When I finally found recovery, I was consumed with self-pity. I lived in a constant state of “woe is me” and was downright convinced there was not a single individual on this earth who could understand what I was going through, or what I was thinking and feeling. My self-centeredness, which I would come to find out was the core of my disease, was almost paralyzing at times.
I would imagine that for the women who were so gracious to help me, it must have felt a lot like working with a toddler. I imagine them trying to convince a 3-year old that sometimes the most dangerous things in life are disguised as something so fascinating you want nothing more than to reach out and touch it; fire, water, tornados…lions, tigers and bears. For me? It was escape.
Boy, I sure knew how to bring the drama! I would bring it, and then try to escape it! In fact, I had grown so comfortable with chaos, I was almost uncomfortable with peace. I makes me think about the way I interact with my own daughter. How she hasn’t quite discovered that the world does not revolve around her yet, and why should she? She is just a child, after all. She is still developing and growing. It is not unusual for tears to spill from her tiny eyes for a wide range of things; some minor and some major, but to her they all seem life altering. She has a child’s perception of the world, and so did I…only I wasn’t a child anymore.
It’s as if my brain had been stunted, and I was still that 15 year old girl who pouted, cried and stomped her feet in order to get her way. My goal wasn’t to make people agree with me because I was right and they were wrong, it was simply to exhaust them so much that they would throw in the towel and just leave me alone. It worked for awhile, until it was evident that I was a danger to myself and others when left to my own devices.
In my earliest days of recovery, I asked “Why me?” on a number of different occasions. Probably daily! Why me? Why can’t I just be like everyone else? Why am I the one who needs help with addiction? Why do I have to be the one to change? Why won’t people just leave me alone? Why is everyone judging me? Why? Why? Why?
After about 2 straight months of constantly asking “Why Me?”, another woman in recovery, whom I have the utmost respect for, looked me straight in the eyes and asked, very bluntly, “Why not you?”
I could feel my jaw slowly drop open, stopped only by the table I was sitting at.
“Wait…Whaaaat?!?” I thought.
I was shocked, to say the least, and I thought, “Who the hell does she think she is? Does she not understand that I am hurting? I thought she was supposed to be my friend!”
Sensing my bewilderment, she explained:
“Why not you? What makes you so special that you feel that your life should be free of any sort of hardship? Bad things happen to good people every single day, through no fault of their own. Healthy people get cancer, a friend dies in a car accident, your parents’ house burns down, a friend who wants nothing more than to have a child struggles with infertility. Your illness has made you so self-centered that you believe you are the only person who is struggling at this very moment. Guess what? Hardships are not unique to you. You could be standing right next to someone and not even be aware of the pain that they are feeling because you are so consumed with your own. THAT is the core of your disease; self-centeredness, and it is alive and well in you, my dear. So I challenge you to stop asking yourself, “Why me?” and start the humble process of asking yourself, “Why not me?”
I slowly picked my jaw up off the table, my cheeks flushed with embarrassment, because I knew she was right. I had never thought of myself as being self-centered before. I just thought I was hurting and that everyone should feel sorry for me, no matter how recklessly I acted. My pain, more often than not, was of my own creation. I realized she was the best type of friend I could ever ask for, because she helped me to recognize the flaws in my thinking. It was the first time I truly listened to anyone without trying to defend myself. It was powerful.
Humility is one of the biggest parts of my program today. It is the very reason I am so honest about my recovery. Today, I understand that the world does not revolve around me. People are not put on this earth to make me happy, please me or give me the things that I want. I am no different than anyone else. If I want something, I need to work for it. I cannot expect anyone to change my life for me, I have to do it myself, and if I can’t do it myself, I need to have the courage to ask for help.
Today, I have women in my life who I trust to call me out on all of the lies I tell myself. I need them to, because I rarely recognize my own self-deceptive behaviors until it is too late.
The same can be said for the good things that happen in my life. A lot of times, I am so disgusted with my past that I honestly believe I do not deserve good things. I get paranoid when good things happen to me, I have this overwhelming feeling of impending doom. I am afraid I will jinx myself. But why not me? Haven’t I been working hard? Why don’t I get to finally reap some of the benefits of my progress?
You see, we don’t choose to suffer with addiction, but we can choose to have people in our lives who will help us overcome our addiction.
This is recovery in action, and this is why recovery works for me. We help each other by pointing out the flaws in our thinking, and then we offer suggestions about how to better ourselves. We don’t sit in our feelings, we work towards a solution; TOGETHER. We carry the message to the next person and watch them grow and change. We start to believe that recovery works, no matter how far down the scale a person has gone. We come to realize we are no longer alone in this battle.
So today, whenever I find myself in a mood where I am starting to ask, “Why me?” I very quickly put myself in my place. Sometimes I need to say to myself, “Just who do you think you are?” And sometimes I need to be kind to myself and say, “You’ve earned this.”
I am grateful for the growth I have experienced throughout my journey; growth that could only have come from walking through the pain with the women who did it before me.
Why not me to be the one to experience it?