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Four Years In Recovery - So What Have I Learnt?

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It’s been four years since I emerged from rehab, blinking into the new light of sobriety, a shivering, puking, frightened wreck. That terrified wreck is still inside me, I don’t suppose she will ever go away, and I don’t suppose I will ever want her to – it’s that part of me that keeps me sober. Keeps me sane (ish) and centred, no matter what life throws at me. But what has recovery given me? What have I learnt so far?

Recovery has given me everything – a life. End of.

It has also given me everything that comes with a life ie a profound realisation of my failures, my fears, my insecurities, my disappointments and expectations, my long-held resentments, my pride, my vanity and, for good measure, my greed. It has given me loss, a deep grief which has become a treasure chest of wisdom, and hope as clear and sharp as a sunny winter morning. It has given me difficulties and strife, chaos and uncertainty punctuated by glimmers of deep resonance, kindness, friendship and love in every possible permutation. It has given me, me.

So, today, sitting here with four years’ of sobriety and (relative) sanity behind me, and a present filled with opportunity and potential, I want to share these small pearls of wisdom gleaned from the recovery trenches:

1) Sometimes you need to do the wrong thing to get to the right place

2) Being whole-hearted is the only way

3) Owning my own shit is the deal, the truth the light etc – it’s the way through the darkness, it’s acceptance right to the deepest, unholiest core of my being

4) Beauty is in every path, every choice, if you work hard enough to see it and feel it

5) That saying no is a birthright

6) That stepping out of my comfort zone is the surest path to growth, and to trust it when it feels uncomfortable, anxious and chaotic

7) Trust is a verb

8) So is love

9) And faith

10) The point of it all is to become truly ourselves, and that’s as hard as it is liberating

And all of these things that feel like truths are reworked, reinvisaged and renewed every day. A day at a time.

Cathryn Kemp is author of Painkiller Addict: From Wreckage To Redemption which charts her descent into addiction to prescription drugs and her eventual recovery.

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