When I first came into the rooms of recovery with 12 years of sobriety, but nothing to show for it other than a sincere desperation to stop wandering the desert and to leave the dark depths of the valley I felt I was in, I made an erroneous assumption. I truly believed that all I needed to do was to get through the 12 Steps with a sponsor and doing so would make me emerge victorious, where I’d never find myself in a desert or valley again. Boy, was I wrong.
What I’ve learned ever since is that recovery has both its peaks and valleys and most certainly it’s lush periods and deserts too, even after doing the 12 Step work and even after plenty of years of sobriety. The fact is, recovery from addiction has both its ups and downs where sometimes the downs feel like totally barren deserts and very dreary valleys, which personally, I’ve been going through quite a bit over the past few years.
It’s often suggested to get out and help others more when times like this happen, as well as to attend more meetings, to sponsor more individuals, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, sometimes even that doesn’t seem to help one to return to more fertile grounds or higher peaks, which I can attest to given the amount of time I continue to dedicate to my recovery work every each and every week and still feel the way I do.
So, during times like this, when nothing seems to vault me out of the depths of despair, when even prayer and meditation don’t seem to be of much help, I’ve come to understand that I just need to keep showing up, to keep attending those meetings, to keep sponsoring my sponsees, and to keep volunteering at the places I do. Essentially, I simply need to keep putting one foot forward in front of the other on the road to recovery, even when it feels completely barren like I’m walking through Death Valley.
Today was a perfect example of this. I woke up for what felt like the millionth day in a row where I felt more down than up. While my ego wanted me to just stay home in bed and do nothing, I instead kept all my commitments. I went to church. I attended an end of the summer social. I arrived early at my home group to help with anything that needed to get done to set up for the meeting and socialized with others until it started. I also remained behind once the meeting ended to help clean up. In doing so, I didn’t get exalted into the heavens so to speak, but it did leave me with a feeling of at least a sense of satisfaction for remaining clean and sober for another day of my life, something that often tends to slip away when a person begins seeking immediate forms of gratification during any period where valleys or deserts are present.
So, while I’ve been in the midst of probably the biggest valley and most desolate desert for quite a while now, I continue to show up, as that is what we do in the rooms of recovery to remain clean and sober, to stay spiritually healthy, and honestly to survive. Because in all reality, sometimes the path to that next peak or fertile landscape can only come by trudging through those very long valleys or totally barren deserts with nothing but faith. Eventually those peaks and fertile landscapes will come and all it takes is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when your ego screams otherwise…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson