Recovery is not a life-long quest. It is not an endless journey away from your addiction and toward a better life. It is a limited process that starts with the recognition you have a problem and ends with freedom from the struggle of addiction.
Some people might disagree with me here (twelve-steppers, please calm down and hear me out) but it is my experience and whole-hearted belief, that health is not just the absence of illness, but the presence of wellness. Alas, the recovery process is only what we do to bring ourselves from less than zero, back to the baseline of life. It is a process of breaking free from the confines of addiction. It is the taking back of our joy, our heath and more importantly, our choice. When I say choice I mean, choice over what we struggle for.
Life is an ongoing struggle. We should not expect that once we lose the desire for our drug of choice that we will no longer have to deal with cravings, wants and needs. Oh no! Life is full of things to pursue, but once we have recovered from addiction we can dedicate our energy toward more meaningful things than mind-numbing drugs and behaviours, that suck us beneath the thrive-line of existence.
Personally, I will not identify as a person ‘in recovery’ for the rest of my life. I will not be someone who clings to a past illness as the rate-limiting factor of all my major life areas. I will wrap up the problem of addiction and all it’s associated evils (depression and social anxiety) and rise up to life’s next challenge.
The gift of recovery is the ability to let it go! Use the tools and the practices, make them part of your life and then once your addiction-free lifestyle has become your new normal… it’s time to jump over the line. It is time to ask yourself what will take your life to the next level. I am sure if you think about the most important things in your life that you could decide what deserves your energy more than a life-time of commitment to an old problem.
I think people cling to their recovery identity because they are afraid of relapse. And rightly so, because they have been warned they could slip. They are pressured to stay committed to meetings, shame-practices and immersion in recovery culture. And yes, relapse is a possibility. In fact it may have been a part of your personal stages of change. It may have even scarred you. But why let this fear be your cause for struggle? Is addiction going to be the hill you die on? Why not learn from your relapses and know that your change is made? And then go find something else to fight for.
Imagine what would be possible if you let your recovery identity go? What could you do? Who would you be? How would you serve? How would you find meaning? What sparks your flow?
I am not saying we need to forget all about our recovery experiences; I am saying, forgive and let go. I’m asking that we understand there is both a start and finish, to recovery. Just like everything else in life it has an end. The end of recovery is the beginning of a thriving life.
I have never subscribed to the “one day at a time” mindset that is so popular in twelve-step communities. That kind of mind-trick is like slow and unnecessary cruelty. Certainly it seems nearly impossible for people who are in the beginning days of sobriety to imagine going their whole lives without their drug, but why is it better to let these people think…. “if not today, maybe tomorrow”? Or “I just need to get through right now.” Why not choose to embrace the truth that you will never drink or use again? Pull the frigging band-aid off and start healing now! With acceptance and excitement for a new life, people heal faster and better.
Recovery is the route you take away from your forced struggle against addiction to your chosen struggle to engage fully with all the awesomeness this life has to offer.
As always friends, I welcome and encourage your feedback on this.