Learning from the Past

cover copySome of the obvious lessons gained from the past are very clear in recovery.  If I drink, I will get drunk.  There is really no question about that.  I have tried playing that game from every angle possible and I end up losing every time.  Actively engaging in some other activities also produce very predictable results – like resentments and anger.  If I live into them, then I am headed down a path to relapse.  Although less in the forefront of my mind than not picking up the first drink, I enjoy that I have learned the early warning signs such behaviors produce.  I know that if I choose to dwell in anger or resentment, no good will come.

But there are more subtle issues as well that are obstructions to living fully into recovery.  One such issue is procrastination.  I know full well that putting off till tomorrow what I should be doing today only causes more stress, anxiety, missed opportunities, to name but a few results.  Procrastination is like active addiction because I just become a passive agent in life.  This passivity is much like being anesthetized with alcohol, drugs, or food.  I do not take responsibility for my life but let other people and circumstances dictate the terms of how I exist.

I appreciate that these more subtle issues will always be with me.  Addressing these behaviors is truly a life-long process and not a singular event.  In recovery we speak of progress not perfection.

When I first got sober I just wanted to stop the self-loathing, blacking out – what I considered the big issues.  I am grateful that I am given the awareness and opportunity to deal with so much more in traveling the road of recovery.

Relapse is a Process Not an Event

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In last night’s meeting relapse was the topic.  A common comment in relapse discussions is that the further one is away from their last drink, the less they remember the results of that drink and thus are more prone to relapse.  This statement is at odds with my experience in recovery.  To me there is a certain self-fulfilling prophecy about this idea.

Over the years, I have often heard folks say that the natural state of the alcoholic is to use alcohol as a way to escape living life on life’s terms, thus the return to the bottle and relapse.

Although I am a recovering alcoholic, I am also a human being.  The natural state of humans, at least in the ideal, is to live productive and meaningful lives.  I am not interested in a single drink in a social situation.  Rather, my use of alcohol is to escape living, and in fact is a slow act of suicide.  Everything about my existence today – emotionally, spiritually, and physically is incompatible with my use of alcohol.  Simply put, were I to choose to use mind altering drugs today, I would immediately lose my family, my career, my health, my serenity, along with my sobriety, choosing to simply exist as a biological organism waiting to die.

What keeps me sober today is that I do truly enjoy living life on life’s terms – the good and the bad.  A gift of recovery is knowing that my choice to drink alcohol would be the final stage or the ultimate statement in a relapse process.  For me the relapse process begins when I develop resentments, am angry, choose to avoid taking responsibility for my own actions, or simply begin behaving in a way that is not consistent with my true self.  I am grateful for the last number of years that relapse process has never reached the final stage where I choose to pick up the bottle.  Although I realize that I am sober just one day at a time, I am now blessed with over 10,000 days of experience that demonstrates living into my true self is incompatible with drinking alcohol.  That commitment and desire to live into true self is what keeps me from reaching the final stage in a relapse process.