For years I saddled myself with unrealistic expectations. Newly in recovery, I expected everything in my life to dramatically change the minute I was able to remain free from substances for more than five minutes. But as anyone who has struggled through the disease of addiction and subsequently found recovery can tell you – this simply isn’t the case. Recovery is a journey. It can be challenging. There are going to be times when we fall flat on our faces, where our worst tendencies as people will shine through. But what I’ve learned over the years, is that that’s completely, wholly, and totally acceptable. Recovery is more like small steps in the right direction on a daily basis, little victories over our former thinking patterns that we truly need to recognize and celebrate. Over time, albeit slowly, through the implementation of solid work in practical methods of spiritual healing, we can, and will, recover – and our relationships will too.
Several times in early recovery, my expectations were that my relationships would be fully restored with minimal effort on my part. I had the idea that simply not using drugs, physical sobriety, would be enough for my family and friends to forget my past transgressions and embrace my new life with open arms. And while of course they were overjoyed that I had begun my journey in abstinence and healing; that alone didn’t miraculously restore everything in my life in the way in which I’d imagined it would. It might seem silly looking back; but in my current state – in that moment – that’s what I believed. Never mind the fact that I had spent the past 12 years of my life lying, cheating, stealing, and generally wreaking havoc wherever I was at any given moment – under the direct influence of my addiction. While completely consumed by my disease – I acted out in a miserable way. I let people down consistently. I hurt the people that loved me the most; even if it was inadvertently, the pain was still there. It was unrealistic of me to think that everything would change overnight; that the instant gratification I had become so accustomed to in my addict life would somehow transpose over into my new reality.
But that just isn’t the way the cookie tends to crumble – which I soon came to realize. While I did reconnect with my family early on in some capacities – they kept their distance. They held their boundaries with me that helped enable my facilitation into a place of reason in the first place – “if it works, don’t fix it.” And I’m glad that they did! By holding firm with their principles, the onus was placed directly on me to demonstrate – through my actions, not my words – that healing could take place here. At that point in my life, my word meant little. After so many years of distrust and suspicion, cautious optimism was what I was met with. And while I felt slightly frustrated in those early days, I came to respect that position wholeheartedly. I could say anything I wanted; what truly spoke louder than my voice was the way I chose to behave; my actions.
I was able to see that the only person letting me down was myself. I was the one to blame. My unrealistic beliefs and expectations were the true cause of my disappointment and frustration. How could I expect others to trust me overnight? How was that a reasonable thing to ask someone who has been hurt directly for so many years by the way I was living?
While my parents practiced their cautious optimism and encouragement, I practiced recovery. I practiced internalizing the tenants and principles of a 12-step program. I hung around people who were succeeding in their own recovery and looked to them for guidance and insight. I relied heavily on the practice of prayer and meditation. I participated in therapeutic processes to take a hard look at the underlying reasons as to why I behaved the way I did, and made open-hearted attempts to be an honest, trustworthy, caring, compassionate, giving, and kind person. Not just saying the right things, but honestly demonstrating the change that was taking place within me, which eventually came naturally. This is not to say that I am, or was, some kind of saint: I struggle and falter with this new way of living all the time. But it was in the journey, the trying, the effort to make things right that made the difference and continues to do so.
Recovery is possible for anyone. Through a combination of attitude, experience, willingness, honesty, and my family’s participation in a healthy, meaningful way – it was possible for me. I am eternally grateful for this new lease on life. I am grateful that God placed me in that miserable position to begin with, so that a new life of fulfillment could be borne of it.
Let go of your expectations, let God be in control of the ship, and you will be amazed at the drastic change of attitude in your own life – the way you feel about yourself – and the way you feel about the people around you. Don’t let yourself get hung up on the way others have failed you or let you down. Sometimes we just have to lose, to surrender, to stumble, to accomplish that which we wish to actualize in our lives. Sometimes falling down is the best thing that could ever happen to us. I know it was for me; it enabled me to see the error of my ways, the unrealistic expectations I had for everything in my life, and the true beginning of a new path.
Sean – In Recovery
You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org