Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Recovery: A Process, Not a Project

Before I got sober and overcame an eating disorder, I used my daily “to do” list as a means to determine my self-worth.  Each morning I would craft a list of things I needed to accomplish for the day.  Not what I hoped to get done, but WOULD get done. Upon review at day’s end, I would calculate how much I’d accomplished and how much I had not.  What had not been done would roll over to the next day, somewhat punishing myself by making the next day’s list all that much longer.

Little did I know this was simply an exercise to determine my worth.

All items checked?  You’re acceptable and good enough for today.

Items not checked?  You’re lazy and inferior so your day tomorrow will be that much harder.

Guess what message I’d always fall asleep to?  It was a horrific, vicious cycle I continued to swirl in because I was addicted to fueling my belief of being a failure.

What’s important to note, part of the reason my list was never complete was because each day there was a line item relative to treating myself better.  Unfortunately as the day progressed, these would never be considered, let alone completed.  These were the line items which always begin with one of two very definitive words, “stop” or “start.”  For example, “Stop drinking” or “Start eating three meals a day.”  There was never any room for grey area.  There was never any room for baby steps.  It was all or nothing, and like any good perfectionist, if it couldn’t be done perfectly and completely, it wasn’t done at all.

I just could not figure out why I wasn’t able to immediately start or abruptly stop an action or behavior.   So without a solution, I had simply resigned myself to living as an alcoholic anorexic fighting to keep my head above the waters of addiction death.

I’ve since learned why I was totally unable to attend to those line items.  I didn’t understand recovery is not a project, it is a process.  It isn’t something to be “checked off” and done with.  It is fluid.  It requires a lot of grey area and a lot of time.

Recovery means respecting the fact I’m human and incapable of making miracles happen.  I did not become an alcoholic anorexic overnight.  How could I possibly expect myself to become completely sober and healthy overnight?  I couldn’t.  No one can.  Further, even though I did indeed stop the action of drinking and started the action of eating, I did not make the recovery shift changes overnight.  That my friends, takes time.  It took time for my body, mind and emotions to adjust.  It took even longer to believe I’m not the woman I was then.

Today I’ve become respectful of what recovery truly means.  If I continue to do one healthy thing for myself today, I might be inclined to do it again tomorrow.  I don’t need to put that on any list to remind me.  It’s in my heart where no checking off is required.

Recovery is indeed a process, not a project to ever be done with.

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