My breathing is shallow before I step into the stale, dimly lit room. I take a seat, nodding a hello to the docile man to my left and smiling at the woman who sits across from me facing their own addiction recovery. Her candid vulnerability and blatant remarks resonate, often causing me to think about her words long after our time together ends.
I am just six months into my recovery journey and the youngest person in attendance. I’m not sure if we’d peg each other as friends outside of this room, but in this place, it’s as though these people understand me better than some of my bosom friends—their authenticity and vulnerability is refreshing and without airs or pretenses.
But first, we mark the meeting’s start by uttering the words often cited throughout recovery groups. Our voices rise in unison as we pray the freeing words. My lungs breathe in the air deeply as the vitality underneath them seems to course throughout my body.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
…the courage to change the things I can
…and the wisdom to know the difference.
I entered recovery with a newfound self-awareness and spoke openly about what brought me to the table in the first place: I was ready to confront the reality that I was grappling with certain relationships, and all my learned systems and methods were quietly eating away at me. I longed for change and to be free of my typical MO. There were no epiphany or single “ah-ha!” moments, but rather a stumbling upon the recognition that burned through the pages of my journals and blared through my tearful prayers. Later, as I began to talk with others about my besetting tendencies, I was able to admit that I was struggling with codependency. (Read Dr. Zoe’s insights on codependency here.)
Recovery Has Been a Long Journey
Over the last 15 years, I’ve been on a spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical journey toward health and healing. I quit abusing alcohol and shoveling pills down my throat to numb the pain. I’ve sought out therapy to process the residual wounds of sexual abuse and emotional neglect, and I’ve prayed prayers of confession, restoration, and transformation. On the external, my relational cards read fairly well: I value deep relationships; I’m a listener, a feeler, and a friend to others walking through the trenches of hardship. Yet, there was internal chaos and turmoil woven within several of my relationships.
Not sure if it’s time for therapy? Don’t miss this episode: Is it Time for Counseling? A Therapist Helps You Decide with Dr. Zoe Shaw – 004
Unhealthy behaviors would surface when I was faced with dysfunction—such as the time I stayed up through the night, texting and calling (in what could be considered obsessive fashion) a loved one who had been drinking and driving—and I’ve spent thousands of minutes worrying about others who were entrenched in their addictions. And goodness—the people pleasing! It felt as though I was tap dancing in order to make others like or validate me, and many of my feelings of self-worth were dependent upon external sources. My personal boundaries were too flexible, and I was worn out from care-taking. I was on a trajectory to keep on doing the same dance, over and over, unless something changed.
“We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.” (1 John 4:19, MSG)
Recovery Itself Has Revealed My Need for God’s Healing
Recovery is revealing more of my tap-dance tactics, along with how those mindsets and behaviors have infiltrated my relationship with God. Yet, excuses and hidden shame are slowly being stripped away, and my heart widens to receive more of God’s everlasting and unconditional love. The basic tenets of my faith are standing stronger as I re-learn how to love God, love others, and, along with that, re-learn what it means to love myself in the way God would have me do so.
“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:28, NIV)
I entered recovery with a newfound self-awareness and spoke openly about what brought me: I was ready to confront the reality that all my learned systems and methods were quietly eating away at me.
Recovery demands grit, and no matter if we’re in a season of recovery, healing, growing, or waking to an awareness of a problem within, there’s bound to be a moment of disillusionment in the middle ground. The middle ground is what can be considered “the process.” It’s that place in between the realization of whatever the problem is and the place that appears far-off in the distance, where the idyllic version of ourselves stands.
We might become antsy or overdo the hard work of confronting the problem, because the process can feel uncomfortable, appearing as though it’ll never end. As one still new to recovery, my place in the process is relatively short compared with those in my group. But as I’m learning to embrace the middle, trusting God’s purpose in the process, I’m witnessing the beauty He creates from the ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)
Being in recovery provides us a safe place to examine the ways we’ve related to God, to others, and ourselves. A beautiful exchange seems to take place when we admit our shortcomings, failures, sins, and hang-ups while simultaneously accepting His overwhelming grace. With each breath we breathe, prayer we utter, and snippet we share, more of His infinite grace lights up the hidden places of our souls. The gift of grace is so much sweeter when we taste those moments of being free from shame, blame, and so forth. All of recovery is due to grace upon grace.
A beautiful exchange seems to take place when we admit our shortcomings, failures, sins, and hang-ups while simultaneously accepting His overwhelming grace.
Today, my journey and desire for complete addiction recovery, to heal and grow in relationship with God, others, and myself continues steadily. As a newbie sharing her experience thus far, it’s possible I’m wearing rose-colored glasses that may fade over time. But, I am taking it one step at a time, trusting that the One who knows me better than I know myself is at work. If you, like me, feel the need for recovery, take courage and dive-in. Let us open our hands and hearts and receive His love, grit, and grace. It’s there for the taking.
Looking for more encouragement in hope and healing? Check out this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How to Feel Your Emotions in a Healthy Way With Dr. Zoe Shaw – 075