As I approach 17 years of sobriety, I am careful to take stock of my daily plan of recovery. I attended a meeting last night where four people with 12-21 years of recovery all made the choice to pick up a drink again. I only know they did this because they had luckily made it back to the program and were sharing what went wrong. Each of them said their lives got full, they stopped going to meetings, let go of their sponsor and being a sponsor and got the feeling they were "cured". I listened intently because my program has changed and I am careful to make sure I am spiritually fit under my new plan.
In my first few years of recovery, I went to 3-4 meetings a day! I was single, excited about my new life and eager to learn and connect. I was riding a tremendous pink cloud and it was great. I have never lost interest in recovery because of the spiritual focus and how great my life has become. However, there is that notorious however-life has gotten extremely full and perimenopause has moved onto my street and all of sudden I am feeling a full range of emotions again that are easy to misinterpret as relapse mode. Irritable, restless and discontent!
Old tendencies make me want to blame something or someone outside myself for my lackluster attitude. Al-Anon meetings quickly put that idea to bed. I am addicted to making other people or situtations my problem and that is never the truth. People and things like my job might cause me stress but stress is a relative term. Stress is the result of the stories I tell myself in my head. And, my head, I have learned is the dangerous street where my addiction hangs out. I need to continue a daily program of recovery to maintain my spiritual fitness or I am powerless over the gangsters that hide in the recesses of my mind.
This year, I have learned the tremendous effects menopause has on a woman's mind, body and spirit. My lack of desire for sex, my foggy brain, my quick shift to anger, dread, etc all have their roots in my shifting Estrogen. The great news is that being sober allows me to do the necessary mental and spiritual footwork to uncover and resolve the true root of my problem. I can treat my hormones with an educated physician and I can treat my mind with the truth about aging gracefully. I can affirm that as I age, I become more beautiful rather than listening to my addiction that wants to find every flaw and every wrinkle.
I have begun studying positive psychology. I love the field and much of it mirrrors step work. Positive recovery is action based and focuses on positive action for wellbeing. Writing a gratitude list, noticing what is going right in my life, telling others how much they mean to me, practicing meditation and deep breathing are all core practices of positive pyschology. I have a deep interest in becoming happy and not just sober. I notice many people with long term recovery feel the same. I believe the steps help us clean up our side of the street and then there are many other practices we can participate in that will increase our wellbeing. Doing service in the program or any charity for that matter offers the ongoing high I never got from a drug.
I finally had the epiphany that I have been chasing the wrong goal all these years-perfection. No wonder I never feel good enough! Now, I turn my attention to the growth instead. When I look at all I have learned since I entered recovery, I know I hit the lottery. Each day I wake up sober I have another chance to connect with people I care about, learn things that interest me, make mistakes and laugh at them, become a better mom, wife and daughter, and the list goes on. I am free from multiple addictions and I understand that the happiness I have always sought in achievement is absolutely buried under that goal. Instead, I seek happiness in a life of meaning and purpose and I am everything I ever needed.