Is There a Right Way to Do Recovery?

Sometimes when I think about my own recovery, I am amused at how demanding it can get. Or how demanding it used to be – today, I do fewer recovery things than I did ten years ago. But in the beginning it was all recovery all the time. I went to meetings, I did the 12 steps, I talked to professionals, I read anything there was to read about addiction and recovery. My wife joined me on my journey by going to meetings designed for family and friends of someone with substance use disorder. I treated – and still do to some extent – my recovery as if it was my job. I attended to it, respected it, gave it most of my life. I moved, I changed all my routines – I was more invested in getting better than I’ve been invested in anything else up to that point. Even as a father and a husband I was not totally present – my addiction strained those connections – but sobriety got my full attention. The way I saw it, it was the foundation for everything else, including my strained relationships, my career, and my health. I knew back then that, if I didn’t have sobriety, I wouldn’t be able to function and my life would get smaller and smaller because alcohol does that to people. It can take everything away from you. It took my mother’s life. She died alone in a shelter.

I don’t want to die alone in a shelter. This is why I went full throttle at recovery – I felt that it was my last chance of getting my life back on track. And I would lie if I said it was easy. I certainly had many dark moments when I didn’t necessarily think of drinking again, but I would get overwhelmed. With recovery. Sometimes, it has been exhausting and definitely challenging, and as I evolve further I find myself questioning many aspects of it. For example, it took me a while to find Power in the rooms of AA, and as time passed, AA itself no longer seemed as welcoming and non-judgmental as I once thought it to be. I started to see the world around me with more clarity – the fog of addiction was lifting, and sober, I had enough space in my head to question how I was going to progress.

Photo by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash

There’s no reason why some of us shouldn’t be able to direct our recovery how we want. Sometimes you will hear in the rooms of AA that if you leave, you will most likely relapse. I wonder how many people stay because of that fear, because they believe there is some magic curse that will cause them to drink unless they do as told. That didn’t work for me – as with my career, I took a few different approaches to how I was going to help myself, what best suited me, and I thrived, just as I have in my professional life. You, too, will know if it’s time to change it up if you find yourself stagnant and frustrated in your recovery.

The good news is there are places, other than AA or therapy groups, that support recovery from addiction. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try a little bit of this and a little bit of that to see what best suits you as you expand your horizons. For some people, 12 step rooms are enough to sustain them and help them, whereas others cannot relate to anything that meetings have to offer. I believe everyone should have the right to research what the best treatment and philosophy is for their addiction, so please don’t quit looking just because you’re frustrated with what you have right now. Yes, there are people that have sobered up on their own, but many of us need help from the outside. I hope that you find the perfect community and the perfect place for yourself, or if that eludes you, that you don’t stop looking.

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