Counting Your Blessings in Recovery
You don’t have to be religious to know that being in recovery from addiction is a good thing. People say “Count your blessings” all the time – and there’s a reason for that. First of all, it’s reinforcement to re-cap the benefits of an achievement, and recovery is a huge achievement. But there’s a lot more to being in recovery to be grateful, and thankful for, than just a summary of your accomplishments. Take it in a religious or spiritual sense – or just common sense – but do acknowledge what positives you’ve received in your recovery.
For many in recovery, especially after chronic, hard-core alcohol or substance abuse, just the fact that they’re alive is not only a blessing, it’s a near miracle. Physical, psychological and mental consequences of long-term substance abuse often leave addicts with many scars. Not only are there medical conditions to deal with, and perhaps serious ones at that, but the emotional wreckage and psychological damage have also taken a toll.
Look at your own addiction. Maybe you fall into the category of the chronic, long-term abuser who tried multiple times to kick your habit before you finally succeeded. At any point during your abuse of alcohol or drugs, you could have died from a variety of complications. Even if you weren’t an addict for years on end, you may have overdosed and nearly died from drugs and/or alcohol.
In either case, consider yourself lucky to be alive. This is one of the most profound blessings of your recovery, and one that you should be thankful for every day. Without life, there is no future. There is no time left to undo the wrongs you may have committed, or to repair a relationship that needs mending, or follow long-buried dreams. You can’t come back from death – at least, not usually. There are some – and you may be one of them – that have been declared dead, only to be revived. If that’s the case, you’ve got a double miracle to be grateful for.
No More Lost Days (and Nights)
Addicts are very clever at hiding various aspects of their addiction. One of the earliest tricks they use is to fool others into believing that they remember things that occurred while they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when, in fact, it’s all a blur. Surely you recall the techniques you used to pull the wool over the eyes of your spouse, partner, significant other, family member, friend, co-worker or employer.
At least, you think you did. Chances are that those closest to you began to suspect that you had a blackout when you consistently “forgot” events, actions, words, or lost hours that you couldn’t reasonably account for. It’s actually amazing the amount of time and energy addicts put into trying to remember what they said, did or thought while they were in a blackout. Little bits and pieces may have come back here and there, and maybe they sufficed to help convince others that you were really all “there,” when you really weren’t. Probably not, however, especially after repeated episodes.
The point here is not to dredge up unpleasant reminders of those lost days and nights but to celebrate the fact that those situations are all in the past. Instead, think about how terrific it is to wake up each morning and fully remember all that occurred the previous day, week, month and year. The reinforcement every day that you are in full control of your mental faculties is a genuine blessing.
While still on this point, it’s also important to note that you won’t need to spend inordinate amounts of time trying to recapture, repair or undo the damage you did during those lost hours. Now, that’s another burden that you no longer carry. Hurrah – another significant achievement.
Life is More Vivid
When you’re no longer spending a great part of your day trying to get over the effects of the night before, you’ve undoubtedly discovered that life is more vivid. What do we mean by that? Think of it. Visually, what you see in terms of color is brighter. It has to be, because you’re not under a cloud or suffering a pounding headache or going through the nausea and other hangover symptoms. Not only sights, but also sounds and smells are more pronounced. Suddenly, you can hear, detect and appreciate things more. This includes music, the sounds and smells of nature, the aroma and taste of food.
Think how much more intensely you feel the attraction to your spouse or significant other – if you are fortunate enough to have this type of relationship currently in your life. Human pheromones notwithstanding, being more in the present is a big boost in your relationship with your loved one.
Open to New Experiences
Now that you’re in recovery, you can look forward to many new experiences. You aren’t stuck in the past. There’s no rule or recommendation that you constantly look back. It’s just the contrary, in fact. Why look back when you have your entire life ahead of you?
You will recall that while you were in treatment your counselor or other treatment professionals gave you valuable tools and helped you create your blueprint for recovery. This roadmap undoubtedly includes short- and long-term goals that you’ve identified for yourself and a step-by-step guide for how to achieve them. But none of these are set in stone. That’s the beauty of an evolving plan for recovery.
As you pursue some of your goals, be they short-term ones that are easily accomplished or long-term goals that involve many months and years, there will be numerous opportunities that will present themselves. It could be an offshoot from something that you are presently pursuing as a life goal, or it could be something entirely new, some activity or job or educational, cultural, entertainment or other pursuit that begins to intrigue you. And the best part of this stage of your recovery is that you are no longer closed off. You are fully capable of embracing new experiences. You have every right to be. After all, you’ve worked hard for your sobriety, and you’ve made it a part of your life – a welcome part, an integral piece of your character.
Getting Stronger Every Day
Sometimes addicts in recovery need longer to recover their health, ravaged during months and years of past abuse. Others may not have suffered as much physical damage, but have lingering psychological and/or emotional pain to overcome. It takes time, but the truth of the matter is that with each passing day, you are getting stronger.
