By: Marilyn L. Davis
I Know Addiction, It’s Familiar
“For change to occur in us, we must be willing to enter the wilderness of the unknown and to wander in unfamiliar territory, directionless and often in the darkness…We do not need to keep every little thing under control. In fact, we find ourselves only by allowing some falling apart to happen.”― Maureen Brady
Addiction: 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 have an opportunity to work for all the “if only,” and yet, many of us are hesitant to leave the familiarity of addiction. 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 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
My Familiar Behaviors Aren’t Safe Anymore
At that moment, I realized that the familiarity of addiction wasn’t safe.
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 the 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 familiar world of my addiction and feel crazy or use my courage and change. I also had to realize that I didn’t get myself into risky situations all at once.
My addiction progressed over time to more risky behaviors and self-destructive actions. My recovery would come incrementally as well – as long as I didn’t use.
Just Don’t Use No Matter What
Grey Hawk helped me simplify my early recovery. My priority was not to use. I committed that I would not put drugs and alcohol in my system no matter what happened, how I felt, or what compulsions and triggers occurred. He referred to this as “bare-bones” recovery.
I didn’t use, regardless of physical, emotional, and mental problems. 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 Familiar?
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 thirty-two 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, I’m responsible and accountable to my family and my work, and I’m ready to leave the familiar, Ms. Marilyn. Where to next?”
Are You Ready to Go Beyond the Familiar?
I smiled and asked him, “Where do you want to go? You now have so many choices and that’s the joy of recovery – leaving behind the familiar for the unknown.”
And that’s the joy of recovery – who knows what worlds are open to you beyond the familiar?
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available at Amazon, Books A Million, Indie Books, and Barnes and Noble.
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