What makes recovery far more interesting than addiction? What a silly question you might think, still. But you already know some of the reasons why I believe that it is recovery where the real story lies.
If you’re looking for thrills you will find them in recovery stories, trust me—you will find people doing impossible things in order to stay sober, you will find families trying to piece themselves together, rebuilding; you will find grime and struggle just as you find it in the addiction stories. For example, imagine that first wedding party you have to go to as a sober alcoholic? For many of us, it was like a minefield where we had to fend constant offerings of alcohol, where we couldn’t toast just like everybody else, and where our focus was not on the bride and groom but on what was in our glass. That’s a struggle. (I myself have a very practical approach—at the beginning of festivities, I like to go up to the catering staff, or whoever is in charge, and announce to them that I don’t drink.)
But there are, of course, bigger struggles as not every recovery story follows a happy arch—people sometimes don’t get their families, jobs and the life they used to have, back. People get sick, people get sad, resigned, and depression is not an uncommon occurrence in sober addicts. And then there are many of us sitting in chairs at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, wondering why the hell we’re listening to some bore drone on about events that have nothing to do with us, why we can’t relate, why we can’t find God, and why we can’t just fit in and “get it”?
Recovery is full of doubt; it is full of obstacles that we would’ve never expected, having finally beat the physical cravings and some of the habitual ones.
The good news is that no matter how difficult or how easy our return to sobriety is, there’s one unifying and underlying thing that makes it all worthwhile: hope. It is hope that keeps people in recovery. In my own experience, it was hope that allowed me to deal with some of my private doubts about the program that promised to keep me sober—I’m a secularist and have always struggled with the conception of God. My Higher Power is REALITY, but the God as he/she/it was being presented to me in the rooms of AA didn’t seem to fit that and it took me a long time to finally figure out my own trajectory. I would’ve given up, probably, but I never did and the reason why I didn’t was because of hope. I hoped that there was a place for me too, in my recovery, which in my case meant attending AA meetings.
Today, I’m an addiction professional. I deal with people with addiction on a daily basis, and as such I am expected to be versed in prevention, policy, medicine treatment, advocacy, stigma reduction… the list goes on. All of those are important elements of the addiction issue, and, like puzzle pieces, make up almost all of its entirety. But one big piece, or perhaps actually the glue that holds it all together, is hope—as in experience, strength (living sober), and hope in itself.
You won’t find a certificate in Hope or a separate column where you can put a checkmark when discussing sobriety with a potential client. Nobody, to my knowledge, can graduate with a degree in Hope. Yet, it is something that is crucial in keeping a person with addiction in recovery. Hope is what keeps the story of recovery exciting because as you might know, staying sober and clean is a bumpy road. If you want true, really exciting stuff, consider this: every sober addict somehow keeps going despite the obstacles designed—by their own brains, to start—to annihilate. In recovery, he or she is going against their every instincts, their neurological and genetic factors that contribute to addiction—the sober, recovered addict is an impossible creature doing impossible feats.
Yet those are completely possible… if you let the hope guide you.