Day 8339: Continuing to Face the Challenges of Living Life in Recovery

Recently, I’ve been reminded of how challenging sobriety is. I’ve lived in recovery for over 8,300 days. 8,339 to be exact. Even after all that time, I’m not guaranteed sobriety tomorrow. It’s a decision I make first thing in the morning when I get up out of bed. Every day.

“I’m going to live sober today,” I say to myself.

“Yes,” my Self replies.

Keep in mind that I do this even though I don’t always feel like it. Yes. There are days where the fight to stay clean and sober is difficult. Even 20+ years later. And I still run into people every day who don’t really understand addiction or know what to do with former addicts like me (that’s ok–I don’t always know what to do with myself either).

Recovery isn’t’ something I got right the first time. It took a few tries. I wavered between stringing a few days back to back and over a year of sobriety. That’s right. One year. It ended like this:

“Want a beer?”

“Sure,” I shrugged. And off to the races we went.

For me, alcohol is the key that unlocks the door to a wild ride. Prior to recovery finally sticking, I went out on a 33-day binge that nearly killed me. My binge was fueled by a ton of things I won’t mention here. I don’t want to glorify them. I don’t want to tell you that you can do them and live. You can. Most people don’t. Those that do, usually wind up in jail. A fortunate few of us get rescued, finding refugee in the Halls and solace in the Rooms that offer us a free space to be ourselves. There’s no judgment in the Rooms. At least not usually (we are human after all). I guess a better way to say it is that there isn’t supposed to be any judgment. We each have our own story to tell; our own truth to share.

I’ve seen addiction steal lives. I’ve witnessed addiction destroy dreams. I’m grateful that I found a way up from the Bottoms. Although it’s something I had to do first and foremost for myself, it’s not something I did alone. A lot of people have helped me overcome my innermost personal demons. It’s because of the love and kindness of others that I can claim to live in victory today.

Semi-colons mark a point where a sentence could have stopped; a spot where the story could have ended. But by the grace of God…my life didn’t end with my addictions.

semicolonAre you struggling with addiction? Has alcohol or have drugs taken control of your life? You aren’t alone. You don’t have to keep suffering. You don’t have to keep living a lie. You don’t have to keep leaving a wake of devastation wherever you go. You can change. Life can be different. But you got to want it…

Start here or here.

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Remaining Vigilant on the Road of Recovery

Recovery is a total overhaul of our mind, body, and spirit. It is a constant, ongoing process. You can graduate from a program, but you never graduate from your recovery. Even after you overcome your habits and hang-ups and find healing from your hurts, the work of recovery continues. Like the process of sanctification, the journey of recovery transforms us daily, correcting our skewed inner navigation system. We are all flawed. We are all a little damaged. No one drives life’s highway without getting dinged up. At the end of the road, none of us even get off the highway alive.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (ESV)

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Recovery is about living. Addiction is about dying. As addicts, regardless of habit or hang-up, we die to self a bit every single day. The longer we remain embroiled in the turmoil brought on by our darkest demons, the more of our self we lose. We find ourselves wandering aimlessly off-course, struggling to find our way home.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

But, the good new is that recovery works if you work it. We avoid getting too far ahead of ourselves and certainly we must not get ahead of God. His desire is for us to walk with Him, just as Adam and Eve walked with Him in the Garden (Genesis 3:8). When we walk with God, it fosters closeness, intimacy and fellowship. Spiritual growth occurs. Our spiritual growth and transformation help us remain in a state of recovery. Recovery is not a stagnant but ever-developing, altering states just like water forms into ice and ice evaporates into a gas.

Vigilant

Our recovery requires our active participation, monitoring our thoughts and behaviors, continuing to learn and practice new skills, developing and growing our support system, and being alert and watchful to triggers and temptations to use or return to our addictions of choice. We must stay vigilant, guarding against relapse.

Step 1: Honesty

“Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.”

