Once abstinent from drugs and alcohol, a recovering person will still have problems and struggles. We still continue to learn about ourselves with each year. A changed life brings changed issues. However, the good news is that we are also able to see the things that happen to us with just a tiny bit more perspective. By the time we reach double-digit recovery most of us have had at least one or two experiences of something we were sure wasn’t supposed to happen. Nonetheless, we have the experience of finding that these events often turn out to be spiritual lessons, or stepping-stones, to something really wonderful happening in our lives.
Most people with long-term sobriety discover that the 12 steps and a program of recovery are part of a good life but that even these do not protect us from illness, job troubles, problems with kids or family, all manner of loss, and ‘outside issues’. Real life happens to us. In fact life can hit harder, simply because we are older, we do keep aging as our recovery continues. That’s something many of us had not anticipated. That is a kind of denial common to most people in and out of the rooms. We also know that ceasing to numb ourselves with the regular practice of many of our character defects, leaves us a bit more raw so we have to use recovery tools more diligently.
What people in long term recovery do have, however, is a set of skills, a richness of sober experience, to fall back on. We are able to recognize patterns in our lives; we are able to cut through our defenses sooner; and we learn not to fight the inevitable. In some ways life gets easier but in other ways it gets harder. If we have learned in recovery to face reality and accept what life brings sooner, we are then able to surrender when we see the wall coming – instead of waiting, as we did in the past – to slam into it. Long term recovery provides us a good set of tools and we keep on building.