I have wanted to write an article about recovery for a long time.
      I finally set the fear aside; afraid to be called “a drunk.”
      I won’t lie: my process of recovery from a dependence on alcohol has been really hard. Putting the alcohol down was one thing. Coming to terms with the fact that leaving the alcohol behind was just the beginning, was another.
      At the same time, my journey has validated the good things that have always anchored me; including the conviction that while life can be unfair, optimism is ALWAYS the way to go.

What is “broken” in you?

      Once I reconnected with my dedication to optimism, and my other “anchors” – my friends, my family, and my commitment to kindness towards others, nature, and animals – I started to unpack my life.  To take a good look at what I had lost, what was “broken.”
      With respect to “recovery,” whether you are trying to move on from – be it alcohol, or drugs, or bad relationships, or a toxic combination of a bunch of things – I believe the whole thing is about repairing what is broken.


      With this in mind, I can say that my recovery journey focused on four things:

  1. Rehabbing the basics.
    This spoke to the idea of flushing out my bad life habits and replacing them with good ones. Sleeping late? Not paying your bills? Too much junk food? Isolating? Stop it. Ditch your bad habits and adopt new ones. And, reach out to the people you trust for advice, here. As I came to understand, I was not the best judge of what was wrong in my life.
  2. This speaks to dedication and toughness; going at it over and over and over again. Self-confidence gets crushed when you allow a substance or toxic behavior or person to control you. But, you are still you. So, go about recovery with the long haul in mind.
  3. Relief valves.
    This is about bringing back into your life the people and things and activities that make you feel good … without turning back to your old BBC ­– your bad-behavior-of-choice. You will not do everything perfectly. But, before your BBC(s) took over, where did you go, what did you do, who did your call to get relief?
  4. Reformation.
    I hesitate to use this word, ”reformation,” because of its historical connection to violent conflicts. But, there is a lot to be said for the idea of re-forming – as in re-shaping – yourself … reconnecting with your best parts and starting over. Recovery is not really about getting your old life back, but creating a new one.

Figure out what’s bugging you, and exit
      They say that for 1,000 people in recovery there are 1,000 paths to success.
      Whatever your issue, your path to a new life is your own. And, that includes what your desired outcome might be – where you want to end up.
      I think this is why sitting in a recovery meeting can leave you feeling so out of place.
      It is scary. Confusing. Who are these people?
      Crazy as this might sound, that feeling of discomfort might just be your greatest asset.
      Digging into the discomfort may tell you something.
      For example, I always felt like an “outsider” at meetings … the very thing that lead me to drink in other settings.
      I came to know that getting to a better place meant figuring out how not to feel like I didn’t belong; ditching the “outsider” label in my head and heart.
      The biggest truth is that you don’t want to be where you are. You don’t want to be where you are, anymore.   So, take a leap-of-faith and exit. Figure out what’s bugging you, and exit.
      And, remember. You are not “going back” to your old life.  You are creating a new one.

 Lost in the weeds

      At first, I certainly understood that I drank alcohol regularly.
      But, I know lots of people who drank regularly. And, they didn’t have the daily dread that I had. They were not lost. But, I was.
      Over time I began to understand that I didn’t just drink regularly; I was USING alcohol regularly.
      I used alcohol to prepare myself for going out for dinner.
      I set up my life to avoid the issue with my family.
      My need for alcohol in just about every situation … combined with my growing distance from people I loved … combined with my growing awkwardness told me something was wrong.
      Nobody was “happy” with me.  And, as a consummate people-pleaser, I was miserable.

Moving forward = change
      Soon, I realized that my problem wasn’t that I needed to get back the life I had lost. There was no life to go back to. I needed a new life. That is why I keep saying … You are not going back. You are re-creating.
      I left my old life behind by aggressively planning my day around change.
      As with the idea of adopting a strict diet, I cut out the bad stuff. No alcohol. No sleeping late. No junk food. No isolating. Declutter. Pay your bills on time. Take better care of your dog. And, routine, routine, routine – as opposed to letting my day upfold – was key.
      While cutting out the “bad” stuff, I also focused on what had always been good stuff. Regular contact with friends and family was a big one; because I had been isolating for so long time.

What are your “triggers?”

      Remember that famous self-help book from the 1960s … I’m OK, You’re OK?
      Early on in recovery I overheard someone talking about me.
      I don’t even remember what this person’s comment was, but, the idea that anyone would be critical of me to another person … without coming to me directly, really hurt.  “Am I missing something about myself? … Am I a bad person?” … I wondered.
      Many years later, my people-pleasing tendencies were front-and-center as I came to understand that, all my life, I had trained myself to make sure that everybody else was ok. And, I dreaded doing anything wrong. Ever.
      At the same time, I was cultivating a pile of resentments against anyone who was critical about how I was running my life.  After all … wasn’t I the one always taking care of others!

I know who you are

      Shedding the “D” word, and/or the “A” word, and, getting back to who you want to be – your best self – is not easy.
      But, to be frank, suffering can be a great motivator.
      I started with the thing that was causing me the most suffering: the pain and disappointment evident in the people I loved the most.
      This was an excruciating realization; I won’t lie. People were thinking they might have to write me off.
      Then, just as I did in writing this article, I took a leap of faith.
      It started with a memory I had of someone saying to me:  “I know who you are.”
      I had said to this person: “I don’t recognize myself anymore.”  And, they said: “I know who you are.”

Rehabilitate your love of self

      That little I-know-who-you-are-moment came the day I left my life and entered rehab.
      I had turned myself over to my family, agreeing to do whatever they thought was best. And, those five words turned what I had been looking at as “the end” into something else.
      My life did not change at that moment, but, those words came true as if I had been speaking them to myself: “I know who you are.”
      If this makes sense to you, start there, and then consider your truths about rehabilitation, resilience, relief valves, and reformation; RRRRecovery.
      Rehabilitation: new life habits.
      Resilience: sticking to it.
      Relief Valves: enduring it all without your BBC(s).
      Reformation: Shape and form yourself into a new life.

Life in an emotional minefield

      In my experience, early recovery is full of emotional minefields.
      You know you screwed up. But, you will also be called “a drunk” and/or “an addict.” 
      These labels can be helpful motivators and keep us connected to possible mortal dangers.
      But, if you see these labels as meaning you got lost and are gone for good, you are denying yourself the one thing you need most urgently; a belief in your ability to come back to life.
      Call it unconditional acceptance of self. Call it, whatever.
      Just repeat over and over to yourself: I know who you are.        

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