By Sean Humphrey, In Recovery
When I started this journey of recovery from active addiction, I made a solemn oath to myself that regardless of how much I did not want to put in the effort, I would resolutely take any suggestion people who had come before me, had for me. I wanted to legitimately say that I tried to do whatever it took to maintain a happy, healthy, and clean life. I didn’t always enjoy 12-step meetings. I didn’t think therapy held much water either. I didn’t understand how to be emotionally vulnerable and share my feelings with my peers. I had a great deal of trouble being honest, especially with myself. I was in such a hopeless state of bodily and mental dysfunction though, that I knew drastic measures had to be taken. So I went along with it.
This is what we mean when we talk about “rock bottom”: it’s getting to the point where any option, despite how much we might dislike it, is better than our current situation. When someone suggested a 30-day treatment program, I gave my consent and was admitted. When my therapist, in said program, suggested a long-term treatment program following the 30-day program, I signed up. When people suggested I go to a 12-step meeting every day, share what I was going through, and get a sponsor, I proceeded to do exactly that. When my sponsor told me to, fearlessly and thoroughly, work the 12-step program – I dove in head first! I was empowered to accomplish all of these things simply because I was a shattered hull of a person. I had nowhere to turn. Subsequently, as a result of all these measures, the quality of my life dramatically improved rapidly. My worst moment in life, broken, beat down, physically and emotionally sick, led me to my defining moments of spiritual and emotional growth. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that the most important factor in all of this was simply willingness to try something different and taking contrary action. The content of what I did, while extremely helpful, was secondary to the act of doing it.
If you are finding yourself spiritually and emotionally sick over someone else, whether it is a child, spouse, partner, or even a friend, take a look at what you’re willing to try differently. Take a look at the content of your actions. Are you engaging in unhealthy, enabling behaviors with poor boundaries? Are you attempting to swoop in and rescue your loved one from their circumstances, caused by their own sick choices? Are you cajoling, pleading, begging, bribing, or involving yourself unnecessarily in the minutiae of other people’s drama? If so, how are all of those working out for you? Chances are these actions will continue to feel like a desperate slog through the quicksand of codependency. These behaviors will leave you empty and hopeless. The good news is, when you’ve found yourself beaten down time and time again, my hope will be that you’ll find yourself in the very spot I so blessedly found myself; willingness and open-mindedness to suggestion and contrary action. I define contrary actions simply as engaging in new behaviors that aren’t intuitive or customary for you, normally. This is where PAL, support, and therapy come in. WE need a helping hand to guide us, to make suggestions, to provide hope and real empirical evidence that these practices work. Finding yourself at the bottom of the barrel could be the best day of your life if you’re willing to reach out a hand and try something different. In my case, it was getting honest with myself, working through 12-step, being open with my fellows, seeking a spiritual relationship with God, seeing a psychiatrist/psychologist regarding my mental health, maintaining a high level of physical fitness/nutrition, and taking a hard look at my ingrained patterns of negative thinking/behavior.
I cannot stress to you enough – I didn’t intuitively want to take these steps! I needed outside counsel, support, and love. I needed someone to show me that recovery was possible, that a fulfilling and healthy life was available to me. At the end of the day, what mattered most was that I took the suggestions that others had for me. Whether from professionals, support groups, or peers in recovery – they had the insight and direction I so desperately needed.
I can see a direct parallel between my own personal journey of recovery and that of the loved one struggling with an addict. It’s the same general principle of contrary action. Cutting them off financially, not bailing them out from jail, not letting them return home after a period of treatment, not allowing them to emotionally manipulate you endlessly, even as far as completely breaking off contact for the time being are all hard pills to swallow. You may not want to set a firm boundary with your son or daughter, you may not feel in your heart and soul that it is the “right” thing to do, but if I told you trying something different could help save their life then what would you be willing to do? I firmly believe anyone can find recovery. I firmly believe families can be restored. The only thing I will guarantee is that if you continue to try what has consistently failed in the past, you’ll persistently experience the same disappointing results. My hope and prayer today is that we might take a hard look at our ingrained behaviors, look to those who have been through these dire circumstances before us, and what contrary action has done for them, and try something different. I misspoke before. I’ll guarantee this as well. Your life will change, regardless if the lives of others don’t. God bless.