A New Way of Life: We Can Recover
By: Summer Cunningham
“The amount of shame, loneliness, and despair experienced by an addict is an unexplainable feeling. It becomes a way of life- a life I would not wish upon my worst enemy. After years of suffering, I longed for another way to live. But how do I get to that place? I just wanted the pain to stop.”
Happiness didn’t seem possible for me anymore, much less living a life of recovery. I met a woman with 27 years and she told me her story. She told me what happened, what it was like, and what it’s like now…and I was carried to a new way of life.
We Are All Recovering from Something,
The Question is: Are You Ready for a Change?
Hi, I am and I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic/addict. We have heard this statement many times and probably in many different ways. But what does it mean to be a person that is ‘recovering’? The Merriam-Webster definition of recovering is: being in the process of overcoming a disorder of short-coming. I like this definition because it is broad and to the point. But why would I be okay with admitting or owning that fact that I have a disorder, or a short-coming? I just want to be normal. This is something I hear all the time in the field of psychology and counseling. This word ‘normal’ and the desire to be it. But what does it mean? For me, I think it was the desire for my achievements and good character to stand out but doing anything to for the darker parts of me to blend in. Shove it down- don’t let anyone see it and maybe it will go away. We all want to be accepted, so if I have a disorder or a short-coming, people will think something is wrong with me.
My personal experience sounds a lot like the ones who came before me. We may have different back stories, but the thoughts we have had and the emotions we have experienced are almost identical. I realized this when I met a woman with 27 years in recovery. She freely shared her experience of recovery from alcohol and bulimia. She talked about some of the things she went through- expressing the pain and despair that she has felt. The shame, guilt, and loneliness that ran her life for years. It was at this very moment in my life, while this woman was talking, that I felt a wave of physical relief. I had spent nearly a decade of my life trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
- Why do I feel different from other people?
- I feel empty inside.
- Why can’t I just be normal like my friends?
- Something is missing.
- Why do I care so much what people think about me?
- I feel so alone, no one feels like I do.
- I will never be happy.
These are thoughts I began having at a young age. I was relatively good at hiding it for quite some time, until I began seeking relief by using substances to try and fill that hole. Eventually I got to a very dark place. If there is one thing I know, when you feel that bad, you will do just about anything to feel better. And I wasn’t only hurting myself, but I was hurting my family and friends as well.
I needed a solution.
When I say, I felt physical relief when I heard this woman’s story, it was because for the first time, I didn’t feel like I was alone! For the first time, there was hope for recovery.
What is the Recipe?
Recovery to me is how we overcome. The key word being ‘WE’ overcome. After years of feeling so isolated, the idea of ‘we’ sounded comforting. In my experience, we need other people to help us recover- from whatever it is we are trying to recover from. We need a support system- people that love us, that understand, and that will hold us accountable if necessary. One of the greatest gifts of recovery is my connection with the people around me.
It is unlike anything I had ever felt before and it is genuine.
There are many different paths to recovery. But one thing I have experienced is that even though each path is presented differently, they all have a similar recipe. How do I feel better?
- We have to be willing to change
- We need other people
- We need to believe in something greater than ourselves
- Begin to trust that things will always work out
- We have to clean out the past before we can let it go
- We try to hurt anyone
- If we have hurt anyone, be willing to apologize
- Build self-esteem by doing estimable acts
- We try to help others whenever we can