“Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.” – Helen Keller, American author, political activist, and lecturer, the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, went on to inspire millions, depicted in The Miracle Worker (1880-1968)
We don’t have to suffer from blindness to be blind to life and what the world has to offer. For many of us in recovery, but especially those of us in early recovery who may have been addicted for many years, just being able to look others straight in the eye seems like an impossible task. We’re coming from a supreme deficit, lost, but trying to find our way in this new world of sobriety.
Yes, this may be true, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. We do need the support and encouragement of others who are committed to sobriety, people who know what we’re going through and can help us recognize that this is a temporary situation. We can get past this period of uncertainty, fear, and self-recrimination. While we may have done some pretty awful things in our addictive past, things that have caused immeasurable pain to others and made us believe that we don’t deserve redemption or forgiveness, we have to believe that there is a different life available to us. All things are possible. This is something that we will learn as we listen to what’s being said in the 12-step rooms, as we work with our sponsor and begin the process of working the Twelve Steps.
Let it be said right at the outset that we all have something in our past that we’re not proud of. Every single person in recovery has his or her own hall of shame. Recovery isn’t about simply shutting the door on our past, though. It’s about taking responsibility for the hurtful things we’ve said and done, making amends wherever possible, and moving forward to live our lives in a healthier manner that’s conducive to our continuing sobriety and our happiness.
We shouldn’t worry about how long it will take to be able to look the world straight in the eye. Never put a timetable on how long it will be before we feel we must have this recovery thing handled. Remember that recovery isn’t a sprint or a race. There’s no finish line and we’re certainly not in competition with anyone else. We are on our own path, although we aren’t in recovery alone. No one recovers without the firm support and constant encouragement of our support system.
By putting intense pressure on ourselves to achieve certain self-appointed goals in a short period of time we are unknowingly sabotaging our recovery efforts. That is why it’s good to begin slowly, to take small steps forward to achieve goals that are perhaps more manageable and attainable. Each goal we successfully achieve helps bolster our self-confidence, adds to our feeling that we can, indeed, tackle challenges and issues that arise in our lives. No, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. We just need to believe that it will and keep tending to our daily recovery schedule.
The very best thing we can do is to regularly attend 12-step meetings, at least for the first year of our recovery. Why is this so critical? When we first enter recovery, we’re generally in a kind of a fog. We certainly can’t see too far ahead and we’re still confused about the past. This new life of sobriety is also pretty scary, if we’ve never been here before. And even if we have relapsed and come back, it can be doubly frightening because we know how easily we can slip again – if we don’t tend to the hard work of recovery.
Still, we’ve committed to sobriety. We’ve pledged to do all that we can to maintain it and to do the work of recovery that will help ensure that we adhere to this commitment. We owe it to ourselves to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. Begin to believe in our ability to do what it takes. Give ourselves permission to take whatever time is required to get where we want to go, but also hold up our heads as we work our recovery. The world will take notice of our courage and self-determination. But we don’t need the world to be at our backs. We need our support system and time.
There is a time and a place for everything. For us, right now in recovery, it’s time to stand tall and work diligently today on doing the best we can for our lives in sobriety.