Recovery gives us the ability and skills to deal with the “normal” issues we face in life: loss of loved ones, loss of relationships, empty nesting, career changes, physical impairment, and grieving. Recovery is a process not an event. Life is a continuum of ever-deepening circles. Put those two ideas together and we begin to understand what growing old sober might look like.
In life, discovery often precedes recovery. You wake up one morning and realize, “Oh, that’s what that’s all about. We live life forward and understand it backwards. Recovery goes through stages, even as life does. In the beginning, we have an early awareness and acknowledgment about what life might be like clean and sober. We go through periods of incubation, consideration, where we have to ponder “what does that mean?” This leads to activity and action where we begin to make changes in our life.
Rehabilitation happens where we see changes in our attitudes, values and life style. Active recovery occurs somewhere down the road, over time. It’s said we spend the first five years of recovery trying to find our marbles and then the rest of our life trying to figure out what to do with them. As we gain sobriety and age as well, we face profound life changes which can become triggers to relapse if not addressed.
Often we climb the ladder of success only to find out the ladder was against the wrong building. We ask ourselves “Is that all there is?” What we sought in our younger years may no longer provide us the same sense of meaning and purpose. The power, possession, prestige, privileges, and perks we sought in our early years can become meaningless now as we age.
As we age, we face profound questions about dealing with aging parents, raising a family, facing retirement, asking ourselves “will there be enough” to sustain us through life. Our fears can overwhelm us. These questions, if left answered, can lead to relapse. Life is a journey of transformation, from success to significance. If you do not transform your pain, you transmit it. You take it out on yourself through abuse. Being in the presence of changed people changes us. And love will always transform us.
In recovery, we say, ‘stick with winners’, transformed people. Recovery is always about letting go. Success has virtually nothing to teach you in life’s second half. We learn more about life from what we’ve had to let go of vs. what we retain. Addicts do not let go of things easily. They want to hold on to them as long as possible, which causes them suffering and pain.
Recovery is about ‘who am I?’ ‘What’s life about?’ ‘What else is there?’ He who has a “why” in life can live with any “how.” You cannot do all of your homework at the end. The journey of transformation begins early in sobriety. Recovery means actively addressing these profound existential issues in life.
The road of life is rarely a straight journey. It is filled with many unexpected twists and turns in the road. The road to recovery is also filled with many changes. Combine life’s changes with the changes that happen in recovery, we face important and interesting challenges. The good news: recovery happens. Sobriety is possible.