Can Someone Like Me Recover?
The day that I got to my sober house is a day I could never forget. I was still very much in early recovery at 7 months clean and sober. There was excitement and some fear for being sober for so long. It was a record for me by about 6 months. The feelings I felt as I sat on that unmade bed, in that mostly empty room are ones that I can still feel when remembering that time. I had never felt so alone, afraid and eager to pick up a drink or drug.
This really baffled me. Here I was, 7 months sober and nothing had changed! Well, not nothing. After all, I was no longer homeless, I was eating three meals a day and I even had a job. The baffling part was that my internal condition hadn’t changed one bit. I was just as afraid, fearful and lost as I was the day I stepped into treatment a few months earlier.
While in active addiction, I spent time imagining the circumstances I needed to be present in order to stop using. I needed a job, an apartment, a nicer boyfriend, more money. And of course I needed my family to love me more. How could someone like me stay clean and sober without these conditions? If only I could arrange all of these external factors, the insides would surely follow (or so i thought).
I sat on my rented mattress and decided I would just keep saving my money and if I still wanted to use when I had enough money for a large supply of drugs I would use then. That night I walked into an AA meeting. Looking back I can’t help but see how my higher power was leading me when I truly couldn’t see clearly. I walked into this meeting for the first time and with no plans on doing this, I found myself a sponsor. Although I knew nothing about this woman or her background, when I heard her speak and I thought maybe, just maybe, she could help me.
I met with my new sponsor every week for a couple months. She read to me from the big book and we talked a lot. Periodically I got instructions to do some praying or writing. I did what I was told even though I was not convinced someone like me could get better. How could someone who was living under a bridge, eating at soup kitchens, stealing from anyone possible, lying about everything and showering on a very rare basis get better? I wasn’t even sure I deserved a good life, after all I had spent years living in survival mode and burned every bridge I had every built.
How could someone like me recover?
I spent the next few months doing everything I was told to do in an effort to prove to everyone that it wasn’t going to work for me. Well, guess what happened? At some point during those months the obsession and desire to drink and drug went completely away. I woke up one day and realized that it had been many days since I had thought about a drink or a drug.
That was all I ever wanted in life: a day of freedom from that burning desire to use. That happened and so much more. I began to have less hate for myself. The shame that I carried around began to dissipate. I began to feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in many years. There were still moments of self doubt where something inside of me wondered how could someone like me recover?
I kept moving forward on this journey of the 12 steps because I became afraid to stop. The fear of what would happen if I picked up again was overwhelming at times early on. Relationships with people from my past began to be repaired. Not everyone was lining up to be in my life again, but in most cases I was able to make things right where I had wronged people. It was so powerful and life-changing to watch relationships completely transform. I had no idea how to be the healthy half to any relationship when I got sober. Learning how to be a good daughter, sister, girlfriend etc. was brand new for me. When it came to intimate relationships, I was a jealous, insecure and needy girlfriend. The steps taught me how to not be like that. They taught me how to trust in others and how to have faith.
It’s hard not to go on about the transformative process of the steps forever. I truly believe I would not be alive, let alone sober if I never found them. They gave me the ability to identify my feelings, to feel joy, and to be grateful. I had tried so many other things in previous attempts at recovery. These included new relationships, new apartments, new states of residence, different drugs etc. I could never put any time together no matter what I tried to change. Early recovery was challenging in so many ways, but the 12 steps gave me freedom and peace I never thought possible.
I spent many years going to AA meetings where I never heard about the 12 steps. It was never explained to me that there was a solution. I heard all the classic slogans like, “Suit up, show up and shut up” and “Do 90 in 90” and “Just don’t drink.” If it was as simple as just not drinking I just wouldn’t drink! For me, doing 90 meetings in 90 days wasn’t always attainable with work or school schedules. I would miss one meeting and then beat myself up for not being perfect. It was helpful to find quality meetings. Instead of going to a meeting just to say I went to one, I found a few that were really powerful and full of great recovery. I didn’t show up and shut up. People answered my questions and really wanted to get to know me. For the first time in as long as I could remember I began building meaningful connections with people.
My point here is that everyone’s path to recovery can look different. It is not a one size fits all. What worked for me was going to quality 12 step meetings, finding a sponsor, and making a commitment to get through the steps.
This is the first layer of me creating my authentic path to recovery. Doing the steps and really beginning to change the person I was erased that doubtful voice in my head that always questioned if a person like me could recover.