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This week I offer a first-person annotated account about courage. No scientific or academic research can give the term proper meaning as a factor in choosing to begin the process of recovery. I have permission from the author to share it with you, I am grateful for her generosity and encouragement to share her story with you.
Am I brave enough to live my own reality? Do I have the strength to step outside the social norm and a stifling societal expectancy that doesn’t honor me, and allow myself to become who I really am? These questions have become the bedrock on which I make decisions these days. Yes I can make real, healthy, informed decisions about my life. Who knew that was possible? The first time I had to ask myself those uncomfortable questions, albeit indirectly, was when I had a sneaky suspicion I might in fact have some issues with chemical substances.
The realization that chemicals were pretty much controlling me had settled into my grey matter quite awhile before I’d allowed it to become a reality for me. It had wormed its way in there at some point, without my knowing and it continued to poke my brain relentlessly with taser-like precision until it could no longer be ignored. “You’re a drunk Nic. Nickyyyyyyy YOU’RE A DRUNK.” I’d try and hush the nagging voice by putting all I had into looking like a normal, functional person, only to fall flat on my face over and over again.
If I was going to get well I knew I would have to label myself with an illness that most people viewed as a moral failing. Detaching myself from everything I knew and learning to live life in technicolor rawness without chemicals was a really big deal for me. I knew already how vulnerable I was, but has anyone noticed how when you’re already vulnerable people want to attack you more instead of help you? Well that’s what happened to me. Yes I had a real rough time during my active days, but I can tell you I’ve had an equally tough time in recovery. Life doesn’t stop happening to you and at the beginning it may seem like chemical free life is a pile of shit that just keeps getting higher. But you know what happens then? You start to actually make decisions and have opinions instead of following the rules that you have despised all your life. You see that outside that box you’ve been crouched in for years or maybe decades, there are a million other ways to live life and there are billions of other people doing it their own way.
My pre-sobriety reality was formed by the beliefs that were passed down by generations of people who influenced my life. Parents, teachers, religion and even the toxic sludge coming out of our televisions all shaped my perception of the world. The truth is I hated what had been passed down and what had soaked into my brain leaving it saturated with someone else’s ideology. I hated it because most of it was developed out of fear and an attainment of power. Alcohol and drugs made it so easy to dampen the frustration and anger at having to live this way. I didn’t know how to break free of dominance, so instead I medicated…a lot!
The fact of the matter is that not everyone’s idea of success is the same. Of course we all need a way to earn so we can survive, but no amount of money or power could make up for what I have gained from being clean and sober. Now as a sober woman being true to myself is as important as not picking up that first drink or drug. I have self respect and dignity. I realize that I am intelligent and strong and powerful in my own right and nobody or nothing defines who I am.
So when you hear about gaining a “Life beyond your wildest dreams” you better believe that’s what you will get. And not only that but your idea of a life beyond your wildest dreams will change; that I can guarantee you that. Of course staying clean and actually doing some work on your program is essential for that to happen. I never expected for my world to change like it has just because I put down mind altering chemicals. Nor did I realize how much courage is needed to remain clean and sober and to never give up. But it is attainable for everyone.
True freedom feels really good.