I was shackled to my needs
I was shackled to my needs—need for booze, need for drugs, need for sex/acceptance. I did not make any decisions that did not consider these things. Where I could go, what activities I could imagine doing (because at the end, I couldn’t leave my home), who I could be with—all of these were filtered through a lens: could I drink and use the way I want and NEED to, could I be with the person who would provide me with the stuff, could I be the way that person wanted me to be? Everything in my life centered around being able to get
As we often hear said in the rooms “my standards lowered to suit the life I was living.” I avoided any conflict between my expectations of life and my debauchery. The standard of one day dissipated in the needs of the next. There became very little I would not do to continue my using and drinking career. And then it didn’t work—I couldn’t get high, I couldn’t sober up. I couldn’t get any satisfaction from any form of relationship—in fact, relationships had no form. They were all designed around trade; the bottom line of which
was always “can you still love me when …” which came to “can you still stomach me when ….” These were painful days. There was no self-love, self-care, no self.
Into the rooms
When it became too much, when the ephemeral veil of self had almost completely disappeared, I made that call—the one for help. I started my journey into recovery and, after a final relapse, I have been clean and sober for many years. My addiction to unhealthy love has been a little more difficult but, several years after recovery, I was able to claim my seat in that program as well. The work has been unrelenting. I am of the “whack-a mole” variety of person in recovery; I get one aspect of the addictive process in remission and another one pops up. From love, it went to working, to activity, to the gym, to food, to spending/acquiring and so on. So, I stay fresh in my recovery and I stay vigilant.
A new freedom
Early in recovery, I was not able to understand fully what “a new freedom” could mean. I was extremely ill; body, mind and spirit, when I first attended meetings. I could understand some for a while, then it would fade. I was being constantly surprised hearing the message of recovery—as if it were new each day. And, perhaps, there was the message from my HP—recovery is new everyday. I had to hear over and over that sobriety included drugs. Then, I had to learn about emotional sobriety. Then sobriety in my relationships. How could this be FREEDOM when I had to watch every little thing? That didn’t seem free at all. My imagination and the power of my addiction would tell me that USING was freedom. I seemed to forget the pain, the shame, the guilt, the difficulties, and the disgusting places I had been in my active using days. Then, I would go to a meeting, talk to a friend, or see a Friend of Bill’s in the grocery store, and I would be pulled back into the awareness that sobriety WAS a new freedom.
Freedom from self-recrimination
The true new freedom came when I completed the steps, and had started the path to self-forgiveness. I learned about my angers, jealousies, resentments and fears. I discovered my part in them. I learned about aspects of my character that were out of balance and I found ways to moderate my behavior to be more in line with who I was becoming; who I am now. I changed. I was finding freedom from old kneejerk reactions to things and I was less shackled to old behavior that got me old results. My relationships became more authentic and ethical. I was letting go of the chains of the past.
Freedom to love; body, mind and spirit
An unexpected gift of recovery was my ability to gain genuine love; not just love of others which is hugely important, but love of myself which makes the other love possible. The way I was able to move this deep into my body, into my daily life, into my thick skull was with yoga. I am a yoga practitioner; I practice on the mat, in meditation, and I study the philosophy to give me another tool in delving deep into my gut brain to help me heal. What does that mean? It means I lived in my head for the first half of my sobriety. I understood the steps, the concepts and the purpose. I lived in the idea that I was moving into my heart—and indeed I was. I was strengthening my abilities to let go, to forgive and to have compassion. But my shoulders, my upper back, my hips and my belly couldn’t let go. There was trauma caught in those muscles that my brain couldn’t unlock. It eventually impacted my sobriety, and that is when yoga stepped in. It gave me a way to feel in every part of my being and to process those feelings in, around and out. They became unstuck, so my mind and heart could deal with them. In the process I was also able to connect on a much deeper level with my higher power. I needed that support as I was diving in, diving in to letting go. My love for everyone, even myself, became a smoother stream of energy, an unconditional resource.
Confined to my addiction—no more
I have healed a great deal. I am no longer a prisoner of the bottle, the needle, or even my partner. I am seldom a prisoner of negative thinking, or poisonous thoughts. I no longer have to hide behind false fronts, nor do I have to change the way I am feeling to face life on life’s terms. Releasing the pain of my old thinking patterns, my old emotional knee-jerk reactions, and the shame and guilt of my pre-recovery choices, I am able to embrace a new freedom. I am able to do this from the core of my being.