By: Marilyn L. Davis
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to leave the shore.” ― William Faulkner
What Happens If I Stay? What Happens if I Leave?
I’ve often found it ironic that in our addiction, we spend a lot of time thinking about the “if only.” These thoughts usually center around, “If only I had”, and the lists are endless, but a few predictable ones are:
- More money
- Less stress
- A family that loves me
- Friends that don’t use me
- No cops chasing me
- A better job, house, car, and clothes
When We Leave the Familiarity of Addiction
In recovery, we’re given an opportunity to have all the “if only”, and yet, many of us are hesitant to swim for the other horizons, and find recovery. I know that what holds most of us back is fear. What are the most common concerns that people express?
- Fear of failure and success
- Not being good enough
- Not “doing” recovery correctly
- Never having friends again
- Not being able to change
Finding the Courage: It’s Within
My mentor started laughing at me when I first mentioned all my fears about recovery. Of course, I took offense; how dare he make fun of me. Then he asked me to describe all of the situations where I took a risk in my addiction. It wasn’t hard to list them. Some of the riskiest behaviors included:
- Walking the streets of New York City at 3 AM looking for a dealer
- Driving 100 miles per hour on a dope run, with enough quantity in the car to put me away for a long time
- Indiscriminate sex partners with no thoughts of STD and HIV
- Manipulating my family into giving me money that I used for my addiction
It was at that moment that I realized that the safe shore I was standing on was quite unsafe.
I also knew that when I operated from risky behaviors, I was using courage to fulfill them. Granted, I was using courage in a self-destructive manner, but it showed me that I did have courage within. Now, I needed to use this courage in my recovery as well.
Comfortable and Crazy or Courageous and Changing?
My choices were to remain in the comfortable world of my addiction and feel crazy, or use that courage and change. I also had to realize that I didn’t get myself into the risky situations all at once. My addiction progressed over time to more risky behaviors and self-destructive actions, and that making progress in my recovery would be incremental as well.
Grey Hawk helped me simplify my early recovery. My priority was not to use. I made a commitment that no matter what happened, how I felt, or what compulsions and triggers occurred, I would not put drugs and alcohol in my system.
For my first three months, that was all I could accomplish. My post acute withdrawal from benzos and alcohol meant that I wasn’t tracking conversations very well, couldn’t think my way out of a paper bag, and it was all I could do to go to work and two support meetings per day.
But it was enough.
Can I Remember How Scared I Was to Leave the Shore?
A young man in one of my groups asked me about three months ago if I ever struggled in my recovery. I probably had that same look that my mentor gave me twenty-eight years ago. And just as he asked me, I asked the young man about his risky behaviors and was he willing to channel his courage into risk taking for his recovery? When he said he was, I said, “Then just start with bare bones recovery and don’t use, no matter what.”
Last night in the group, this same young man, said, “I’ve been doing bare-bones and haven’t used. I’m finally feeling better, I’ve made a few changes, and I’m being responsible and accountable to my family and my work, and I’m ready to leave the shore, Ms. Marilyn. Where to next?”
Beyond the Shore
I smiled and asked him, “Where do you want to go? You now have so many choices open to you.” And that’s the joy of setting sail in recovery – who knows what worlds are open to you beyond that next horizon?
Writing, and recovery heals the heart