Someone recently asked me about my recovery journey and why alcohol is still present in my life? It was a reasonable question and I was more than happy to explain…
The definition of “recovery.” The very word is the centre of much debate in the addiction community; some say it’s simply abstinence or remaining sober, while others believe it’s a lot more complex and multi-dimensional. There’s controversy over whether someone is truly in recovery if they’re on maintenance medication, such as methadone and/or if he/she can be in recovery if they use in moderation without harmful consequences after a sustained period of sobriety.
I am inclined to believe it’s a lot more complex and multi-dimensional, but it doesn’t matter what I think, or what others think, it’s what works for “YOU”.
It has been a long time since I have picked up an illicit drug, but I still drink alcohol, socially with friends. My drinking has never really been problematic, I have my boundaries and accept the consequences of having one too many. I have never had an issue with alcohol, but I know from my father’s alcoholism and from working int he recovery field for the past 25 years that not everyone is like me, and that’s because they aren’t me.
I personally like SAMHSA’s definition of Recovery which is described as being “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self- directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”
My personal belief is that the foundation for any recovery journey is learning to accept that it is YOUR responsibility, but this is can be a lot harder than it sounds. The fear of change was almost crippling at times and I thought of throwing the towel in many a time. But with support from a CPN worker, my GP and of course my family I didn’t.
Family and friends can help direct and guide you to sources of support, but it is YOUR responsibility to accept support, it might be from support groups, one to one support or online support. It doesn’t really matter, what matters is how YOU use your newly acquired knowledge to help fix and shape YOU as YOU see fit.
I believe that recovery takes time, in the early stages it is helpful or even essential to distance yourself from peers or influences who are not in a position or who have no interest in your recovery. That’s why seeking support from others who have already started their recovery journey is invaluable.
My recovery journey started when I realised I had hit my “rock bottom”. My rock bottom was a place where I could no longer hide from the consequences of my drug use from my family, but importantly myself. I was emotionally and physically bankrupt, with no evidence of who I used to be, my beliefs and values that I once held dear had been smashed to smithereens.
I often use the analogy that my recovery journey has been like a jigsaw puzzle. A journey of self-discovery, where I learned that using substances was a poor solution to some deeper unresolved issues.
There are still parts of me, that are like unfinished jigsaw puzzles, they look untidy. That is why reflection, making time to contemplate, making time to reflect feelings and thoughts, is important to me, now still twenty plus years since my life was turned upside down from using drugs.
I may reflect in private, but my recovery journey hasn’t been in isolation I have listened and learned from others. Learning from others and about myself has helped me find a piece of the jigsaw that was missing, sometimes in place’s I would have never thought of looking in before.
I see a lot of people will seek out others for help, with the hope and expectation that someone else will be able to them find all the missing pieces and complete the puzzle for them. But this is futile because whilst they can help you find your pieces; it is YOU who has to be ready to finally fit the jigsaw piece where it belongs.
I love the sense of accomplishment of completing a jigsaw, being able to set it to one side and admire it for what it was, a part of my life. Every completed jigsaw puzzle is filled with colour, some are dark some are more colourful, but once completed, the puzzle tells a story, me or about one part of my life. Any unresolved feelings of hurt or memories are resolved and laid to bed which allows me to move onto the next jigsaw.
Like with most jigsaws, I find it easier to start with the edges, it helps me set the scene, crisp and clear lines, I like the neat frame. Working inwards, I search through the pile of pieces and am happy when I find the piece I was looking for, fitting perfectly bringing me closer to completing the puzzle.
I am coming to accept, that suffering is inevitable and that sometimes it can take longer to find the missing jigsaw piece than others, but I truly believe that if you persevere you WILL always find it.
Getting to this place, or learning to understand me to this degree, has taken years of practice and I will probably be still be reflecting and learning about myself until I draw on my last breath.
Nobody can understand me better than myself. Getting honest about the things I might do wrong, being able to admit to things I need to change, can only come from within me. Willingness to see and change, the decision to change what I don’t like about my life, can only come from me.
I have managed to complete a lot of different Jigsaws over the years and I have learned a lot about myself since walking out of those doors of Middlewood hospital twenty plus years ago.
Before my drug use, I used to measure my self-worth based on someone else’s views and opinions, I also did it for a while in early recovery. But I no longer measure my recovery based on what drugs I used or for how long I used them, just like I no longer measure my recovery.
I choose not to call myself an addict, I don’t tell people I am in recovery, but I am willing to explain that I am just someone who fucked up on drugs in my past but has worked hard not to go back to that dark place. I no longer have any regrets or shame. In fact, I am glad I got to experience the darkness because had I not, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am a passionate advocate, a champion for recovery regardless of what recovery method people use, the key isn’t about it works for them, it’s about if it works for YOU.
I will never pass judgment or measure someone else’s recovery, especially based on my own. Everyones, recovery journey is unique to them and what works for them might not work for you, so it is YOUR responsibility to find out what works for YOU and if it is working then stick to it.
Love Fordy x
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