Recovery lessons are tough to learn. Since I've been working on these lessons for two decades, I have had some time to think about recovery, and what I've learned about myself. Here's what recovery work revealed about me that I didn't know at 21, or even 30.
Recovery Lessons I'm Glad I learned
1. I’m Tough As Nails
Not in the fake, exterior, "no one can hurt me" way. I no longer get rattled by little things. I rarely get rattled by big things. I earned my thick skin by learning how not to take things too personally. I also experienced “the worst” and survived. More than once. Now I know I can survive sober and dignified no matter what comes my way. FYI, there's no alternative to sober reference.
2. I Had The Grit To Rebuild My Self-Esteem, And It’s Something Money Can’t Buy
I no longer care if you like me, or my work. If it makes me happy, that’s all that matters. That’s not to say I turn a blind eye to constructive criticism, or conduct myself in an unbecoming fashion. It only means, I won’t divert from my purpose just because someone doesn’t like it, or me.
3. I Have Peace Of Mind
Things are pretty clear at 40, and that clarity has given me peace of mind. When I felt insane because I didn’t know how to manage my emotions, I suffered. When I fought with loved ones because I didn’t know how to maintain healthy relationships, I suffered. When I struggled with romance, finance, and food, I suffered. Gaining the information, tools, and guidelines I needed to understand these vital areas of life changed everything. I don’t suffer anymore. That also means I don’t have to make other people suffer anymore.
4. Compare Equals Despair And It’s Not For Me
My life experience is my own. No one who hasn’t lived it will understand it, and to compare my life to other people’s would be an exercise in insanity. Instead of looking around and wondering why my life doesn’t look like other people’s, I’ve come to the safe practice of only monitoring my progress. If I continually move in the right direction, I’m all good.
5. Caring For Another Creature Has Been Essential For My Soul Development
I’m not a parent, but I am a dog-mom. I had a mentor who used to tell me dogs open your heart chakra. I agree. I have a dog who’s needed a lot of medical care. Rushing a paralyzed puppy to the ER at 3 am, several times, created a new level of responsibility in me for which I’m grateful. Caring for him has also helped me see how to care for myself. He’s never missed a walk, meal, dog park trip, play date or vet appointment. If I can show up for him like that, I can show up for myself like that.
The moral of the story is, while this may sound like it’s too much work, like it’ll take too long, and the pain along the way will make it impossible to get through—it wasn’t. I’m proud of what I did. I’m proud of who I’ve become: reliable, responsible, accountable for my actions, hard-working, disciplined, healthy eater, fit, self-supporting… I guess it’s like any other major endeavor one takes on, like starting a family or training for a marathon. There are days you jump out of bed and want to take it all on, and there are days you just don’t feel like it. But, once you finish that marathon or see your child, or puppy, run around, would you ever consider changing your decision? I wouldn't.