Walking through the door into a recovery meeting for the first time is very daunting. Anyone who has done it though, has made the realization that something has to change or life is going to get even worse. I am grateful for the support that I found in my recovery room and that I continue to find. I realized quite quickly that I really didn’t know ‘how’ to live. Somewhere along the road of life I had mislaid my owner’s manual. Here I found one that works for me. However, it was, and still is up to me to take on the proper attitude if I am going to be successful in this endeavor: the H.O.W. of recovery.
Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness are what I need to cultivate if I am going to give recovery a fair test. If any one of these is missing I am severely limiting my chances of success in recovery.
Honesty for me is an integrity of person; that what I show to the world and what is inside of me is the same thing. No more lies. No more secrets. No more cover ups. It is being true to who I am, how I am and where I am. It’s a ‘what you see is what you get’ attitude. For me, honest and humility are pretty much the same thing. It’s not being more than who I am or less than I am. It stating openly ‘this is me’. I let go of ego. This is me with these strengths and these weaknesses. I am no longer sugar coating or trying to impress.
Open-mindedness is accepting that I don’t have all of the answers. It is saying that it’s not up to me to find all of the answers either. My way of life certainly isn’t the only way. And, if I am really being honest with myself, my way wasn’t working all that well, else why would I have ended up at the doors of a recovery meeting? I can listen to others. I can learn from them and their experiences. I can keep my mind open to other possibilities without automatically shutting down when I hear certain thoughts or ideas like prayer, mediation, spirituality.
Willingness. I need to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I need to put the effort into applying new habits and principles into my life. I must work, apply and live the twelve steps of the recovery program. I have to be willing to be patient as well, knowing that everything takes time. I was told if I put half the effort into my recovery that I did to keep myself loaded, I would be well on my way to a life that is happy, joyous and free.
Honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are qualities that I continue to pursue in my recovery. It doesn’t end when I first finish the twelve steps or get my first year medallion. I continue to work and cultivate these qualities on a daily basis. It’s the moment that I think that I’ve ‘got it’ that I begin to lose it.
A former sponsor of mine used to say, “I’m as sick as my secrets.” It took me a long time to really understand what he meant and after a few years in recovery, I think I have a better handle on it. We all have some secrets and they have the power to lead us deeper into darkness.
The secret of my sexuality kept me from living a full and healthy life before I emerged from my closet. ‘What if they find out? What will they think? I have to be careful so that no one will find out.’ These thoughts were constantly with me. It lead to a distrust of others. It kept me isolated, alone and lonely. The only time I felt that I could be released from my secret, earlier on, was when I was high. The rules and norms of society be damned. When I was high I didn’t care what anyone really thought.
Of course, the next morning arrived and along with the spitting headache I had the moral hangover of regret. Over the years, my secrets changed and varied, but they were always there, guarded and hidden. I wouldn’t say I was dishonest and openly lying, only that I wouldn’t disclose my real truth about what I felt or thought about situations. I rationalized that what I really wanted and how I really felt were best left unsaid. I didn’t want to cause pain in others but was unable to see the pain I was causing in myself because I wouldn’t open up. I felt it was better to keep that inside.
I kept my secrets bottled up so that everyone would like me and so that they wouldn’t feel hurt. I wasn’t able to see that they were making me sink deeper and deeper into addiction. My thinking was inverted: I didn’t want to cause you any pain, but it was okay to cause my own and for me to suffer in silence. And my ‘suffering’ was always a good reason to self medicate.
Through the program of recovery I am able to see that my ‘suffering in silence’ was an ego trip, as if my suffering would save the rest of the world. It was all about me and all about my justification for loading up. In the process of Step Five, sharing my past and the ‘exact nature’ of my character with another person, I was sharing my secrets. And a funny thing about a secret: once it is told to another person, it’s no longer a secret.
I didn’t realize how much energy I was using to keep my past thoughts, feelings and actions hidden until I stopped. Going through Step Five, sharing with another person helped me to open up to another person and prepared me for Step Nine where I made amends to those I had harmed. My program of recovery helps me to recognize when I am falling into the same patterns creating little secrets by hiding my feelings and thoughts and to know when I need to talk to my sponsor again about these things. I know that keeping things bottled up inside will lead to resentment, anger, fear and a relapse. The sooner I disclose my secrets, the sooner I return to health.
Thank you Marshall.