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 me 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 a while 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 sh.. 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.
When people enter treatment for drug addiction, they do so at their lowest point. While it may not be at their “rock bottom” moment, it nevertheless comes at a time where their addiction has completely taken over their life. Seeking drug treatment may be seen by some as a decision made in a moment of complete weakness, it actually signals a moment of true courage. The recognition that the addict has the courage within to take the first steps in overcoming their addiction can provide the motivation they need to make meaningful changes in their life.
To many people, courage means an absence of fear. This assessment of courage is not entirely correct—especially when it comes to recovery. In reality, courage is the ability to move forward despite the fears and obstacles that lay in wait. When you think about it, the newly recovering person has a lot of fears. While they realize that treatment will help them get the tools, they need to overcome addiction and become healthy and happy, there is a lot on their mind. The thought of losing friends and pursuing a new way of life can create an overwhelming sense of anxiety.
Courage is defined by the way a person responds to those fears. Those in recovery may feel overwhelmed at the changes they must make—and that is OK. Additionally, the newly recovering addict will realize they don’t have to face those fears alone. They have friends, family, staff and their peers to lean on and help them to face those fears in a healthy and positive way.
The Different Facets of Courage
Like many traits, courage can be understood on a basic level yet get treated as an abstract concept Courage isn’t just “one” thing; it is comprised of several facets that intertwine. The first facet of courage is honesty. Being honest is facing the reality of addiction as it is. Being honest is admitting that addiction had taken control of one’s life and the work that must be done in order to repair the damage that was done because of one’s addiction.
The second trait is bravery. In terms of recovery, bravery refers to the newly recovering addict standing up for what is right. However, doing what is right may result in the loss of friendship and even family. This may also include missing work or school in order get clean and sober. The third and final trait is perseverance. Perseverance refers to the ability to move forward in the face of adversity. The recovery journey isn’t easy, and those new in recovery must learn to handle disappointment and setbacks in a healthy manner.
Ways to Build Courage
For those who need to build courage while recovering from addiction, there are numerous things they can do on a daily basis. First and foremost, recovering addicts need to identify what they are afraid of. Once those things are identified, they can work towards overcoming those fears with the help of treatment staff, family, friends, and peers in recovery. Another way to build courage in recovery is to simply speak from the heart. Stay what is felt and speak to how it impacts life.
Additionally, building courage means that no matter the outcome of a moment or event it was meant to happen. Accept it, learn from it and move on. Most importantly, courage is having the ability to admit wrongdoing. Being open, transparent and honest when wrong is done helps build courage and creates opportunities for growth.
When a loved one struggles with addiction, they often feel beat down, defeated and without hope.