Alison's Insights

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

“One Step At a Time”… Really?

When I entered treatment for addiction, all I really wanted was for someone to tell me in very simple terms, how to get through a day without drinking and with food.

Those instructions were not offered no matter how many people I asked.  Instead I was told healthy, foundational recovery is achieved one slow and steady step at a time, one day at a time.

C’mon, really?

I was coming from a place of knowing how to, and needing to, become instantly gratified.  I could go from feeling one way to another in seconds.  Picking up a drink while skirting yet another meal was mere magic.

During those early days all I wanted was to be over and done with recovery yet what I needed was to be “in” recovery.  I just didn’t know that yet.

I didn’t have the foggiest idea about why building a strong foundation for sustainable growth was necessary.  Throughout my past if an item appeared on my tangible or imagined “to do” list, I wasted no time doing just enough to apply the check mark confirming completion.  Every check mark meant I was a success, every check box left blank screamed failure.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, all I wanted was to place a check mark next to the line item “stop drinking” and the one underneath titled, “eat better.”  What I needed was to become willing to do these things, otherwise known as the first step.

So a big “thank you” to all those who helped me embrace that idea.  One step, one moment, one breath at a time was how I got from hell to a life that makes sense.

Now, fast forward to everyday issues I encounter today.  While I certainly try to put into practice the wise and wonderful things about I’ve learned about taking my time, I’ve had the occasion of wishing I could just snap my fingers and have everything fall into place.

For example, my husband recently had shoulder replacement surgery.  I witnessed the process this brave man went through as a team of medical experts literally removed his arm, reconstructed most of the upper portion and put him back together with more metal than any TSA agent would be confident to inspect.

His first few days at home after the surgery unleashed every maternal instinct within me.  I would have done just about anything to remove the pain I saw on the face of the man I love more than life itself.

Per direction from his surgeon, a physical therapist was scheduled to arrive at our home for an assessment the day after his hospital release.  I almost barreled her down as she approached the front door.  I stood ready with pen in hand to write down exactly how we were going to get him from sheer agony to blissful repair.  She looked at me and said, “Today we will see if he can raise an empty glass one inch from this table.”   My pen dropped at equal speed as my jaw when she outlined how delicate the recovery process needed to be in order for his shoulder to heal properly.

Hmmm, seems I’ve heard that somewhere before.  There I was, once again reminded nothing foundational and sustainable can be achieved in rapid fire; in an ever-demanding pace to place a check mark next to the line items on a to-do list.

This morning I participated in webinar offered by The Renfrew Center (  One of the co-hosts, Johanna Kandel( suggested this analogy about why steps not leaps are important for positive recovery which I will find hard to forget.

When we are sick, the doctors don’t ply us with every medication identified as suited for our condition.  They will try one, see how we respond and then try another course of action if that one didn’t address the issue.  Moreover, not every protocol meets with every human body.  Right actions, right decision and right answers always require some element of time.

So yes, one progressive movement after another is to be remembered if I find myself wishing I could be Samantha Stevens from the TV show, “Bewitched”.  I can’t twitch my nose and have my house clean; I’ve got to tackle that job one room at a time.

While on the topic of doing one thing at a time, I’m honored to be sharing my recovery story in a 4-part series at Eating Disorders Online Click over and take a peek!


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One thought on ““One Step At a Time”… Really?

  1. A hard truth for loved ones of those taking those small steps to embrace as well, particularly loved ones who are much more accustomed to living (or attempting to live) Samantha Stevens-esque lives! Love the video clip add on – priceless – and beautifully said, as always.

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