I would likely never have done the depth of work on myself that is requested/required in The Steps.
To think of recovery as linear – a continuum of getting better and better – is misguided at best. Recovery is messy as hell. It is a series of becoming undone, reforming, and blooming – again and again. Anyone who tells you it’s plain sailing once you get sober, or that your inner turmoil is a reflection of your broken spiritual state, is entirely misguided. I just turned six years sober and have never felt so broken and undone in my entire recovery journey so far. No amount of spiritual work is touching the surface, only easing the pain and my relationship to it.
There is a lot of emotional dysregulation … with substance abuse disorders. Animals serve as role models for mindfulness … while someone in recovery is relearning how to navigate the world of an emotional being … To conquer the anger, shame and guilt of a relentless feeling disease, requires an honest inventory. With pride set aside, the recall of our memory is best in a non-judgmental setting, [with] unconditionally-loving pets, whether it is pet therapy or animal assisted therapy.
As you forgive others, you begin to forgive yourself. As you stop focusing on their mistakes, you will stop punishing yourself for your own. Your ability to release what you think of as the sins of others will free you to release yourself, putting down the weapon with which you punish yourself so savagely. Forgiveness releases the past to divine correction and the future to new possibilities.
You may know the 12 steps through AA or NA . These steps can be applied to any organization or group. Most religions have taken the 12 steps and given them a spin, incorporating their ideals. This makes for a creative and personalized way to relate and integrate into your life. Below are the 12 steps adapted to fit Buddhism. Perhaps you may find some connection to this version of the well-known steps.
I see triggers and forces all over the place. Or, if I am paying attention, I can choose to see them as reminders that when I’m aligned with my Higher Power, and the Divine Infinite, I am free. I can choose not to engage in that behavior, verbal exchange, sweet treat, cocktail, or even thought – I can do a contrary action or no action at all.
For me, recovery from love addiction has been a slow, less-than-perfect practice. Though stopping all addictive patterns at once is what’s recommended, this wasn’t my path. The biggest tool that 12 step recovery for sex and love addiction gave me was that it taught me to become aware of my thoughts, and to realize how obsessive thinking leads to compulsive behavior. While some people might be able to “get away with” carrying on emotional affairs, I can’t. For a sex and love addict, even seemingly innocent flirtation is not innocent. The moment I feel myself triggered, I disengage.
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.