Alison's Insights

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

Whatever You Do, Don’t Get Creative!

A friend recently celebrated his first significant recovery milestone. While listening to his words of excitement, infused with a bit of disbelief he achieved such an accomplishment, I was instantly reminded of the day I shared similar news.

I don’t really remember what I specifically said, perhaps something about my gratitude for help I received from others who only asked I do the same for someone else one day, or for my appreciation of the overall program of recovery. I’m willing to believe I also referenced the importance of being patient because I needed (ahem, still need) a lot of that. I hope I acknowledged my sponsor, Lord knows she deserves every little peck of grace from God for the relentless phone calls and questions about how to put one foot in front of the other. I remember the applause following what I said, the smiles from around the room, and the slow, gentle tears that fell from my eyes as I tried to focus on the miracle of the moment. Yet perhaps the most significant memory from that day were words whispered during a congratulatory embrace from someone whose recovery I still deeply admire.

He said, “Congratulations. Now, don’t get creative.”

Not knowing what in the world he meant or how to gracefully disengage from our brief conversation, I thanked him for the good wishes and quickly moved through the door and out to my car fearing he’d ask my thoughts on his comment. Back then I was rather intimidated by anyone with long-term recovery because I had an invalidated belief they were silently testing my knowledge of the many phrases and underlying principles of a 12-Step program.

Even though I escaped without finding meaning behind what my friend said, I definitely wanted to crack the code before running into him again. Thankfully my sponsor had become a trusted resource when struggling with what I felt were dumb questions.

After reiterating the situation and my friend’s ensuing comment she smiled, took a deep breath and said, “Oh honey, that’s simple. He was suggesting you consider what you did to get from where you were to where you are now. Whatever those things are, obviously they’re working for you. If that’s your positive formula, don’t get creative and start thinking about how to do things differently. Keep doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll keep getting more grounded in your recovery.”

I’ve never let go of my friend’s congratulatory suggestion. I don’t want to find out what might happen if I stop doing the same recovery-focused action steps I took when I began this life-changing adventure.

As my mind circled back the joyous atmosphere surrounding my new friend’s recovery milestone, I pondered this idea of not getting creative in other areas of my life.

I’ve been married for a long time, almost 15 years. If you are unfamiliar with my full story, multiply what you know of the recovery process times two. Our marriage has been able to withstand my emergence for not one, but two life-threatening addictions. Yes, ebbs and flows certainly prevailed, and to a certain extent still do. However through a focused, steady approach to heal our addiction-blanketed relationship, we set a firm foundation from which everything else is now based. To date, we haven’t found sufficient reason to change even the smallest of things that has worked to bring about a smile when angry, a calm when in fear, and a sense of reassurance when feeling close to falling apart.

We dance in the kitchen for no reason at all and we’ll probably keep dancing to music heard only in our hearts until we breathe our last breath.

Over the years I’ve had a lot of practice trying out what works and what doesn’t in places like work, around the neighborhood, family gatherings and even sitting quietly with my own thoughts. I’ve uncovered what’s needed for me to feel at ease despite whatever chaos swirls around. Seems to me I’ve been given plenty of reason why I needn’t get creative and consider changing what’s proven to work.

I wouldn’t have imagined those few words offered in encouragement many years ago would leave such a profound mark. Initially meant to help me stay on track to maintain healthy recovery, the intention behind those words have proven invaluable when faced with the many uncertain turns my life has taken.



A Moment to Breathe

Take the time to consider examples of what’s working for you.  What are the things you have done to achieve that comfortable process.  Do you ever wonder if there might be a way to create a different path to reach the same point?  Well maybe there is one, but why spend time trying to fix what isn’t broken?  

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2 thoughts on “Whatever You Do, Don’t Get Creative!

  1. Fantastic blog your grounded-ness shines through. I love the kitchen dancing paragraph. We do that as well!! Though not for a while, maybe that’s the anti complacency nudge? Grateful for your writing. Peter

    • Peter, Thank you for coming to my blog and for appreciating my message. Oh boy do I understand the complacency “nudges”! Like a snake in the grass, we sometimes don’t see the warning signals indicating we need to wake up to what we aren’t doing. So grateful I’m closer to acknowledging those warning signals than I used to be. Cheers!

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