For many people, quitting drugs or alcohol might seem like a sentence – no more carefree boozy afternoons, no more unpredictable fun with friends, no more fun holiday parties. Of course, those situations are only a small fraction of how drinking or using drugs tends to invade our lives. But we tend to romanticize those wild days even if many of them would end in a disaster.
The reality is that quitting is not a sentence. It’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to grow and evolve and heal our traumas. This is why I believe it’s crucial to treat your recovery as something that you’re building rather than taking apart. Spending countless hours going over what you’ve possibly done wrong, how you missed opportunities or messed up your life, is not going to make anything better. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge the damage and deal with your emotions but don’t for one moment think that you need to forever repent for the past. Recovery is all about your present and your future and making better, more informed choices than you’re used to.
It takes practice to make better, more informed choices so even if you stumble in the beginning don’t beat yourself up. Start small. Come up with routines or practices of recovery that I’ve mentioned in the previous blog. Don’t overwhelm yourself by making plans to amend your mistakes – you can do that, but don’t rush to it. In 12-step programs there’s a certain pressure to do very specific things in order to recover. This means completing the 12 steps, reading literature, getting a sponsor, etc. It can be daunting and exhausting.
I don’t think you should slack in your recovery, but if the 12-step program pace doesn’t agree with you, please try to find support elsewhere! There’s nothing worse than being newly recovered, overworked and emotionally raw from taking yourself apart (and many of the steps will require that). Instead of dissecting yourself, use your newly found freedom to find out what makes you feel fulfilled and happy with yourself. This can be a great time to self-discovery. Explore your interests, invest in your health, ask your supports for guidance if you’re at loss where you should direct your energy. Don’t sit in the dark with all your “sins” – they will only perpetuate feelings of guilt and shame and that is your old life; your new life is all about healing and building yourself back up.
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