As I mark my third year of sobriety, I've had time to reflect on my recovery and advancement. My strong belief is that “healthy” recovery takes consistency and balance, and I have stayed the course to validate that. But in reality, it also takes traction and growth.
I’ve pulled guys out of crack houses, had guns pulled on me, sat in hotel rooms where there were three of us and only two alive, all in the hopes of getting guys back on track and engaged in the program of recovery.
I work equally hard at what I see are the two elements that will be consistent for the remainder of my recovery/life: Spiritual growth and deconstruction of ego. What that actually translates into and how it plays “real” in my life, will most assuredly be fluid.
Three years ago I traded in words like "strategic planning," R.O.I." and "change management" for terms like "God consciousness," "the art of acquiescence," "staying in the now." Today I am working to combine them in a career pursuit that will match my skill sets with my passion/purpose. That is recovery growth for me, something paramount for my serenity.
Year three has had its unforeseen moments too. I thought crack houses, guns, shady motels and drug deaths were things of my past, and yet all of these have been part of my life throughout the year. Working in the recovery industry on the front line, I’ve pulled guys out of crack houses, had guns pulled on me, sat in hotel rooms where there were three of us and only two alive, all in the hopes of getting guys back on track and engaged in the program of recovery.
None of this is recommended, but you aren’t given a handbook when entering the life of sobriety. I take that back — you really are — it’s called the Big Book of AA, and within it are amazing common sense directions on a design for living. If you are honest and willing, the book will change your life.
The details and fine print are your path to fill in. When you work in the recovery field as I have, along with sponsoring scores of young guys, helping navigate their futures, all things possible become common daily opportunities and challenges.
Opportunity vs. obligation
I can't let up on my spiritual growth program of action but there have been changes, and my life snow-globe has been shaken up-hard. Growth seems to be the activity of the year in spirituality, career, and relationship. As I try to remain humble and teachable, I read and listen and test theories, I work on expanding my spiritual knowledge through education, practice, and working with others.
For a host of reasons my personal life has been on hold for over eight years, and because of recovery, my self-belief that I am worthy, capable, up to the challenge of having a personal life finally hit me in year three.
So much of my life has been transformed into a daily giving-back routine, not in a way that is taxing, but in a way that actually fills my heart and self-respect. When I see my daily life as the opportunity it is versus the obligation it could be viewed as, so much is different. Growth by definition means “event causing change,” and whether that shift is organic or divine-timing always plays a role.
Having led a life in corporate America for most of my 50 years, this new pace and career path has had its immeasurable moments and challenges. My itch for traction there sends me searching for new venues to pursue my passion. Recovery brought purpose back into my life, and now I am working on elevating that challenge.
For a host of reasons my personal life has been on hold for over eight years, and because of recovery, my self-belief that I am worthy, capable, up to the challenge of having a personal life finally hit me in year three. Those are nice words, but actual application of that, which means pursuit and dating, are rusty and daunting, but worthwhile for a well-rounded life. To visualize my new pursuit, imagine my surprise when I found out guys don’t wear Members Only jackets anymore.
To have the obsession to use a drug or drink “removed” is the most remarkable of miracles that can happen in recovery, but it does require daily effort, and no matter the stack of chips you may have acquired you can’t let your forgetter bring “self” back to the forefront. I made an agreement to be willing to go to any lengths when I signed up for this design for living.
I have to be a recovery boxer, keeping a "spiritual growth" right hook ready at all times, and my ‘giving back’ left jab constant. Sounds daunting to some, but the life rewards far outpace the constant footwork.
The spiritual gym
I don’t know either Corey Monteith or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but in concept I do. There is not a true addict alive who can’t relate to their pain, their confusion, and self-debates. Having heroin and suboxone (the medication some use to help get off that drug) in the same room, says it all — it’s the angel and the devil on your shoulder playing tug of war with your life. As I’ve seen personally, and as those two gentlemen represent, this is a life or death disease that cares not who you are. Truly, it has to be respected as such, or else the worst can and often does happen. That is why I go to the spiritual gym daily.
Having heroin and suboxone (the medication some use to help get off that drug) in the same room, says it all — it’s the angel and the devil on your shoulder playing tug of war with your life.
So much of recovery revolves around meetings, and my favorite meeting of the week focuses on steps 10-12 of the AA program. Some call these the maintenance steps. I agree maintenance is needed in my program, but so is growth and through these daily activities, I am able to challenge myself to attain that. Some days I encounter great success and others straight-out failure. But the cool thing is that’s OK, I’m human and allowed to be that, while staying clear on the overall objective — love and service.
These two simple words and actions capture the essence of recovery for me. The term and action of substitute addiction is extremely common in early recovery —my replacement for the real thing evokes the '80s child in me, and recalls punk artist Grace Jones, who sang "Love is the Drug." This is fix I seek. It is my new mantra.
So I march on; what does the future hold? I don’t know or need to know, I pay homage to this upcoming fourth year. As for its revelations, I can’t wait, because I’ll have 365 days to kick around what it all means — one day at a time!
Because the Twelve Step philosophy is to preserve anonymity, we have not published Ted M.'s full name. If you have questions about the subject, he can be reached at tjmann14yahoo.com.