Before getting sober, the idea of being in “recovery” was something I reserved for older people or squares. Of course, I could handle my drugging and drinking. Only losers or desperate sorts needed a support group and spirituality to endure life. The irony is that I didn’t evaluate myself in such low terms. Living on a couch, only leaving my house to resupply my drugs and drink, and buy 99 cent tacos; I was too good for recovery.
Since getting sober, I’ve become aware that I was always surrounded by recovery. A recent, and often cited, study found that 1 in 8 Americans qualify as having an alcohol disorder (Grant, Chou, & Saha, 2017), and about 1 in 10 Americans report that they are in recovery from substance use (Rondo & Feliz, 2012). That’s an almost incomprehensible number of people. And once I got sober, I realized that recovery really doesn’t discriminate. The longer I’ve stayed sober, the more I’ve come to realize that I share the path toward recovery with some of my favorite actors, athletes and musicians. And every time I discover that someone is in recovery – whether it be stranger or public figure – I feel even more connected to this endless network of people.
Recently, my wife and I went to see an up and coming musician Jason Isbell. We discovered shortly into his performance that he is in recovery. And in an instant, I was reminded of how fortunate I am to be part of those few alcoholics/addicts that have not only found this way of life, but have become a member of this incredible web of people in recovery.
This also prompted me to reflect on the amazing power of music – that neurological magic that I can’t understand but I experience frequently – that has been a mainstay of my recovery. From artists like Macklemore to Eric Clapton, I can always find a message in the lyrics that speak to my experience directly. And Isbell’s track, Live Oak, has proved to be no exception:
There’s a man who walks beside me
It is who I used to be
And I wonder if she sees him
And confuses him with me (excerpt from “Live Oak,” by Jason Isbell)
After 5 years of sobriety, there are people in my life who have only known the sober me. In fact, I met my wife when I was one and half years sober. Sometimes I wonder how much of the old me – the living on the couch, eating cheap tacos me – she can see. Because, despite the incredible strides I’ve made in recovery, there are still glimpses of my old self – the selfish, self-centered, deceitful and fearful me. And there have certainly been times when these glimpses of my old self have made me question whether I’ve changed at all. However, notwithstanding the occasional doubt, one thing is for certain – today, I am much closer to being the man I always wanted to be; much closer than I was 5 years ago.
Today, I am grateful for so many things but among them are that I am not alone in this recovery process; that “old glimpses” are still there and serve as reminders of why I belong here in recovery; and that I’ve found a more meaningful connection to other humans, beyond exchanging that last bit of change beneath my floor mats for Jack in the Box tacos.
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