My therapist looked at me with kind eyes and said “you are a relational person. There is no need to beat yourself up over that. You are here to learn how to balance the person you are with the person you want to be. That’s all we are doing here.” These words washed over me and provided me with a sense of relief. I knew I was on the right path and now just needed to gain the tools to overcome some of the hurdles.
For the majority of my life, I have worked and lived my life for others. If those around me were okay, then I was okay. There are years I never took off work because I thought I needed to be there to take care of things and make sure my staff was happy. I would attend functions because I thought I had to be there but when I was there, I was never present with those around me. The stress of putting others first would wear on me and eventually my addiction fed off it. In order to keep doing more for others, I used drugs to help me find the time to accomplish more and to go above and beyond so people would feel okay around me. I did this also to mask my drug use because in my head if I did more for those around me, they wouldn’t notice my drug use. It was a vicious cycle.
During the early stages of my recovery, I recognized my pattern but did nothing to change it. My recovery quickly took a back seat to my life because I thought I needed to get back on track quickly. I needed to quickly repair friendships and work relationships and I didn’t need to work on myself. Three months into my recovery and on the verge of a relapse, I learned that I had to stop living my life the way I wanted to, and I had to put recovery first.
Putting recovery first can be one of the hardest lessons we have to learn. Once we have worked through a program, attended meetings, and done some service work, we tend to think we can check off the recovery box of life. We find that we have repaired friendships and our social calendar fills up. We show up at work and are given new responsibilities. Our partners see a new us and the spark is stronger. As we experience this new lease on life, we think we are solid in our recovery and we can afford to skip our home group meeting a few times. We don’t do our morning meditation because we don’t have time and we make fewer phone calls to our sponsors.
Then we wake up one day and we feel everything is falling down around us. Because it is. We have been so busy with living “life” that recovery has been lost. Putting recovery first must be the priority in our lives. If we don’t put recovery first, we will find our lives slowly retreating to the old ways and the peace and serenity of recovery is lost. The tools of recovery are useless to us if we leave them on the shelf to collect dust. Putting our recovery first helps us to continue to grow as an individual and have a greater understanding of our needs and vision for life. Over the past 18 months, I have learned that putting my recovery first has led me to many rewards and there is nothing wrong with putting myself first. Those around me benefit more when I put myself first because they are getting the best version of me. I am present with them and experience life with them in a healthy way. By putting my recovery first, I have found that the stress of everyday life is manageable and understand that it is all part of the process. Recovery is a gift that we were given from our Higher Powers. Cherish this gift and you will become a stronger person.
By Scott Maas, MA – Case Manager