A few weeks ago, I met a new friend at church. We chatted about how old our kids are and where they go to school, the usual new friend fodder. Then she asked me why we decided to go to our church. It’s a typical question, and I could have said: location, killer band, free donuts, great pastor. The truth, however, is complicated, and here’s what it reveals about me.
Hi I’m Pam And…
Those in recovery know the intro well. I found my church because it has a Celebrate Recovery meeting every Monday night. It’s a faith-based 12-Step program. For three years now, I’ve been in recovery for my codependency.
There’s no easy way to divulge how intertwined recovery is in my life. I have a sponsor. I go to meetings every week. The good books I’m reading now are Courage To Change and Codependents Guide To 12 Steps by Melody Beattie. In my free-time, I like to journal about past traumas and think of funny recovery memes. At least once an hour a slogan, part of the Serenity Prayer, or one of the 12 steps creeps into my conversation. I don’t think this will ever change, and it’s such a part of my life, that I don’t even realize it.
So when my new friend asked, “Why this church?” My honest immediate answer was, “They had a Celebrate Recovery meeting.” And I left it at that. A few minutes later, it dawned on me that I didn’t explain anything. She might think I am a recovering (heroin, meth, cocaine, porn, gambling) “addict”. Does it matter? It shouldn’t, but sometimes it does.
Is Recovery A Liability?
Recovery of any type over any compulsion, trauma, or addiction should be applauded. Period. But is it?
Earlier this week, Dax Shepard celebrated 14 years of sobriety, and we couldn’t be happier for him. His adorable wife Kristen Bell posted the sweetest Instagram message, and it’s so amazing to see an entire family reaping the rewards of recovery. He’s wildly successful and she’s incredibly talented. He has 14 years, which is significant, but do you think when people cast him for parts they make a few extra calls just to be sure he’s still solid?
Let’s consider someone who isn’t famous, like me. I’ve worked at Reach Out Recovery for two years. I love my job here, and have no plans of leaving, but if I ever do, will future employers think twice? Of course it will come up based on my resume. “What’s Reach Out Recovery?” “How did you get involved with that…?”
Recovery Is Really An Asset
Before recovery, I was an emotional wreck. On more than one occasion, I left each job early sobbing hysterically. I took things personally. I was over-responsible and continually sought new job responsibilities. I missed work to rescue friends and families from various emergencies, and I had no concept of boundaries. I was secretly a liability.
After three years of recovery, I am a much better employee. I am a better friend, a kinder wife, and a much healthier Mom. My son has the freedom to make all kinds of mistakes. (Thanks to a living amends I make to him daily.) And I’m only three years in. I still have so much to learn.
We Still Have Work To Do
The stigma about addiction and recovery still exists. Conversations like the one I had start and abruptly stop every day. Changing the mindset of millions will take the work of millions.
Let’s make a concentrated effort to change the vast tide. Let’s try little by little to tell more of our story. Can we work recovery into the conversation every now and then? Can we share how grateful we are that we aren’t like we used to be? Or maybe we could throw out a slogan in the break room when the opportunity presents. Or maybe, we’ll just tell the truth a little more often.