Support is a key element in this acceleration of your healing process. You simply can’t do in on your own. First of all, no one other than another recovering addict knows what it feels like to be in recovery. How can they relate when they’ve never been in your shoes? Just being able to converse and interact with others in recovery is a huge benefit to your continuing sobriety.
You find your support in the 12-step groups that you were introduced to during treatment. And it’s important – critical, really – that you continue your participation in 12-step group meetings for a minimum of two years following treatment. The benefits to you are really almost impossible to overstate. Suffice it to say that you will find a kind of camaraderie with your 12-step sponsor and fellow group members that you won’t find anywhere else. These are individuals who are committed to helping each other in their continuing sobriety.
When you’re down, you know they’ve got your back. They’ll be available with a kind word, an understanding and non-judgmental ear, and ready and willing to support you in your time of need. This is especially true in early recovery, when cravings and doubts and the fear of relapse are most likely to occur.
The good news about getting stronger every day isn’t that you’ll immediately notice it. You may not. But over time, you will one day notice that you’re better able to deal with stresses and situations that used to cause you pain or threaten to derail your sobriety. You’re getting better at utilizing the tools and techniques that you learned during treatment and have picked up during your interaction with fellow 12-step group members.
Putting Your Life in Order
Gone now are the regret, dismay, discouragement and disappointment you felt during your darkest days of addiction. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have things to take care of that are a result of those bleak times. The benefit of being in recovery is that you are now better able to not only see what it is you need to do to repair or mend those situations, but you are better equipped to tackle the challenges.
Putting your life in order is an important blessing in recovery. Moving ahead with your life is an integral part of your continuing sobriety. That said, you may wonder how you get there. Sometimes, it’s difficult. You may need help. Use the resources available to you, whether that’s counseling that’s a part of your aftercare program or other counseling and help that you can get through federal, state or local resources. You may need job training or assistance obtaining funds to go continue or pursue a degree. Perhaps you need guidance on the best way to approach a new employer or a recommendation for a plan to break into a new field that’s of interest to you.
There may be some financial problems that you need to deal with. The cost of your treatment, financial obligations of the household, medical, educational or other expenses for you or other family members, legal costs, etc. may be items that are on your agenda for putting your life in order.
Now that you’re in recovery and are taking responsibility for your actions, you are in a position to begin to take the positive steps necessary to do what you can in this important area of your life.
And, it’s not all about money. It’s also about relationships that may have been strained to the point of breaking – or are beyond repair. Sometimes the best thing to do is to give that person who has rejected you (out of the pain that has been caused) the space he or she needs. You may need to let them go. But that doesn’t mean that you carry the weight of the load forever. Putting your life in order in this respect means that you make your amends by forgiving yourself for your words and actions that have caused so much pain – and move on. At some point, the relationship may be resurrected – if the other party initiates it. You can’t count on that, but it is a possibility. In any event, moving on with your life means that you are finally able to release the burdens of the past. They no longer have a hold on you.
Learning to Love Yourself and Others Again
Addiction carries a lot of self-destruction. Once you cast off your habit and resolve to be clean and sober, you gradually learn to believe in yourself again. This, too, takes time, and it’s different for everyone. There’s no set amount of months before you can say that you’re okay again, that you feel good about yourself, and that you’re a good person. You can say it, and it’s a good affirmation, but it takes time for you to believe it.
You should. In fact, believing in yourself and your intrinsic goodness is a huge benefit of being in recovery. Why is this? Without a belief in yourself, you cannot be open to give and receive love. Letting another person in requires trust, a belief that this person will see you for who you really are, and love you regardless of your past transgressions or station in life, how much money you make or what kind of things you own. It also means that you will be able to reach out to others – first, to help those in need, and then to just give freely of yourself with no thought of receiving anything in return. This is how true love begins.
Love of yourself leads to the ability to love others. It’s a reciprocal process and, in fact, no real feelings of love can occur between two people without this generosity of spirit. Even the bonds of friendship require trust and a willingness to give of yourself. Now that you are in recovery, you are in a great position to open yourself up to others. That’s something you never would have been able to entertain while you were struggling to get through the days of addiction.
Looking Forward to the Future
Now that you’re in recovery, there’s nothing holding you back from pursuing your dreams. Sure, it may take some time to get where you want to go, but creating a plan and working toward your goals gives you increasing self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem. It also means that you are the architect of your own destiny. You have learned perhaps the most important lesson of all – that you are not your addiction. Who you are is who you want to be. Your future is in your hands, to create and shape as you desire.
This isn’t pie in the sky, and it does involve a lot of determination and hard work. But you’ve already discovered that you have it in you. Having come through treatment and being in recovery, you’re learning new things about yourself each and every day. Tomorrow is full of hope and promise – two more blessings that you now have in recovery.
Are there more blessings that you can identify? There most certainly are, and they are unique to you. Muse about them for a bit, and give yourself kudos for all that you have already achieved in your recovery. Then, go out and embrace the new opportunities that will reveal themselves to you today, tomorrow, and all the days after that.