The work of recovery is hard but it is also rewarding. The work we do in the rooms and through our programs helps us rebuild broken relationships. Recovery brings new people into our life as well, providing us with friends who walk with us, mentoring us, and most of all, holding us accountable. We can experience happiness because we learn to quickly forgive wrongs and readily admit when we messed up and need to apologize and make amends. This keeps the list short and our burdens light, replacing pain with joy. Through recovery we can live the abundant life our Creator intended for us to experience this side of Heaven.

Open Door

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 (ESV)

My friend, continue to press on, one day at a time, and even sometimes one moment at a time.

RBantau_072017 Devo Guy

 

My Life Long Journey

The process of recovery is a life long journey. No matter how long you have been in recovery, you never seem to reach the end. At least not on this side of Heaven. Changes occur day after day, but I find myself continually tweaking this and that. By the grace of God, I have lived in recovery for over 20 years. I am still learning. Every day. Recovery demands taking responsibility for my life. Our daily walk centers on a recovery absent of self-pity and free from resentment. That is not easy for non-addicts to carry out. For those of us with hurts, habits, and hang-ups it can be even more challenging.

To make the most of my recovery, my life must have routines. Doing certain things, like making my bed in the morning, help me stay focused and oriented in the right direction. Upsetting the routines risks opening the way for darkness to creep in, usually beginning with a benign fog stealthily sneaking up on me and throwing me a curveball when I least expect it. Other times, a lack of routines results in an immediate smack in the head, quickly signaling that something is off-kilter.

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He heals the brokenhearted

    and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3 (ESV)

Recovery means forgiving freely and quickly. It means praying readily and in the moment. Letting stuff simmer leads to the pot boiling over, making a mess of what was an otherwise good situation. Problems do not go away; solutions do. Addiction is a chronic disease. It does not let go easily. Untreated, it will kill you. Co-dependence, addiction’s nasty sister, is a life long condition that rears its ugly head when you least expect it.

Both addiction and co-dependence have recognizable symptoms. For me, the addict, resentment is locked in a battle with feelings of inferiority. It’s a 12 round heavyweight cage match between anger and pity. Getting back at people does not do us any good. Sitting on our pity pot crying “woe is me” does not get us anywhere. Unchecked, anger turns to hate and our hate leads to frustration, inner turmoil, outer conflict, and neurosis. Anxiety disrupts peace. Obsession and compulsiveness creep in to the picture. Indecisiveness dominates the day. Not a pretty picture.

Co-dependency is a beast all its own marked with the need to make other people happy and having a hard time saying “no”.  Guilt, shame, inadequacy, and the obsession for perfection create a formula for disaster. Combined and untreated, the addict and co-dependent can create a world teetering at DEFCON 1 (Maximum readiness; all forces ready for combat; nuclear war imminent or likely).

It can be hard to remember that your job is to drain the pond when you are standing knee-deep in alligators. Keeping the monsters at bay calls for vigilance. Guarding my heart, my mind, and my soul are constant duties. Recovery means living a life of faithful obedience and doing for others. Helping others helps me stay in tune with what matters and keeps out those things seeking to do me harm.

He has told you, O man, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 (ESV)

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When we find ourselves in seasons of struggle, which in this life are inevitable, we can act by seeking our God in prayer. Prayer is an activity affording us an audience with the Creator of all things. Prayer is powerful. It is both a tool and a weapon. Prayer is an action. Working through what has been a difficult Summer 2017, my wife Terri developed a prayer that she keeps close to her heart and on her mind. It has helped her tremendously. I wanted to share it here with you. Are you struggling today? Is your world spinning out of control? May this prayer, written by my beautiful bride, give you the comfort the Lord has shown us through Terri’s prayer.

Terri’s Prayer

One day at a time,

One foot in front of the other;

Focus on God.

Don’t forget to breathe;

This too shall pass.

Be kind with your words;

No one is guaranteed tomorrow.

Terri Walker Bantau ©2017

The Road

Images courtesy of Pixabay.