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.

scenic view of night sky

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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.

Evolving Personality

You and I are shaped by our environment: the family we have, where we grew up, the people we hang around with, the job we chose or fell into. All of these things work, sometimes very subtly, to mold us into the persons we are today. The environment helped to shape our experiences and those experiences our helped to form our personality. And so here we are, very unique personalities. And there’s not much I can do to change that is there?

“If your environment is disorganized, so is your mind. Everything is energy. Your environment is constantly influencing you whether you’re aware of it or not.” Benjamin Hardy

In his book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy posits that if we change our environment, we can change our personality. While the current self-help trend focuses on changing our personalities to become more of who we want to be, Hardy tells us to focus on what in our immediate environment is preventing us from changing. If I want to become an organized person then I need organize my environment.  I want to become a student of life, then I have to organize my space so that it is conducive to that study. If I want to be a successful person then I need to hang out with successful people.

I’m don’t know who first said it, but the idea is that if you want to know who you really are, look carefully at the five people you are closest to. Change your friends and change your personality. It’s not a far stretch for me to see the results for this suggestion. When I first came into recovery I had few friends and the ones I did have were those who were as in need of recovery as I was. I had to get new friends. I needed to change my environment to find success in this new way of living.

men having their haircut

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If you don’t want a hair cut, stop hanging around the barbershop. Will power alone will eventually weaken. Strength will fade with time until it seems like a good idea to get into the chair and under the clippers. I had to change my environment: where I was hanging out, who I was hanging out with and what I was doing in order to have any success with sobriety. I am grateful that early on I learned that I didn’t have to be a martyr. I didn’t have to make it more difficult for myself. I didn’t have to test my new found way of life.

“Surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past.” Dan Sullivan

When I first came into recovery I was told five things: Don’t consume. Go to meetings. Get a home group. Get a sponsor. Work the Twelve Steps of Recovery. All of these five things were instrumental in changing my environment. I was hanging around with people who were living what my future could be. The bar stool philosopher had to give way to the meeting room student if I was going to have any chance at this thing called sobriety.

I had some misgivings about leaving friends behind but I soon discovered that those who really were friends were glad that I was making this change. The backroom buddies only missed me when they saw me on the street and they suddenly realized that they hadn’t seen me for a while.

I am still working on changing my environment. For the most part right now it is the mental environment. I am changing how I think by focusing on what I am thinking about. I am reading and studying quality material rather than simply passing time with social media or the endless task of finding the perfect thing to watch on Netflix. With time the changes to the environment and therefore the changes to me are happening. I am a work in progress taking the next right step for the evolving me.