I’ve used the word “recovery” often lately. The word is wholly appropriate to my situation, but it doesn’t really describe how I feel about it. Perhaps a more appropriate word is “Discovery”. I’m discovering who I am for the first time. I was reading through the AA Big Book and found an appendices entitled “Principles”. It made me thing about my own principles and how I have actually never articulated to myself what exactly my principles are. So, what a great topic for today! Here are a list of several I won’t compromise on.
noun hon·es·ty \ˈä-nəs-tē\
the quality of being fair and truthful
This has been the most important key to my recovery. I never realized how dishonest I have been in my life. I think lying is something any person who has either experienced childhood trauma or forced to live in the closet can identify as a dangerous coping mechanism that has some of the most disastrous repercussions. There were times when I actually thought I was telling the truth when in retrospect I was completely lying. Delusion is such a powerful tool for the addict. It allows us to cope with our actions which we know are wrong but are powerless to change. It helps us live with ourselves. This is why it is so difficult for the addict to recover. The delusion is so deep. We can’t be honest with ourselves, how can we honest with our friends and loved ones?
It is no surprise to me that “Admitting we are powerless over alcohol” is the first step of recovery, because it is the most difficult one. It requires us to breakdown our most powerful coping mechanism. You can’t stop drinking, drugging, over-eating, etc. if you don’t admit that you have a problem in the first place. When I took this first step it opened my mind in a way I never thought possible. It brought me to a place I had never been comfortable, vulnerable. Hitting “rock bottom” helps accomplishing this easier, but how wonderful would it be to have this realization without having to get to such a dark place where there are no other options? When I made the descision to “come out” as an alcoholic I was absolutely floored by the reaction I received not only from those who are close to me, but from those who are just acquaintances or people I haven’t had in my life since high school. They admired my candidness and honesty. They were rooting for me. They liked me. This is everything I have always wanted. Acceptance. Honesty, the thing I’ve fought against my entire life, has given me the one thing I have always wanted…love.
Hope is a relatively new concept to me. It was a sad realization for me to think that for most of my life I had no hope. I was resigned to just accept anything and anyone that
crossed my path, good or bad. I think that anything I had in my life that was good was just luck. I used to think I had goals, but they were really just “dreams”. I had no plans. I was
not able to focus long enough or have enough faith in myself to take the steps necessary to accomplish any of the things I thought I wanted. I have been a very jealous person. If someone had something I thought I wanted, instead of coming up with a plan to get it for myself, I would wallow in jealousy and self-pity.
I know now how dangerous and destructive this mind set can be. Everything I have done and been through in my life has brought me to the place I am today. I am not a victim of my circumstances I am an active and willing participant. I’m the sole investor in my life. I just need to pay attention to the market and make wise decisions to protect my investment. It’s actually simple when you break it down like that. Making good decisions, having the right mind-set and seeking the truth in all things breeds Hope. Hope is wonderful.
strong belief or trust in someone or something
A great example of this occurred at my niece’s wedding this year. I had been really looking forward to this event for a while. I had just started losing weight and was feeling great. My family had had a emotional week due to an incident with my Uncle missing and we had just found out that day that he was ok. Even though the situation made me very angry, I was glad that it was resolved before the wedding so we could all relax and just have a good time. All of my family was dressed to the nines and smiling. My niece’s and nephews and their children all looked great. We are a handsome family.
Right before the ceremony began something I can’t explain happened. You know when you are at home and someone else is there and even though you may not see them or hear them, you are acutely aware that they are there? “I am here and so-and-so is here too”. You may not actually articulate it, but it is just a situational given. That feeling came over me that day about my Dad, but I actually caught myself experiencing it. I just kind of shook my head and happened to catch my sister’s eye. She mouthed “Thank you.” to me. It puzzled me for a moment. “Um…you’re welcome.” I said, but I had not idea what she thanked me for. I looked down to my iPhone and noticed that my text messages were open. I checked my last message and it was to my sister and it read “I have never seen you look more beautiful than you do today. I love you.”
Now, lets be clear. My sister did look beautiful and I do love her, but I have no memory of writing that message. It was clear to me at that moment that my Dad had delivered that message and I teared up. It was one of the most precious moments of my life. Feeling his presence with me filled my heart with so much joy. Being able to deliver that message to my sister for him was such an honor and I am grateful to my Higher Power for allowing him and I to experience that. This was a sign for me that He had a plan for me. I just had to be open enough to see it and accept it. My Faith was restored and has been an integral part of my recovery.
noun cour·age \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\
I’ve always identified with Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of OZ with this one. I wanted to have courage, but just didn’t understand how to find it. Like the Cowardly Lion, I always had it, I just never recognized it. I have shown amazing feats of courage in my life. I’ve taken chances that most would never do. I think writing this blog is a great example of that. Coming out to my family and friends took courage. “Without risk there is no reward”
or whatever the quote is, resonates with me these days. I relied on “liquid courage” for too long. I needed that in social situations because I didn’t have faith in myself. I didn’t believe that anyone would like sober me. I didn’t like sober me, how could anyone else? Of course, because I was honest with myself about who I was I couldn’t have faith in people to like me for me and therefore lacked the courage to be my authentic self so there could be no hope to find happiness. They all work together, don’t they?
noun in·teg·ri·ty \in-ˈte-grə-tē\
the quality of being honest and fair
Being a person with ADHD who struggles with impulsivity issues, this one has been a challenge. Having integrity, for me, means knowing who you are, knowing what you stand for and not compromising these principles. I have gone through most of my life not knowing who my true, authentic self was and therefore having meaningful principles that I stood for was not entirely possible. One of the best example of where I need to work on my integrity is with regards to my sexuality. I tend to give in too easily to my primal sexual urges and make compromises that are not always in my best interest. I too readily will give myself to someone without much thought to whether that person is even deserving of my attention. As my self-esteem grows I am finding it easier to make choices in with the people with whom I choose to be intimate.
I am learning that sticking to your principles is a source of great strength. It is a source of great pride. Having integrity is key to accomplishing your goals and earning the respect of others. These are things I’ve always wanted so the work is being put in, and the rewards and possibilities are endless.
noun will·ing-ness \ˈwi-liŋ\nes\
not refusing to do something
You’ve got to put in the work. You’ve got to want it. It starts there. You’ve got to do it for you and you alone. I want to be sober. I want to be healthy. I want to be happy. I want to be successful. I am willing to do whatever I need to do to accomplish this without compromising any of the principles I have discovered are so necessary.
But it doesn’t stop there. Your support system has to have that same willingness and commitment to your sobriety. I am so lucky to have that. The wonderful people in my life have made that commitment and I can not and will not let them down.
noun hu·mil·i·ty \hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē, yü-\
- the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people
- the quality or state of being humble
I thought I understood humility. I thought I had it. What I actually had was low self-esteem. It is not the same thing. Humility is realizing that your actions and decisions effect not only yourself but those around you. You have to have enough self-awareness to realize that you aren’t alone in this Universe and that there is a greater good.
Being humble is a trait I admire in so many of the people I have kept close to me and a lack of this trait is something I am careful to recognize in others and stay away from them. You can be self-assure and be humble at the same time. This is one of the most important principles an addict must adapt into their everyday lives.