Recovery is hard work. It is! There seems to be this common misconception in society that all an addict has to do to recover from addiction is to simply stop using the substance, but it is so much more than that. For many of us, it doesn’t come easy. Treatment is expensive and often unattainable. We’ve burned bridges throughout our illness and as a result we have lost our jobs, families, homes and support systems. And although it doesn’t cost a penny to belong to an Anonymous Fellowship, recovery still comes with a price. You will be asked to open your mind and your heart. You will be asked to take responsibility for yourself and your actions, past and present. That alone can be a tall order for many of us.
If recovery had a price tag it would read: vigilance, willingness to change and rigorous honesty…plus tax. And what will this investment give you in return?
To be honest, had I walked into the rooms for the first time, and taken a look at that price tag, I am not so sure I would have stayed. Had I known how hard recovery would actually be, I probably would have turned on my heels and ran straight for the door. Not because I didn’t want to get clean and sober, but because I never would have believed in a million years that I was capable of it.
Thankfully, when I walked into the rooms that first time, I was told that the only requirement was a desire to stop using, and I certainly had that. I was met with exactly what I needed at the time; empathy, hugs and hope. Fast forward a few years, and I still need those things, but more than that, I need people in my life who will remind me that it’s not always about me. And thank God I stayed, because my life today is truly a gift beyond anything I ever could have imagined.
I always thought the hardest part of recovery would be the stopping. Putting down the substance, stopping the cycle, going through the withdrawals. What I have found, is that some days the hardest part is the staying. Some days I miss that apathy; I miss not having to care so much. But I stay! No matter how shitty my day is, how angry I get or how broken I am feeling, I stay, because I still see the light even on my darkest days. I stay, because I know what a difference 24 hours can make.
When I got clean, I made the choice to confront my addiction head on, assess the damage I caused and try to find a way to repair what was broken, myself included. In active addiction, I spent a lot of time breaking my relationships down. In recovery, I have had to work twice as hard to piece them back together again.
It’s as if each of my relationships was a piece of fine China, and I took each dish out of the China Hut, one by one, and smashed them into a thousand pieces at my feet. Now, I spend most of my days on my hands and knees picking up the pieces and gluing them back together. Sometimes it hurts, and I cut my fingers and I am covered in Band-Aids, but most of the time it is beautiful and fulfilling. The dishes are now more brilliant than ever before, and much stronger too. My recovery friends are the people standing behind me and pointing out any pieces I may have missed.
Some days are more difficult than others, especially when trying to blend into a society where a vast majority of people still view addiction as a moral failing. Today, I have ears that listen and that can be difficult at times. I hear the way people talk about addicts; they call us social degenerates and criminals. I’ve heard them talk about how overdose deaths are warranted, because it was the addicts choice to use drugs in the first place. And I do my best to carry the message through my own actions and words, but it still hurts sometimes, and I have to walk away to hide the tears.
I can’t explain exactly why recovery works, I just know that it does. I know that it works because I see people recovering every single day.
When I chose to go public with my recovery story, I knew I would be met with some negativity. What I never expected, however, was to be met with so much love and support. So many people have reached out to me with stories of, “Me too!” or “My family member is an addict, and your story gives me hope!”
All of my life I felt different. I felt like an outsider and never quite knew where I belonged. I shut people out because of this, and never really established who I was in the process. Today, my life is full of family, friends and sometimes complete strangers who can relate to me.
I’ve had women come up to me and tell me how brave I am, that I have inspired them to keep moving forward in their own recovery, that my words have encouraged them to share more openly and honestly about their struggles with friends and family. I am humbled by this, and sometimes I don’t know what I have done to deserve such compliments. To this day my cheeks still burn from embarrassment when approached in such a positive way, and more often than not I am holding back tears. I still struggle with the idea of my life being one of success, because, for many years, it was nothing short of a disaster.
It is not my job to change the minds of those who doubt addiction is a disease, but it is my responsibility as a recovering person to extend a hand to those in need. We keep what we have by giving it away, and vigilance is the key. We must tend to our recovery daily. Those seeds may take years to sprout, my own recovery is an example of this, but at least they have been planted. It is up to the addicts themselves, to water and nourish them.
If recovery had a price tag it would read: honesty, open-mindedness and willingness. And in return, you will receive freedom. Freedom from active addiction. And in my opinion, that freedom is priceless…