Don’t Leave it to Chance

“Choice, not chance, determines one’s destiny.” Author Unknown

I came across this quote in one of the recovery web pages that I follow. For many years I would have said it was chance that determines my fate in life. I would have said you’re dealt the cards your dealt and you just have to make the best of it. I didn’t really bother, let alone believe in setting goals because life is going to steer you to go through the rapids or the waterfalls whether you like it or not. Some people are winners because that’s how the universe wants it for them and others, well, you know, karma can be a real downer.

I’ve come to look at things differently now.

I see that in the short term, for example, when I am feeling depressed or down, I can sit and wallow in my self pity and sadness. Or I can do something about it. I can go for a walk, go to the gym, talk to someone. Yes, I have to accept it, but I know that I have a choice to stay in my depression or act. The exercise or a phone call are action and action is what is needed. I make a choice and act.

When I was in the bitter morass of my disease, I knew I was harming myself and that I couldn’t get out of this alone. I accepted that. Once I stopped fighting, I was able ask for help. The assistance of others, my Higher Power along with my own determination helped to raise me out of a pit of my own making. Continued work on myself with the help of my Higher Power and my friends in recovery help to ensure that I stay this way. Had I really believed in fate, I probably wouldn’t be here any more to write about it. My recovery is not the result of the flip of a coin. It is the result of my choosing to move forward and co-create this new me with the help of my Higher Power.

I continue to choose to work with my Higher Power to re-create a new me. I am not the same person as I was when I came to the program. Ask those who knew me then. They’ll tell you.  I know that I have made big changes in my life and I know that my choices and my efforts have done a great deal to ensure that I did, in fact, change. I continue to change. I am not content to let the status quo remain as it is. I believe that my destiny is to ask, learn, grow and share as I make my way down the river.

“I may not command the wind, but I can direct my sails.”

This applies to all aspects of life. Things happen. I can’t control other people, places or things. But I do have a choice: I can do nothing and things will stay the same, or I can make a change and shift where I am going in life. And yes, it is a great responsibility. I can no longer blame my family, where I live, my friends for me state. Part of becoming an adult it taking responsibility for the decisions, or failing to take them in the past. I do have control.

Grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change.

The courage the change the people I can.

And the wisdom to know it’s me.

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Acceptance is the Starting Point

In my addiction I would often scold myself and tell myself when I came to in the morning that I wouldn’t do that ever again. But by noon, all bets were off; my head was clearer(?) and I could tell myself with just enough conviction that it wasn’t that bad and I would do better today. Of course, during the last few months of active addiction, there was no morning regret. I had no dignity. I had little emotion. I had but one goal: the continual desire to seek and find oblivion.

I knew before I arrived at my first recovery meeting that I needed help. I just couldn’t stop on my own any more. I figured that if I could use the meeting to keep my head on straight for one day, then perhaps I could quit for longer. I thought that I just needed that push to get me up onto the ‘wagon’ and I would be able to handle it by myself.  After all I had quit on my own in the past for fairly long periods of time. I could lick this on my own.

A member of the group invited me to return to the meeting the next day and since I wasn’t doing much of anything and perhaps because no one really wanted me around any way, I took her up on the offer. And I kept going back. I started reading Twelve Step literature. I started counting my clean and sober days. Time in the program because important to me. I always chased the gold star in school; now I was chasing the 30-day chip, then two month and so on. I stayed. I began to work the steps and my life began to change.

Why did this work for me? I think that when I came into the program I was finally ready to accept that I was powerless and that I needed help. I was ready to surrender. My acceptance of the situation that I found myself in (and which I know was of my own making) became the jumping off point into recovery. The evidence of my addiction was before me. I could no longer deny it. I couldn’t pass it off as a bad night or a difficult week. There just wasn’t an end to what I was going through. Once any of us decide that we have hit our bottom, then we can start moving forward again.

I’ve learned since I’ve been in Recovery that what I resist will persist. As long as I was resisting my disease, fighting it, not acknowledging it, I was giving it the upper hand. The heroin addict, the compulsive gambler or the two liter a day alcoholic are doing the same thing: fighting against the facts, denying that they have a disease which keeps them in their addiction. Admission and acceptance are the foundation of  recovery. Once I accept, I’m saying to myself that there’s nowhere else to go. I have to deal with the situation or it is not going to change. Acceptance of the situation made me willing to do the work to move forward.

And I am learning that this applies to all situations in life. Once I accept a that I cannot control persons, places or things, then I can work on the one thing that I can control: ME.

I am grateful.

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Managing My Life

When I broke my leg, the mending of the bones was done with a titanium plate, screws and some time for it all to knit together. In seven weeks I was cast free and was hobbling around pretty much normal. However, the process of the healing of the tendons and ligaments that were stretched, ripped and misaligned was a much longer process.  It took several months of physio therapy and exercise to gain back strength and heal the soft underlying tissue. So while it looked like I was healed from my broken leg, no more cast or crutches, there were still a lot of underlying issues that had to be looked after.

When I came into recovery the First Step talked about my need to admit my addiction and that my life had become unmanageable. Cutting out those substances that brought me into recovery was one thing. The process of learning how to manage my life, well, that is still ongoing. The main problem seemed to be solved: I wasn’t consuming, but like the underlying soft tissues, my life was still far from manageable and I needed some more recovery time for that to happen.

For many years leading up to recovery, my addiction was my method of dealing with most everything. I was now without anything to cushion my personality and some unpleasant character traits from an unsuspecting world. My therapy, my work at managing my life, consisted in continuously working the steps, going to meetings and meeting with my sponsor.

Even with a few years in recovery, I still find myself doing things that aren’t responsible management. For example. I procrastinate. I put things off. I don’t take the time to complete the task when it first comes up and it then becomes a mountainous deed that Hercules wouldn’t be able to tackle. I am unsure why I do this. I know–I can see the waste of time. How much time do I waste? Too much. I allow a small item to take up a whole lot of space in my head and waste a lot of time thinking about doing it, not doing it, how to do it, why to do it, when to do it etc. Time I could use in a more productive manner ‘if’ I would only attend to these little items as soon as they come up.

I am grateful that I have a recovery program that allows me to see these faults, shortcomings or whatever you wish to call them. And it gives me tools to deal with them on a daily basis. Sometimes just realizing how much time I’ve already wasted thinking about something I should have done is enough to motivate me to do it. I am grateful that there are fewer things that I procrastinate about. And I’m grateful that my program teaches me to look at other areas of my life that I wish to improve and use what I’m learning to improve those situations as well.

I doubt that I will ever get out of life management therapy. I spent a lot of years in my disease of addiction and it will take many more years of recovery to smooth out the ripples and waves that I made. It’s a task that I take on gratefully because I have seen the results in many areas of my life. It’s still one task at a time, one step at a time and one day at a time.