One of the biggest enemies of recovery is complacency. There’s nothing wrong with feeling solid and sure in your sobriety, but when too much self-satisfaction sneaks in, watch out. This goes for any recovery, from anything – not just from addiction, but from your childhood traumas as well, or if, like me, you share an experience of having been relinquished. It’s not that you have to remind yourself non-stop that you’ve gone through some difficult situations, that you have addiction, trauma and so on – but at the same time, pay attention to those times when you just feel too … well. Especially pay attention to those times when you feel not just well but euphoric in your wellness, when you decide that you have conquered whatever was ailing you and now you are all in the clear.
Listen, that might be the case – you might be in the clear for life – but when it comes to addiction and other serious psychological and physiological damage that alters our brains, we must be really careful. Our traumatic experiences and repeated attempts at self-annihilation through substance use leave wounds on our psyche (and neurons that once fired together stay wired together). Sure, we can learn to reroute all kinds of maladaptive neural pathways, teach ourselves to meditate, change environments, go through years of therapy to deal with our issues, but we should never rest on our laurels. It’s just not safe. Trauma/ addiction changes us permanently, and even when we heal from the negative consequences of it, we can’t forget that those wounds leave scars – and scars are for life.
I know very well that the repetition of AA meetings or some other recovery group can sometimes be… maddening. How many times do you have to hear the same reading or listen to someone droning on about their story that sounds very similar to another story you just heard last week that sounds really similar to your own story and you’re really sick of your own story, too? You got it, it’s fine, you don’t need to be reminded over and over, you’re not a baby! The boredom and irritation set in and then with that resentment, and with that, for some of us, that’s it, it’s the end of active recovery (such as attending meetings). Goodbye forever!
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I’ve been there. And so have many others. Some have left and did just fine, stayed sober, healthy, and others left and never came back, never recovered again. I don’t have the statistics – nobody does – and none of us know for sure which group we belong to – the one that leaves and does just fine or the one that leaves and perishes. I just know what works for me, now. And what works for me now is that it’s up to me to make my recovery worthwhile. In other words, when I get bored, dissatisfied, or when even for a moment I doubt if I even have a substance use disorder in the first place, I know it is my responsibility to make my recovery attractive again and it’s my responsibility to make it worth my while. It’s absurd for me to doubt my addiction, and it should be absurd for me to doubt my recovery or feel resentful toward how it’s going. What’s stopping you from changing things up if it’s not working for you? You can change your home groups, you can drive to another town to a meeting just for the hell of it, you can go on line to check out how they do it there, you can volunteer to do some service and put on some meetings in hospitals for those who can’t attend them, you can stop going to AA meetings all together and check out another recovery place such as Refuge Recovery or S.M.A.R.T. or Sober Curious or whatever is available in your area. There are many, many options – All yours to discover if you want it.
For me, it was the Higher Power bit that stopped working. I wasn’t exactly bored, but I was irritated and dissatisfied – chronically malcontented. So I searched for agnostic and atheist meetings and found my new enthusiasm there. And from there I tried meetings online. Today, I make sure I always check in with myself to watch for signs of boredom and stagnation because I know those are dangerous and might lead to relapse. Whenever I catch myself unhappy with my recovery, I re-evaluate it, honestly assess it and think of how to make it different so that it suits me. It is my recovery and it is my responsibility. Treat yours the same way and I bet you won’t feel too bored or complacent and will find your way again.
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