When asked what recovery means to me my immediate, and somewhat knee-jerk response, is very simple. It means everything to me. Every bit of joy, success, and peace of mind that I have experienced is firmly rooted in the decision that I have made to recover.
Recovery is often confused with mere abstinence. Abstaining from the use of drugs for a period of time was never a real issue for me depending on the circumstances. However, until I made the decision to actually recover as opposed to just abstain, relapse was an inevitable, and a constant reality for me.
The disease of addiction is not simply the use, misuse, and abuse of mind altering substances, but rather a set of attitudes and behaviors stemming from our diseased thinking. Although recovery and abstinence are two completely different entities, recovery is not possible without abstaining first. I couldn’t recover from this disease if i was still perpetuating it through my use of drugs. Once I stopped using drugs, even for the briefest of moments, the possibility of recovery became a reality. Recovery is not simply about the cessation of drug use. It is about changing the diseased thought process which has become so common-place to most addicts.
My first step in the direction of recovery was taken when I began to accept certain ideas as truths. The first idea was that I am no longer a victim. I have survived some horrific ordeals prior to, and while in the midst of my active addiction, but I have learned I have the ability, and more importantly, the right to no longer live in that suffering. I have the ability to move forward and let go of that pain. Today I am not a victim. I am not owed anything from this world. I am able to forgive those who have harmed me, and when I forgive, I forgive for myself, for my own peace of mind, which I have learned to create.
I have also developed the ability to choose. The most important choice that I try to make on a regular basis is the choice to be happy. Happiness and peace of mind do not have to be rooted in circumstance; they are states of mind that can be created. The reason I choose to be happy is because of the work I have done in my recovery. I have come to accept the fact that I am a person who is deserving of happiness. I am a worthwhile human being.
Another idea I have accepted as truth is that the disease of addiction is, just that, a disease. I am not responsible or to blame for the fact that I am an addict. I was born with this life threatening illness through no fault or decision of my own. I am not responsible for my disease, however I am responsible for my recovery. I am responsible for doing the necessary internal work needed to no longer suffer. Although I am not responsible for my disease I am accountable for the wreckage I have caused while in the grips of my active addiction. I have caused a great deal of pain and suffering to everyone around me while in the pursuit of perpetuating my disease. Recovery, for me, is not only about no longer causing harm to myself or others, but it is also about doing whatever I can to right the wrongs I have done in the past.
Recovery is not an event that takes place with a finite beginning and end. It is a life long journey of personal betterment. It is a process with a simple goal; Be a healthier person today than yesterday. Sometimes that goal isn’t always met, but as long as I stay abstinent I have another chance to achieve that goal tomorrow. The process of recovery is as unique as the individuals in the recovery process. There is no one “right way” to recover. Every journey in recovery has it’s own peaks and valleys, strides and setbacks, and successes and disappointments. As long as I live in recovery I can get through all of these things, and become a healthier, stronger, and happier person because of them.