when we were still drinking, it’s bizarre how we judged recovery on what people who still drink (like ourselves) think it is: that it will be dull, and confining, and a continual struggle.
that’s like asking someone who has never sat on a horse in their lives to explain the intricacies of dressage. or expecting someone who has eaten fish and chips to grasp the finer details of fly fishing.
recovery is not simple, at the beginning anyway, because we are usually starting from a place of high confusion, stress and muddle. “my life is completely fine as it is, so I think I’ll stop drinking” – said no-one, EVER. my experience was that I was just teetering on the brink of external consequences, having crossed several personal Rubicons with my drinking in the preceding months and years – starting with hiding empty bottles, moving on to hiding full ones, and going rapidly downhill from there.
in the last month or so I’ve had a number of new subscribers to my blog. when I see a notification of a new subscriber, my heart always lifts with happiness… not out of any ego boost, but at the idea that someone out there has had the courage and the strength to start this complicated journey – that someone is reaching out for company on the path. so if that is you, reading this, you are HUGELY welcome here!
my recollection of the early days of not drinking is that it felt hugely un-natural, uncomfortable, to the point of almost being grotesque. I was not at all sure that I had made the right decision.
my regular routines were so disrupted that I felt adrift, and rudderless. the only thing that felt worse than the prospect of a life without alcohol was the prospect of my future with alcohol, so I kept going. I reached out for help and was given it unstintingly. the mere act of reaching out changed me fundamentally and forever.
the subsequent weeks, months and years have taught me so much about myself, and about other people. I have given up expecting to be ‘done’ and instead watch with intense curiosity as the next step unfolds.
I was really fascinated therefore by this study I came across recently, in which a broad cross section of people in recovery, from all recovery pathways, were interviewed, and a number of characteristics of being in recovery were defined. 9,341 people in recovery were then asked about whether those characteristics met their definition of recovery, and the results were collated. here’s an extract:
‘Here are a few examples of the elements of recovery. For the full list, go to the Recovery Definition page.
- Recovery is being honest with myself.
- Recovery is being able to enjoy life without drinking or using drugs like I used to.
- Recovery is living a life that contributes to society, to your family or to your betterment.
- Recovery is being the kind of person that people can count on.
- Recovery is about giving back.
- Recovery is striving to be consistent with my beliefs and values in activities that take up the major part of my time & energy.’
what if we believed THOSE definitions of recovery, instead?
could it change how you think of recovery?
I love all of those characteristics, but particularly the first and last ones.
being honest with myself is hardly ever a comfortable process. I’ve mentioned a couple of books on this blog previously which have helped me see through previously opaque behaviours to the motivation behind them – Kelly McGonigal’s ‘The Willpower Instinct’, and Gretchen Rubin’s ‘Better Than Before’. both of these books were really useful in helping me see that I am never alone in choosing less than stellar behaviours as an initial reaction, and have given me vital tools to identify such behaviours and to gently choose others which are more helpful in the long run to me and those around me.
we need others in this journey so much. if you are starting out (or indeed re-starting, as so many do) then this is possibly the best piece of advice I can give you:
don’t drink. reach out. be very, very kind to yourself.
it’s so, so worth it. and recovery will become the simplest, most natural feeling in the world. Prim xx