In May 2008, I was mentally and physically defeated. Surrounded by conflict – both internal and external – I came to the realization that I no longer wanted to continue living the life I was living.
There were many things that happened over the course of three days that made it clear that the path I was on was leading me to death’s door. The one thing that stands out the most during that time was when I was sitting face to face with my future. Staring into the eyes of a woman I never met before, not knowing her name, how we came to be in the same room but only had one thing in common: drugs. I don’t know exactly how old she was, but to me, she looked like she was 100 years old. She signified my fate. A future that was dark and bleak. It was that moment that put into motion my will to survive.
It’s been over 11 years now since I began my transformation, and since we are celebrating Recovery Month, I thought I would share with you the lessons I gradually learned on my own journey:
- Let go of anyone or anything that isn’t serving you. Throughout my recovery, I have found that sometimes I outgrow people and what I need changes from day to day. I focus on the positive and what helps me evolve.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I embrace what I fear. I know on the other side of that uneasy feeling is growth, and that is always reassuring.
- Tears are essential for washing away the uncertainty and confusion in your head. There have been times throughout my 11-plus years of recovery that I have allowed myself to unravel. Sometimes, you just have to let it all out to move forward.
- Throw yourself into the middle of the group. Forming new connections and making sure that I stay connected to friends and family each day has helped keep me grounded. It has given me a sense of belonging and the feeling that I am part of something much bigger than myself.
- Focus on yourself. Sometimes, it can be easy to get lost in other people’s problems. Taking care of my mental and physical well-being is essential to living my best life and reaching my potential.
- Be honest with yourself, no matter how difficult it may be. I used to feel so uncomfortable sharing what was really going on inside my head. In order to continue to live my life freely, I must live my life in a way that is honest and continue to keep my loved ones in the loop.
- Keep building in recovery, layer by layer. In the beginning, I filled my extra time with meetings, commitments, and sober gatherings. As time went on, I knew I needed more. I am always looking for new ways to safeguard my well-being. You can never do too much for your recovery.
- Perfection is unattainable. In early sobriety, I wanted to do recovery the right way. What I did not understand was that striving to get everything “just so” was impossible. Today, I embrace my imperfections and look at them as opportunities to grow.
- No feeling lasts forever. In early recovery, it felt like I was going to be stuck in a perpetual cycle of anger and sadness. I had to remind myself that feelings subside. Some days, joy is my constant companion, and some days, I just embrace the not-so-good stuff knowing that it will pass.
- There is beauty in all things. Once the drugs were out of my system, I began to see the beauty of life. I could see hope in the stories that were being shared by my peers. I was able to be present in the day, learning to laugh and enjoy the simple things.
- Let the love in. To say that I hated myself 11 years ago would be an understatement. But it was through the love of others that I began to clear away the wreckage of my past. Slowly, I began to forgive myself. Through forgiveness, I was able to take care of myself in a healthy way, which led me to start loving myself.
Life’s lessons are ongoing. Applying what I learn has been essential to my ongoing recovery. Self-discovery is vital, and I don’t ever want to stop learning about myself. I am so far away from the person I was 11 years ago, and next year I will be so far away from the person who is writing this today. What a journey it has been so far. Each year, each day brings new revelations, and I look forward to meeting my future self.