. . . here is my point – you are about the same age as I was when I went back to school, only you have a good GPA and mine was abysmal . . . You are obviously an intelligent, articulate, and passionate young woman about your future and there is no reason you cannot achieve your career goals. If anyone tells you otherwise, the term for that person is a “dream stealer” or “dream killer” and they need to be ignored.
– from my email to a student advisee
A big difference for me in recovery is being active in my life versus passively accepting decisions made about my life by others. I see this in several ways:
- by being in a state of perpetual numbness from alcohol and drugs, I abstained from making decisions about my life, except the decision not to decide. Whether in relationships, careers, or other life decisions, I focused primarily on my need to escape decision-making and accountability.
- When opportunities arose or decisions needed to be made, I was willing to settle for less, largely from my deep-seated feeling that I was not worthy and deserved nothing better.
- The real flip-side to the above is my grandiosity about deserving nothing better. I had a whole shopping list of grievances to explain why I was who I was and if you only knew it all. . . and tomorrow, my true potential would come to the fore. That logic reminds me of a large outdoor sign painted on the wall of a bar here in Memphis “Tomorrow, hamburgers and beer free all day.”
In recovery, we learn to become active agents in our lives:
- In recovery, for the very first time, I thought about issues from the perspective of what do I really believe? what is truly the right thing to do in this situation? However, I remain amazed at how easy it is to slip into self-serving logic in terms of what is really in it for me.
- When I applied for the job I now hold, and the one before that, I was wholly confident that I would be the successful applicant. The total skill set, experience, and vision I brought to the table was exactly what the jobs required. I knew that truth as did the search committee for the positions. There was little self-doubt.
- I have come to experience a greater balance in appreciating my past, present, and future. I have come to understand how my shopping list of grievances from the past can actually be used as assets in the present and future. I thoroughly enjoy that I can stand in front of a classroom of students, and tell about my 0.7 GPA during my first try at college, but that there is redemption for all, and I ended up my graduate studies with a 4.0 GPA. That revelation always brings at least a couple of students to my office to discuss their own need for academic redemption where I can share my experience, strength, and hope. Today, I have learned to act on my potential.
So . . . in the best Dana Carvey Church Lady voice one might respond, “Well isn’t that special.” But here is the point. In my pre-recovery days, I made some good choices, I did some good things, I was occasionally responsible. In recovery, I can and do make bad choices, act in self-serving ways, and shirk responsibility. But the difference is that in recovery, I know that I have a choice to live into the solution and can take action in that direction and not dwelling in the problem enabled by my addictions. Knowing that I have a choice today in how I act out my life makes all the difference.