When I first came into recovery, my only goal was to figure out a way to stop the behaviors that were destroying my life. I wasn’t interested in a “spiritual awakening” or even in serenity. I just knew I had to quit acting out. But as I walked the path laid out in the twelve steps, I began to see some qualities in my life that I had not seen much of before. These gifts have given me a purpose and a joy that I had not experienced before.
I’m no therapist (“although I do play one on TV”), but I’m pretty sure that codependency played a big part in my addiction. I could only be happy if everyone around me was happy. I thought that my own needs and feelings didn’t matter as long as everyone else felt OK. This drove a lot of resentment and entitlement – which turned into acting out. I also tended to blend in with the crowd around me because I wasn’t sure who I was. But as I walked through the twelve steps with my sponsor, I gradually began to see my own identity. I recognized that my needs and feelings do matter and it is OK for me to have both. And I began to be my own person who is not as easily swayed by the opinions and behaviors of people around me.
One of my favorite tools in my recovery toolbox is gratitude. Even though resentments are not what they used to be (see “Identity” above), they still creep in from time to time. And when they do, I try to remember the direction of my sponsor – “make a gratitude list”. Writing down the things I am thankful for is a great way to combat resentments. Gratitude also helps when I start to focus on the things I don’t have. I used to think that I could only be happy if I had the perfect relationship, the perfect family, the perfect job, or the perfect vacation. Gratitude has taught me to recognize the good in what I have and to allow that goodness to bring me joy.
Attending meetings and working the twelve steps is a constant reminder to take recovery (and life!) one day at a time – and really, one moment at a time. When I dwell on the resentments and shame of the past, I am not present in the moment. And when I dwell on the fears and fantasies of the future, I am not present in the moment. But if I take life one day at a time and am fully present with the world around me, I can find serenity. I have heard it said that God is not found in the past or the future – God is only found in the now. Being present helps me stay off my phone and see what’s happening right in front of me. Being present relieves me of shame and resentment of the past. Being present takes away fear of what may come and fantasy about something I want. And being present helps me to connect with the people around me.
Recovery to me is about finding new ways to connect with people and with God. It helps me to repair relationships that have been damaged by my actions. It rids me of my old habits of objectifying people. It gives me the humility to recognize when I need help and to ask for it. It shows me new ways to help others walk the same path that I am on. It allows me to be fully present with those around me and appreciate the good in them. My relationships are better thanks to this program.
Life is Good
Noticing these gifts begin to appear in my life, I initially considered them by-products of working the twelve steps. But now I realize that peace, joy, and sobriety all come when I practice these gifts and cultivate these attitudes every day. Knowing who I am and gratefully engaging with the world around me is what recovery looks like to me. When Jesus spoke of “abundant life”, I think this is what he was talking about. I don’t practice these attitudes anything close to perfectly, but when I lean into identity, gratitude, presence, and connection, life is pretty darn good!
– A grateful member of the Awaken community
Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. If you want to know more about Awaken or our resources, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!