You can’t keep what you never find
One of the first aspects about recovery that opened my world up, was the similarities that the addiction created in very different lives. The template of alcoholism didn’t change much from one happy traveler to the next. The mantras of jails, institutions, and death, have proven more than truthful in my experiences, and the program reinforces its messaging with every event, every relapsed prisoner, or freshly dug grave, every friend from the meetings that disappears into some other aspect of recovery. It isn’t easy work, and the constant demands of practicing what you have learned, applying it, and making changes in your life is susceptible to the various gravities life avails us. Life is going to be heavy at times, it will be filled with carefree moments, and horrible events, things you can forget, and things that you simply cannot. It will offer you times to do some self inspections, and times when just getting through to tomorrow takes every last ounce of everything you have. It is a roller coaster, a yin and yang, hot and cold, and along the way it becomes easier to understand, recovery becomes the seat belt for the roller coaster, the round border of the yin and yang, and makes those hot’s and cold’s scalding, and numbing effects not so intolerable.
Trying to make sense of recovery though is like trying to define the logistics, trying to Google map your way through it, as if it controls you, when just the opposite is true. It is trying to focus the lens on what you had, while simultaneously trying to focus on what you have now. It is a constant recycling mechanism to overthinkers like myself, those trying to make sense of the senses, and sense of the world in one fell swoop. It is the intellectual butted up against the spiritual and existential. That trying to make sense of it has a way of rendering recovery into bits and pieces, which minimize the effects of the whole. But just like anything else it is those little bits that seem to get lost along the way too, and when they go missing they leave a scratch in the record that my needle inherently notices. A study from Yale university reinforces why the “One Day at a Time” practice works for alcoholics. Using brain imaging on people with AUD, (alcohol use disorder) at different stages of their recovery, they found that the disruptions to their decision making processes were lowered over time. In the study they found that people with AUD took longer to get back to a normalized brain function, and that the longer the abstinence the less disruption overall. That made perfect sense in hindsight, in the manner of which I have been shown, and discovered the way my head works. It makes sense in the way that a belief system was formed in my case, the reason why it was uncomfortable to try on at first. In this program of getting a life back from the unmanageable hopelessness, there is the whole part about what life is? What are the expectations you give yourself, as to what is expected of you? There’s no motivation to change at all unless there is something to change into? To change for? As I have said many times, our what-for’s are all incredibly diverse because our perceptions, and thus our lives, are equally diverse.
My story includes those slowly normalized brain functions, those empiric questions of self that arose from the empty bottles and self loathing. The questions of personality, and why I felt so utterly different? The outward behaviors and the self destructive habits. They were all there even after the serenity came, the blessings, and the touches of grace. They were all there when I repeatedly read the readings, and believed that I had accomplished a great deal of something/change/thinking when I had barely scratched the surface. Each one of those accomplishments though were vital, each small piece that got picked up along the way fit just where it was supposed to. There is always going to be adjustments to make, the deal was though, just as much as anything in recovery, is to be willing to do the smaller adjustments when they’re needed. Those small parts are important because they allow the bigger things to work better, easier, smoother. If, when all of that doesn’t happen, a manner of working through it to make it easier, better, and smoother… There are no mistakes in doing the work, there are just design options; That’s one of my brother’s woodworking sayings that applies here as well. My story also includes the gravities of life, the heaviness of physical health matters, the roller coasters of construction, and deconstructing, those pieces of self. The hot and cold of forgiveness, acceptance, and tolerance, that flip through the mind over time. Which mostly is aimed at not wholly accepting those very things towards myself, or others.
Just like the Yale study, it took time for my head to be able to process different aspects of life, different parts of the deconstruction, and recovery. The discovery process over the first few years were filled with all sorts of conflicting emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Elation and depression, self-consciousness and doubt, joy and inclusion. Effects which ebbed and flowed throughout the experience. Trusts built and crumbled, stories changed, and feelings known. The basic toolmaking processes that were born though were the foundations that I could, and did build from. The gradual understanding that I was not my higher power, the slow learning curve that showed me that although everything wasn’t my fault, it was my decision in many cases. The discovery of those triggers, and places that just don’t fit into anything anymore, and along with all of that a real knowledge that I could change in ways I never realized before. Recovery though is just like any other practice, religion, belief; It isn’t done by most constantly, it is simply not placed too far back on the shelves of thought to remember it’s there. So over the years, as I have applied sharper and sharper tools to life, applied what I had learned as much as I could, and grew from those very discoveries; I changed. My abilities to comprehend my nature, my nurture, and my self, has allowed me to see my history for what it was, my right now for what it is, and my tomorrows in ways I couldn’t ever imagined ten years ago. I didn’t figure out what life is though, but what I figured out better was, what life wasn’t.
I’ll be honest, after the sweeping effects of recovery on/in my life, they kind of slowed down. They didn’t capture my attention that much because I expected too much. The work was still being done, but the changes didn’t come the way I thought they would. The group dynamics changed as everyone was where they were along the way, some were losing interest, some were just beginning, some were thick with book work, and others the service side. The personalities had warmed the chairs, and the energies just didn’t come as often. All of the above was the thinking that I used because in all honesty, after I found sobriety, I still didn’t like the person I was… what I had allowed myself to become. I had more questions than the program is constructed to answer, and in realizing that, I graciously picked up the same tool as I was taught to use in the program – willingness. I was willing to look at my habits, my personality, and my emotions, in a different way. I came to find that my anxieties were sometimes arbitrary. That even with the best thinking other aspects of one’s nature can be more in charge than we know. I found that habits started long ago were still poignant in using everyday. The work involved isn’t easy, it isn’t even simple, but the answers are there to find if one is willing to look for them. All of the above allow a new appreciation and gratitude for all the things freely given to me along the way.
When I entered the rooms I was more than spiritually bankrupt, and definitely a part of an emotional kindergarten class. I was also unaware of who I was? That is an aspect of recovery that is not always spoken of. My life had been led one day to the next without thought of consequences for years. The self was more of a house of cards built of codependency’s, reactionary trauma responses, compensation manipulations, and societal habits. I was a pinball in the game of life, and my only playing style was hitting the flippers constantly… I lost a lot of quarters. Sure there was plenty of me in there, but that was controlled by the alcohol, or the constant play for more of said alcohol. So when recovery came, I was left with those things I started drinking to not have to think about. The mental health issues, the personality ones, the differences equations that always came up. All along the way utilizing the willingness to use that better thinking, because that is what my search has provided me, better thinking. That Yale study rings true, that along the way, the thinking gets better, less confusing, less cluttered. That allows a better brand of thinking to take its place, allows for the change that life sometimes doesn’t always give us time for. The program doesn’t talk about these issues outright, but it provides the necessary tools needed to begin a journey. One of which includes a grateful and changed author, with a better knowledge of self, of life, and with a pocket full of quarters.