“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
As an avid sailor, I’m fond of sailing quotes because I think they often reflect the strange and beautiful journey that is life. Before recovery, my life was often like sailing in a stormy weather, unsure where which port I’m going to end up and if I’m going to survive at all. After recovery, I was able to weather the storms because I had a good navigation system, but it still took years before I got used to sailing smoothly – and it remains an on-going learning process to be able to steer this boat that is my life.
One of the best aspects of recovery is that it allows you to see clearly, and when you feel clear and steady in your sails—or on your feet—you become able to take certain risks that might’ve seem impossible before. Life in trauma and active addiction is small, for some it is literally confined to four walls and closed curtains and total isolation. But once we recover, we find out that there’s a whole world out there, and with it hundreds of opportunities to grow and live your best life. There is a whole world beyond meetings and therapy and readings and staying close to your group of sober friends.
I’m not suggesting to forgo all those things once you get some time under your belt, but I’m suggesting to try to incorporate your recovery into your everyday in the way that will allow you to venture outside of your safe harbor without harm. Many recovered people are afraid to live life to the fullest because they’re afraid that anything that’s not recovery-related, such as taking a trip, starting a relationship, a new job, moving or even going to a concert or a social event might jeopardize their sobriety and possibly lead to a relapse. But recovery shouldn’t be a way OF life, but rather a way TO life.
Sure, in the beginning, it may be best, if you’re reasonably able, to avoid any situations that might place you in too much risk or put you in danger of using again, but after a while, not taking some chances might lead to life that becomes small again as it stays enclosed within the rooms of 12-step meetings or therapy or an empty apartment. So start small. Start with attending a concert with a sober buddy, a wedding with a date who doesn’t drink, or take a weekend trip with a family who knows about our struggles. And once you “survive” those smaller ventures, consider bigger things that might bring joy.
Time in recovery flows differently for everyone. I know people who wouldn’t date for at least five years for the fear of relapse and I know people who will never risk taking an All-Inclusive trip to a tropical country. But I also know people who have changed jobs, gone back to school, gotten married, started families and thrived – all while being sober. We only have one life and it’s meant to be lived not waited out. Sure, dreams are risky and there might be pitfalls along the way, but to not realize your dreams – big or small – is not taking a full advantage of what your new sober-and-clean life has to offer. You don’t want to be on that proverbial deathbed stone cold sober but full of regrets. We have so many bad memories, so much trauma and sorrow before we get better so we must get better so that we can create new memories, and joy, release ourselves from trauma, and evolve into the beautiful human beings that we started as. Sailing away from safe harbor, catching the wind in your sails, exploring, dreaming, and discovering are all opportunities that sober life has to offer. Take them. Don’t be afraid.
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