It truly is an inside job and you only have to change one thing…EVERYTHING! This is something that I used to hear in early recovery. Every time I heard that, I felt an uneasiness inside. I had frequented detoxes and programs in the past where I had heard something a little different. I heard that you only had to change people, places, and things. That sounded a little bit easier to me. For many years I tried to change people, places and things. Here is what I did. I changed people. This meant changing my phone number (for the 17th time). I stopped calling old “friends” and drug dealers. I would end relationships and start new ones. I changed places. Sometimes this meant moving back home. Sometimes this meant moving to California. Lastly, I changed things. I tried to avoid triggers. This meant avoiding public restrooms, black Ford Tauruses, and the entire city of Worcester.
The big problem for me was no matter what I changed on the outside, I was still the same person on the inside. The person I was on the inside was what was causing me so many problems. I was always convinced that if I could just line everything up in my life perfectly (great job, great boyfriend, great apartment, ETC) then I would finally be okay. Sometimes I was able to obtain those external things, but I could never keep them for very long. This led me to the conclusion that I was the problem! No matter where I went, who I hung out with or what I avoided, I was still me. I still had flawed thinking. I was still convinced that I was far more important than I really was. I was angry and resentful, but afraid at the same time. These flaws in my thinking were my real problem. People, places, things, drugs, and alcohol were not my problem, I WAS! What a realization that was.
Luckily, THERE IS A SOLUTION! The solution for me was doing the twelve steps, integrating prayer and meditation into my life along with a yoga practice. Healthy eating also plays a large role in my recovery. This sounds like a lot, but I live such an incredible life today and I am going to tell you how it happened for me.
When I was 8 months sober, I found myself craving a drink and drug just as badly as I had when I was brand new. I couldn’t fathom why it was happening to me because I was in the middle of my longest stretch of sobriety yet. I found myself at AA meetings surrounded by people who seemed significantly better off than I was. During the time I physically spent in meetings I remember feeling okay. I was okay for the hour of the meeting, but what about the other 23 hours a day I was left with myself? While I was at a meeting one night I did this crazy thing and I got a sponsor. I made a commitment to myself to go through the 12 steps. I had an inkling that they were not going to work for me, but I didn’t really have anything to lose.
A powerful time during my step work came during my third step. I remember really wanting to hand my life over to God. It was not difficult for me to see that when I ran my life, it didn’t go well. I always seemed to end up using, homeless and hopeless in a very short time. I remember having longer stretches of happiness and shorter stretches of unease and discontent. This was only a month into my beginning the steps. I remember not thinking about drugs and alcohol as much as I had been up until that point. That was all I really wanted in life. I wanted to go one entire day without thinking about picking up a mind-altering substance. When I got into my fourth step I mentally made the commitment that I was going to get through the steps. I began to notice patterns of my behavior and thoughts. It was so ironic to me that while listing all the people I was angry at, I was starting to see how I caused so many of the problems. I, in many cases, set the resentment in motion. I had lived my whole life as a victim so this was really eye opening for me!
My fifth step wasn’t as profound as I had imagined it would be, but it did feel good to release to god and my sponsor the mess I had been holding onto for my entire life. There is an hour of meditation suggested after a fifth step. Right before I fell asleep during that hour (Whoops!) I had a thought. I realized that it had been some time since I thought about drinking or drugging. I couldn’t remember if it was days or weeks, but it was time! I was so excited and ready to keep moving forward. Steps 6 and 7 were and still are so important in allowing me and my higher power to recognize those behaviors that aren’t working out anymore and then be rid of them! I then was able to have some AMAZING amends experiences. I was able to make amends to people that I never thought I would talk to again, let alone build new relationships with. The thing was, I was learning how to live again. I was learning how to be in healthy relationships with people. I realized I really was changing who I was on the inside. I liked who I was becoming. I liked other people. I was interested in other people and being helpful. This was all brand new territory for me.
Steps 10,11, and 12 allow me to continue to change who I am on the inside. I have so much more work to do on myself, and I am grateful that I have tools to keep growing. I still get upset, afraid and even resentful, but I have tools to work it out right away and I don’t have to wait it out for a decade in extreme sickness.
Today I regularly practice these latter steps, which influence my life and those around me. I have had that “internal rearrangement” the big book talks about. Over the years of being in recovery I have also picked up some other habits that supplement my recovery perfectly. I have learned that when I eat well, I feel better. For my body this means staying away from sugar, eating fresh organic fruits and vegetables and having balanced meals. Yoga is another example of something that greatly impacts my recovery; therefor my life. Practicing the principles of yoga are so profound and impact my life in such a deep way, I am just going to need to write another blog to share with you all the magic it brings me. Stay tuned.