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Celebrating 8: 8 Ways That Keep Me in Long Term Recovery

March 6, 2009. 8 years ago. I finally had enough. I finally decided that the life that I was living was not the one I wanted. I asked for help. I surrendered. I listened when I didn’t want to. I followed suggestion that I didn’t want to. I showed up when I didn’t want to. I changed most everything in my life even though I didn’t want to. I stayed the course even when it got hard, uncomfortable and exhausting. I faced self-imposed shame and guilt. I set boundaries. I stopped filling the empty hole inside of me with all things toxic. I stopped running away. I made amends. I faced consequences. I forgave; myself and others. I allowed myself to FEEL; all of the emotions, without judgement or analyzation. I was honest with others and myself. I made mistakes. I got hurt, disappointed, betrayed, manipulated and knocked down. I stayed the course. I chose to not bury, hide, ignore and deny. After 25 years of doing it *my* way, I chose another way. It was HARD. But the life before March 6, 2009 was harder.

Today I CELEBRATE. I celebrate family, relationships, lessons learned and lessons that await. I stand with an open- heart; willing and teachable. I am present and acknowledge that the only thing that is for certain is change. So, I am flexible. Life is no longer black and white. I celebrate presence and what is. I do my best to not resist and fight *what isn’t*. I change what I am capable of and allow others the Grace to do the same.

Patterns can change. People can change. Neuroscience says that it is so and I am living proof that it is so. I am a miracle and so are you. So, if you are reading this wondering how the hell are you going to survive the next 24 hours much less 8 years, you can do it; one moment at a time. I am not an anomaly, there are over 23 million people doing it.

Over the years, the things that kept me sober have changed. I have evolved and so has my recovery. This is a list of my most current 8. Some may resonate with you now and some you may come back to, in time. Take what you need and leave the rest.

1. Stay Grounded. Yoga, meditation and staying connected to my community are the ways I stay grounded today. Some days, it is all three. Some days, it is just one. And by yoga, I mean easy pose (criss cross applesauce) with one hand on the ground and one on my heart for 5 minutes. I sometimes am quiet and sometimes I repeat “everything, at this very moment, is ok.” It’s not elaborate. It’s not lengthy. It’s doable and simple.

2. Acknowledge What I Need. This doesn’t mean I always get what I need. More often than not, I don’t. But I acknowledge it anyway. This is important for me. I feel heard whether what I need is available or not. Sometimes what I need is voiced to a person, written down or just shouted REALLY loud as I am driving in the car. {whatever works.} This has not always been easy; I feel vulnerable doing so. But I have found that the alternative (stuffing it down) causes a lot of problems. None of which have good outcomes.

3. Trust the Process. I played competitive golf for many years. When I made a swing change and had to play in a tournament, it was important that I trusted that what I was working on was the correct change. It was important that I didn’t abandon the change before it was mastered. This same process is integral for me today. I do the footwork, I make the best decisions I can with the information given and then trust all that happens after that. It may not go as quickly or exactly how I want it but I continue to trust the process and the path.

4. Live Open Heartedly. Ahhhh, vulnerability. Yes. Not easy. And living with an open heart doesn’t mean I am a door mat. I live open heartedly with boundaries. I do this mostly because I want to FEEL all the LOVE. The LOVE from my family, my sweet little boy, my friends. I am completely willing to feel the hurt and the pain of loss and disappointment and betrayal as a trade- off. This has not always been the case. I lived very shut down and closed off for many years. I am not longer “afraid” of my emotions. They are part of being a human and experiencing human-ness. And feeling the other emotions actually widens and deepens my ability to feel love. Odd but true.

5. Tell the Truth. Seems simple. We learn this as 5 year olds. But for many years, I didn’t. I didn’t tell you the truth and I didn’t tell myself the truth. I didn’t tell the truth out of avoidance. Avoidance of pain, heartbreak, consequence and disappointment. Today, it is a pillar of my recovery. Mostly, the truth telling is to myself; living in reality rather than a fantasy world.

6. Trust my Instincts, my Soul Voice. I denied this voice for many years thinking I knew better OR that the little voice was wrong. The voice is my connection to something bigger than me. And that something bigger definitely KNOWS better. I have to get quiet to hear that voice. In the past, I would do everything to drown that voice out; stuff that voice down with food, booze, shopping, television… whatever worked. Acknowledging my Soul voice doesn’t mean I have to *do* anything, it’s not requiring me to act, just listen.

 7. God, Buddha, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, The Ocean, Higher Power. Something bigger than myself. This used to be a very difficult concept for me; to actually think that something else (other than me) was in charge. {wink. wink.} Early on in my recovery, a good friend asked me “do you believe that I believe?” I replied “yes.” She said “that’s good enough.”

I never wanted an “out” from getting sober. But for some, this is a stumbling block… thinking that without God, you won’t get sober. Don’t let that stop your progress. Please. Stay the course. Trust the process. There are many paths.

Today, I recognize when I can do no more… and I have to let it go and let it ride. Sometimes, another path shows itself and sometimes it just all works out because I am no longer trying to control and dictate what was never mine to control and dictate in the first place.   {This happens ALL. THE. TIME. in parenting. {hitting head against wall.}

8. Stay Willing, Open and Teachable. That’s ONE, right?!? I have learned so much over the last 8 years. I remain a student in all things. This can be exhilarating and terrifying all at once. But I wouldn’t have what I have nor experienced all that I have without being willing, open and teachable. I don’t know everything. I don’t want to. But I do want to be open to new ideas and information that allow my life to grow and blossom rather than become stagnant and withered.

I am beyond grateful for these last eight years. I don’t want you to think that any of it was easy. It was not.  Nothing that I have attained in my life was easily achieved BUT it was worth it each and every time. Long term recovery is no different. 

Recovery :: by Anonymous 

Don’t feel disillusioned by where you are now. 

Your progress is good enough

It’s meaningful,

It’s on time.

Though things may go unacknowledged,

every silent step is movement

in the right direction.

When it feels as though

everyone is going forward

and you’re being pulled back,

remember that every moment in this journey

will play it’s part in the greater narrative.

What a beautiful story to share one day

just by living your life.