One of the hardest things in recovery is the realization that there isn’t some magic pill that can be taken to make all the pain go away. Whatever form of 12 step recovery one might pursue, the journey is going to be filled with both highs and lows until God has become the center point of their everyday living
When I first walked into AA in 1995, my attitude was such that I thought I just needed to attend meetings. I saw all the people with smiles on their faces and I heard messages about how great people’s lives were. For some reason, I tuned out the middle parts of the stories that I heard. I didn’t hear about the long, arduous road of clearing the muck out from within. I didn’t hear about the journey of reducing the ego and removing self-centeredness. I didn’t comprehend that I needed to seek God’s will and remove self-will. My feeling was that if I just showed up I was doing enough.
Boy was I wrong.
I didn’t last long in AA. I decided it was too stressful and tried to find an easier, softer way that wasn’t going to be with the twelve step process. So instead of twelve steps, I went twelve years searching for something else. While there are a lot of things out there that can guide one closer to God, like the twelve steps are geared for, each of them takes constant vigilance. I wasn’t willing to do that with any of them. My ego, selfishness, fear and deeply imbedded pain had me running from one thing to the next, getting some benefit here and there but never scratching the surface of what ultimately was going on inside of me and driving me to believe there was some magic pill out there.
In September of 2007, I had gone through enough pain. I decided to give in and begin my journey in AA with 12 years sober and no real recovery. I started to attend as many meetings as I could weekly. I got a sponsor. And I began to read a 3rd edition Alcoholics Anonymous book that I still had from my very first attempt with AA in 1995. Weekly I met with my sponsor delving through page after page after page in the AA book. The first year of my work in AA was extremely difficult. I’m not sure if it was because my ego continued to fight the process and act out in other addictions or if there was just so much pain I was having to face as I walked through the steps. Either way, what I discovered was that there really are a lot of highs and lows in recovery until God became my focal point with everything in it.
When I’m acting out in any addiction such as alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex, what I’m seeking is to stay in the highs and avoid the lows. The highs can be great but the lows are awful. I lived in a life where I sought out addictions on some level for over 22 years and my brain has tried to continue to convince me that it’s possible to avoid the lows altogether.
News flash. It’s not.
It’s only possible to numb the lows with more addictions.
Entering a twelve step program made me face this reality head on. Over past five years I’ve gained a better understanding that life has it’s ups and downs but they don’t have to be as extreme as they once were when I was an active addict. I’ve learned that true recovery and healing means walking through the pain as bad as it may seem, facing all inner demons, and emerging into the light on the other side. Recovery is not about avoiding or walking around pain.
The more that I have placed God at the center of my life and my recovery, the more that those highs and lows have balanced themselves out. I compare it a lot to a ride on a roller coaster. On most roller coasters, the first part of the ride are huge hills and huge dips but as the end of the ride nears, the hills become smaller and smaller and eventually become level. This is how my recovery seems to becoming today. I don’t find myself getting extremely elated and then crashing shortly thereafter. I don’t find myself seeking out quick fixes to make myself feel better anymore. When pain arises, as it still does, I seek out healthy support in AA, consult with my spiritual advisor/sponsor, and I try my best to go to God in prayer and meditation to get through it.
To walk in a door of a twelve step recovery meeting and hope that everything painful will magically disappear is an illusion. To continue to live in that illusion will lead a person away from an amazing path to a God centered life. To lead a person away from that amazing path to a God centered life will ultimately guide one back to addiction seeking, more highs and lows, and a whole heck of a lot more pain.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson