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The Path to Recovery Is Never a Straight Line

Getting from active addiction to sustained recovery is full of twists and turns.

Jacob Kiesow/UnSplash
Pathways to recovery are never going to be in a straight line. You have to be willing to deal with the twists and turns.
Source: Jacob Kiesow/UnSplash

We have always heard that the quickest route from point A to point B is a straight line. However, for the individual who is in recovery, that line is never quick and is never straight. There are so many twists and turns on the path to sustained recovery. We often come to a crossroad in our life and are forced to make the choice of which way to travel.

When we come to this intersection, as an addict we are always given two choices of the way that we want to go and the path that we want to take. We look down one path and all we can seek is a smooth surface, a well-lit pathway that looks very inviting. On the other pathway, we can hardly see 10 feet in front of us. Because so many obstacles are blocking our way, we cannot see what lies ahead.

Of course, the choice is for us to make and it is our choice alone. So many times, during our active addiction, we have the tendency to want to go down the path in which we do not have to stray from our comfort zone. We want the fast times, the fun we think we are having. We feel nothing bad will come to us because in the mind of someone who is in active addiction, the path looks safe.

On the other path, the one that leads to recovery, we must work for what we want. I have often told individuals I have counseled over the years that they have to be willing to get their hands dirty and put in the blood, sweat, and tears to get to sustained recovery. The thing I often tell them is that if recovery were something easy then everyone could do it and there would not be a need for treatment programs or counselors to treat addicts such as myself.

On the path that is smooth, we see all the things that, in our distorted thinking, we believe our drinking or drug use will bring us. We see the bright lights, we see the fast money, the fancy lifestyle, and all of the wants and desires that we feel we deserve. What the addict does not see is that all of this is an illusion. This is because when the euphoria of the high or the intoxicated state wears off, the fantasy becomes a nightmare. Suddenly we see the negative side of things: the people who were willing to tell on us, the cops who arrested us, the judges that sentenced us, and the pain and the misery brought to our families.

On the path that leads to recovery, all we can see are the things that are right in front of our faces. We see the obstacles that block our path, the pitfalls that we have to carefully avoid so that we do not fall into them, and the individuals who are trying to pull us back to the pathway that leads to use. Once those of us who are working on this path continue to clear the obstacles out of the way, to build bridges over the pitfalls, and to tell those active users that we want no part of the lifestyle of addiction, then the path becomes clearer. While we cannot see what lies ahead of us, I can assure you that the work is worth the reward. Remember the only time that success comes before work is in the dictionary.

I remember the first day of my road to recovery. I had just come out of the hospital after nearly overdosing on alcohol, had the worst hangover of my life, and wanted only to crawl into my bed at my sister’s house when my brother-in-law at the time came knocking on my door. He told me to get up and get ready because he wanted me to work. I tried to tell him that I was hungover and had a terrible headache, but he did not want to hear any of my excuses. He simply told me that since I was staying at his house basically rent free, then I could get up and work and pull my share of the load. He also pointed out that if I was strong enough to party all night, then I was strong enough to get up and work.

My path to sustained recovery began with digging holes for fence posts by hand. This was a typical January day in which the temperature barely reached 40 degrees, the ground was hard, and I was hungover from another night of partying. As I was digging each hole—there was 50 of them—all I could think of was how I did not want to continue to feel this way and I had to do something about it.

I had had several individuals tell me I could not continue with the lifestyle of an addict, but no one told me how to change. This was several years before I was working in corrections, and I did not know what Alcoholics Anonymous was or what the 12 steps consisted of. I do have the belief today that I worked out the first three steps while I was digging the holes: I was willing to admit that I was powerless when it came to my drinking and my life was out of control or unmanageable. I knew I had to seek something bigger than myself to bring me back to a point of sanity. Finally, I had to turn my life and my will over to the care of a higher power, which in my case is God.

Over the past 3 decades my life has taken a lot of twists and turns. I have had to get out and move an obstacle, fill in a pothole, or even take another route because the one that I was on would have caused me to falter and fall back into my addiction. Has the journey been easy over these years? No, I will be the first to tell you it has not. Has it been worth the blood, sweat and tears? There is not a doubt in my mind that I have made the right choice to continue to maintain my recovery. If you are willing to put in the effort, then the reward is great. No individual ever became a success without the hard work and determination that shaped their lives for the betterment of humanity.

Taking Recovery One Day at a Time (10,710 Days and Counting)

© Michael J. Rounds, 10,000 Days Sober

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