This is a guest post by Andy.
“Everyday men, women, and adolescents take their first steps on this journey. Dramatic changes do happen.” ~ Joe Herzanek
Looking back on the reasons I began drinking in the first place, I realize that every bad decision I made, every boozy binge session I went through, was all part of the journey to who I am today.
I’m not saying that being an alcoholic was awesome. That letting my friends and workmates down at any given moment was a blast or that hurting myself emotionally and physically was something I’d ever repeat again. But it made me take a long hard look at the things in my life that were causing so much pain.
It has been a long and rough journey to get where I am today. I no longer use alcohol to escape my anxiety disorder or my depression (both disorders I discovered when I was going through my rehab process) but am learning how to be mindful of my surroundings and coping with my conditions.
For those of you reading this who might be lost in alcoholism, or beginning the long road to recovery or are even walking beside a loved one during this difficult time, I have a message for you.
It will all be OK and you can fight addiction. You are not alone in this and even though I’m a stranger I want to reach out to you today and share the 4 most vital life lessons I learned during my path to recovery.
1. You Deserve To Have A Successful Recovery
One of the biggest problems a person faces when trying to recover is realizing their own worth. Many addicts I’ve known always say that they are a burden to their families and don’t deserve to have a “normal life” after the hell they put themselves and others through. This very first lesson is about being able to say “I deserve to live a full and healthy sober life” no matter what happened to you at your lowest points because of addiction. You are not a dysfunctional person who can’t cope with society. Accept that you have bad days like any other person but learn how to deal with them without turning to your vices.
We all matter in this universe and understanding you are important, worthy and that you have a second chance to start all over is the first step to beginning the recovery process.
2. Becoming Mindful of Your Surroundings Changes Everything
When I was completely wasted, the only things that mattered were me and the drink I had in my hand. I could care less about anyone around me or even where I was or what I was doing. This led to some pretty regretful actions that I am still mortified to remember.
Part of my path to addiction recovery was learning how to practice mindfulness meditation. It took a little practice to really start feeling the benefits of mindfulness but it has certainly helped me manage successfully my anxiety and depression and kept me from relapsing back to alcohol.
Part of this meditation is learning how to master your breathing and place yourself in your present surroundings. Mindfulness is about being aware of everything around you and how to interact with people in a calmer, more objective way. It can help you manage stressful situations and lift your mood when you feel down.
Instead of reaching for a bottle when I feel those negative thoughts trying to pull me back in, I can take a moment to pause and think more clearly about what would happen if I gave in to alcohol. Mindfulness is a way to help you see the bigger picture when you need it most.
3. Your Addiction Does Not Control You
The path to recovery depends on one person at the end of the day, and that person is you, alcohol itself has nothing to do with it. It seems easier said than done but you are the one in control of how far your addiction goes.
You have certain choices during recovery. One of them is: fight or flight? You can give it all you got and keep battling it, and if you fall get back up again and keep trying or you can run away from the reality of what addiction is doing to you and those you love and let it consume you.
There are moments when it seems so much easier to just give in to addiction because no alcoholic or drug addict ever recovered without a few falls and scrapes, I’m certain of it. One of the most important things you must do if you are going to fight is, to be honest with yourself.
Stop telling lies to yourself and your family and saying things like “I can’t do it, it’s too hard” or “things will never change”. Maybe they won’t change because deep down, you don’t want them to, but if you are ever going to have a chance at a better life you must believe in change and do everything in your power to make it happen.
4. The Path Is Slow and You Must Take Your Time
Everyone’s path to recovery is different and your experience may be totally different to mine. Perhaps your drinking is connected to a broken heart, stress or being unhappy with how your life turned out.
The universal truth, however, is that it takes time and you must be patient. If you are the addict, be prepared to go in this for the long haul. There is no magic wand to fix everything but believe me, time is a great healer. Every day you spend clean and sober gives you more motivation and you will begin to feel in control again.
You will see improvements in your health not only in your mind. Substance or alcohol abuse is extremely harmful to your health, and on the path to recovery, you will see how much healthier you feel.
It is easy to forget about the physical damage you can do to yourself with alcoholism and only after you leave it behind will you notice the positive changes in your body.
I hope that by sharing some of the lessons I have learned on the path to recovery, you can see that your own journey is not a lonely one and there are so many positive things you can find on that path. You can beat addiction and become a more mindful, positive person who enjoys life like anyone else because you deserve to live.
Have you got your own recovery lessons to share? I would love to hear about your own personal journey whether you face addiction yourself or know someone close to you who has.
Leave me a message in the comments section below and good luck on the path to recovery.
Hi, I am Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Los Angeles, California. I am 8 years sober (almost 9!). I spend my time helping others with their recovery and growing my online business. Read more of my writing at Northpoint Recovery.