Moving on Can Be Terrifying
The 12 Steps of the recovery program are a process of letting go – Letting go of an old way of living and being in the world – Letting go of an old way of relating to others and to ourselves. Moving on can be terrifying, I know. Admitting that alcohol and drugs are destroying our lives and that using them will never again be like how it was in the beginning can be really painful!
Ending our relationship with substance abuse is a lot like ending a toxic relationship with another person. There’s a powerful mix of emotions: fear, doubt, anxiety, resentment, despair, hope and relief. We reason that we put a lot of time into this relationship, and we don’t want to admit that we feel like we have failed. We wonder if this time we try a bit harder we could make it work.
But in the case of substance abuse and really in all of life, there is no “failure”. My Sponsor has been reminding me of that for years now, and I think it’s finally starting to sink in.
Just because we can’t control every aspect of life doesn’t mean we have failed! It just means that we aren’t God, which us alcoholics and addicts could usually use a reminder of on a regular basis. So it’s time to let go of thinking that because things aren’t going our way then we are somehow messing up at this thing called life.
When we muster our courage and admit we cannot control our addictions, we’ve taken the first step toward freedom and a new beginning. We haven’t failed; we have merely begun a grand new adventure! As Lao Tzu has been famously quoted: “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings”.
Every moment in each day is an opportunity to take a step onto a new path. Every decision you make is either taking you toward inner peace and a connection to your Higher Power or it’s taking you away from it. Those are the two options; that’s the fork in our road.
So when we feel tempted to act out the same old behavior we’ve been doing for years that obviously isn’t working; when we feel the temptation to yell at someone or stick a needle in our arm or stand in front of the mirror and criticize ourselves, that is the time to close our eyes, breathe, and turn inside.
In our recovery there are action steps we must take, but healing in sobriety is also an inward renewal. So when we feel uncomfortable and we want to escape into oblivion, that is the time we must summon up every drop of courage we have to face reality, no matter how terrifying that may seem.
To forge a new path and create a new life for ourselves, we must do things differently than we did before. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results!
Have patience with yourself on your journey. This is all about progress, not perfection! Our lives are a constant mixture of letting go and moving on, building and taking down, creating and destroying. There is no way to get it perfect, and there is no way to do it “wrong”.
I like to think of the recovery process like this: When I was drinking and using, I was wandering aimlessly in a barren desert, desperately thirsty and lost. When I was introduced to 12 Step recovery, a ladder appeared leading upward out of the desert, with a sign next to it saying, “We promise we have plenty of water and direction up here.” I was hesitant at first, because every once in a while I would find a little puddle of water out in the desert, but finally my dehydration got the best of me and I stood on the first step of the ladder.
I continued to climb, though I often stopped, and a few times even started back down. But it didn’t matter I wasn’t doing it “perfectly”, because I was doing something differently than before, and that was progress. That was a chance for a new life.