The thought of recovery terrified me.
A part of me assumed the worst and the life I knew would be over. I would lose everything I that I had worked for. It was difficult to imagine a life without my go-to coping mechanisms.
Only a few years ago I was dependent on a number of unhealthy habitual behaviours: pornography, self-defeating thoughts, excessive TV, work and alcohol.
I had no idea what lay ahead when I finally gathered my courage and forged ahead into recovery. My initial focus was my combatting my dependency to alcohol.
The result was that my life became better than I could imagine.
Here are five awesome things I discovered about recovery.
- Clarity of Mind
Before recovery my mind was in a fog. I was easily distracted and found it difficult to focus. I had trouble recalling details from conversations from the day before. My short and long-term memory was abysmal. My personal and work decisions often overlooked obvious and relevant information.
After a couple of months in recovery I was astounded at how clear my mind became. The fog lifted. I was asking clear and concise questions. I was more engaged in conversations. I was focused for longer periods of time. My decision-making ability improved. I took all available information into account and felt confident in my decisions.
Another benefit was a higher degree of memory function. I was able to clearly recall details from days or weeks prior. No more wondering what happened the day or night before…
For most of my life I was a self-doubter. I dissuaded myself from believing I was capable and looked to others for validation. I had trouble speaking my truth and asserting myself for what I believed in. I was a proficient liar – to myself, and others. Honesty was not my strong suit. I didn’t like myself much.
Successful recovery demanded that I take responsibility for my past actions – the good and the bad. With that came the understanding that my past decisions didn’t define me. I could make different decisions today. I chose to be honest with myself and with others. As my recovery progressed, so did my self-confidence. I began to believe in my self. I looked in the mirror and started to like the man I saw. I walked with my shoulders back and stood taller. I was able to look people in the eye and spoke assuredly. I smiled more often. I was taking responsibility for the quality of my life. Authenticity and integrity were my guides.
I had convinced myself that I was stuck in my life circumstances and had few options. My habitual coping behaviors limited what I could and couldn’t do on a daily and long-term basis. Those behaviors had become more important to me than taking steps to get unstuck.
My mindset shifted once I finally took action to be in recovery. The fog in my head cleared and I began to see choices and options that I hadn’t considered before. Possibilities revealed themselves once I severed the dependencies to my past coping behaviors. I could do anything I wanted. I was free from the physical, mental and emotional constraints I had placed upon myself.
- Physical Health
I considered myself healthy. I exercised a couple times a week. I ate okay. I didn’t sleep very well but that was usual for my family. As I time went on my energy dropped. It was tougher to get out of the bed in the morning. I felt ragged. My body began to prod me with warning signs. I developed an ever-expanding waistline and bags under my blood shot eyes. I had fatty deposits on my liver, kidney stones, heartburn and a burning sensation in my upper chest. Excess breast tissue grew to my dismay. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels were elevated. My health was spiralling downwards. I feared that the mistreatment of my body could not be reversed.
Getting physically healthy became a motivating factor in my recovery. After only a few months my body started to heal. My energy levels increased. I slept better. I ate better and my body demanded healthier food. I was running farther than ever and participated in my first 10K race. I did yoga. I stopped using eye drops. My blood pressure and cholesterol returned to normal. Today I weigh the same as when I was eighteen, and I’m almost as fit. I’m optimistic that I’ll live a long and healthy life.
- Deeper Relationships
Even in my closest relationships I protected myself. I did not share who I was, who I wanted to be, or what was going on in my head. I came across as a decent guy, but reserved. I was adept at being a chameleon, changing my personality and conversational style depending on whom I was talking to. I avoided conflict at all costs. No one knew the real me.
As I ventured into recovery I allowed myself to become vulnerable. It enhanced the quality of my closest relationships. It wasn’t easy and there are challenging aspects to letting your guard down. With a deepening connection to another comes the obligation to speak the truth: without judgment, with compassion and empathy. I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I believe others want the same.
I’ve come to understand that my short-term recovery was about replacing a set of unhealthy habitual coping behaviours with healthy ones.
My long-term recovery is about creating, and maintaining, new habitual healthy thoughts and beliefs about me, and my life circumstances.
Only by experiencing a contrasting lifestyle, by stepping into the unknown and the uncomfortable of recovery, was I able to understand the magnitude of its gift.
Choosing recovery is a test and testament to a person’s courage and determination. It is one of the most challenging choices you can make.
The long-term benefits of health, clarity, quality relationships, freedom, and self-respect are worth the short-term pain and discomfort to get there.
Recovery has enhanced my quality of life. It is gift available to anyone who decides to choose it.
If you enjoyed this post, you will enjoy other articles written by Rick and by Sean:
If you are interested in being a guest contributor, email email@example.com to be included.
A version of this post is also on The Good Men Project here.
Photo by Jennifer.