One Day at a Time for 2,922 Days

Today is my eighth anniversary of living in recovery. I say this not in a self congratulatory manner. Rather its a reminder that I have enjoyed eight years of a life that is very different from what it would otherwise be. Coming into the rooms and making the decision to stay has been the most pivotal decision I have made in my life, ever. Had I stayed on the road I was on, I doubt that I would still be around to tell the tale.

Stopping, and staying stopped was part of the process. What that did was clear my head enough to begin applying the program of the Twelve Steps of Recovery. Up until that point in my life I had been trying many different ways of living. I knew that I was not doing a great job in my approach to life but I had not yet found one that suited me. In fact, I was doing such a poor job of living life that I put myself on a path which I could see was destroying me but I was powerless to change by myself. Alone, I could no longer stop.

I found what I needed in the rooms of recovery: a new approach to life, a program to apply that approach and the support to go through the process and maintain it. I had thought that as an adult I had to do everything by myself. I had thought that I should know how to live but I didn’t. I was just trying to cope with what was happening to me in life with the skills I had garnered, but my skill set was sorely lacking.

In my struggles to find and maintain recovery I learned that I am not alone in life. I learned that I don’t have to do ‘it’ all on my own. I learned what was in my control, and what wasn’t. I learned that I am connected in a way to a Consciousness that transcends what I can physically sense in the world.

Recovery isn’t the key to a life of easy and comfort. I have gone through some very difficult challenges in life in the last eight years but I have not had to stray off of my path in order to face those challenges. In fact, I was better equipped to go through them because I have a program and because I am not alone in this.

Recovery is a way of life. One or two months in a rehab centre is a good start, but it doesn’t guarantee life long sobriety. It requires a daily commitment. It requires maintenance. The result: recovery is the most important change that I have ever made in my life. I still have a long way to go. I still struggle some days with being me. Sometimes I don’t want to face life on life’s terms. Fear and worry, or anger and resentment still cloud my thoughts some days. Recovery is my way of dealing with these issues. And so while eight years may seem like a long time, I must still work my program and live the steps, one day at a time.

I am grateful.

The “Care” of My Higher Power

Many folks do very well in recovery until they come to working Step Three. Here we are asked to make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the ‘care of’ a Higher Power, as we understood him. And many balk at this step. Their past experience has not been positive when dealing with things around God and religion. I understand. The God I grew up with wasn’t easily understandable: at one moment, kind and loving and at another throwing my soul to the bowels of hell for all eternity.

As much as I tried to work within the religion I grew up with, I couldn’t. So I left it, took a fork in the road to another idea, that of spirituality. My addiction did a great deal to slow down my progress along this road but with recovery, I found myself moving forward again. I didn’t believe in some old guy with a white beard in some celestial space surrounded by throngs of angels. And while I appreciate Christianity and it was how I was raised, I no longer believed in that either. The truth is, I couldn’t have told you exactly what or how my Higher Power was, but I knew that there was something more than what my five senses could interpret from the world.

And that’s one of the miracles of this program. It doesn’t force me to believe anything. It’s a Higher Power of my understanding. I don’t expect you to understand my relationship to my that Power, and I respect your relationship to yours. As I have grown in recovery I have received greater understanding. I expect that I will continue to grow in that understanding. But what about those who are diligently working the Steps and are finding it difficult?

I’ve learned that you’re making a decision. It need not be all cut and dried and finalized. I know my understand of my H.P. certainly wasn’t then nor is it now defined. In fact, I don’t want to define that power because that will put limitations on it. I use the word ‘god’ in meetings, because it’s convenient, but it certainly isn’t ‘god’ in the traditional sense.

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A regular at my home group who has been in the program for many, many years once shared with me that if a new person in the program is finding that they are living in less fear than they were before, then they have a Higher Power. If they are living a life that is more manageable, then they have a Higher Power. And if they are thinking about what they are doing before they do it rather than following their egos, then they have a Higher Power. They may not ever be able to define it, but they know that there is something that is helping them; something or someone with a greater knowledge that is nudging them along this path. If they want to call it God, or Christ or a G.roup  O.f  D.runks, it doesn’t matter. They’ve figured out that they’re better off with whatever Higher Power is ‘caring for’ them than when they were still out there and the person in their mirror was the one in charge of decisions!

Trust the process of the Twelve Steps: all of them. As you go along you will find that you are ‘cared for’ in so many ways. Open-mindedness and willingness go a long way in recovery to help us all to see that we are connected, which for me, is what spirituality is all about.

What Do You Want?

“The indispensable first step to getting the things you want in life is this: decide what you want.” Ben Stein

When I first began my journey in recovery, I had a pretty good idea of what I didn’t want in life. I had enough of the guilt and shame. I was over feeling foggy in the mornings and  depressed most of my day. Self-pity was my constant companion in my isolation. I was, as they say, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

My first decision upon arriving at recovery, was to get off this merry-go-round and stay off of it.  This journey into recovery has lead me to many other decisions. These decisions have created a new life, one that does bring me a great deal of happiness, joy and freedom.

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But I had to decide. I couldn’t stop my disease and continue to indulge it. I couldn’t continue consuming and be in recovery at the same time. Making a decision is choosing a door. It’s like you’re in a room with many doors and you’re weighing the pros and cons of each possible door. Staying in the room is not an option: not making a decision is also a decision. If I stay in my indecision of addiction, I am deciding for addiction. Not making a decision is deciding to maintain the status quo. I can’t move forward and stay in the same place. In order to change, I had to decide to change.

Making a decision is walking through a door, closing it behind you and moving forward. It eliminates all of the other possibilities that were available. At first I was frightened. What if I made the wrong decision? What if things don’t turn out the way I think they should? This could all turn out to be a disaster! Or so I thought.

At the moment of my decision, any door would have been an improvement over where I was: stewing in my own filth. I am learning that there are no wrong doors to choose. Each possibility comes with it’s own set of promises and challenges. Each provides an opportunity to learn and grow in life. My decision to open the door to recovery has allowed me to get to know myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my character defects and my attributes. I am no longer stuck; I am moving and growing.

My recovery program allows me to know who I am and where I want to go in life. Every day I am presented with options. I now weigh these options as to whether or not they are moving me toward fulfilling my goals and decide for or against these options. Yes, sometimes my choice could have been wiser. Sometimes I am lead off course. Sometimes I find pain and other times I discovery pleasure. But knowing where I want to go in life allows me to steer toward that goal. Regardless of what happens,  I am learning.

And it all started with a decision.