A Long, Slow Recovery

Last week, I celebrated a year sober. One full fucking year without alcohol or drugs. One full year of ice cream salty with tears (ok, that's been every year). One full year of learning how to feel. 

The myth persists in our culture that addiction is a moral failure. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe that many addicts have an overdeveloped sense of morality, and have to dull themselves from the overwhelm of living in an unjust world. Somewhere along the way addicts fail to learn how to exist in the uncomfortable spaces of emotion and pain, and so seek to remove those from their lives. Of course, it is a quick and poor fix, and after the game is done, if one is still alive, then one has to learn how to actually live.

This has been a year of learning how to live. There are many people and places and things who contributed to my success in living, but the most important thing I did was empower myself to be my own healer. Left raw and trembling, I had to heal. I went to my doctor and got the full battery of blood tests to ensure that there was no physical damage to deal with, and I was lucky to have only mental battles to fight. I've written before about how my intuitive empath nature appeared quite quickly when no longer smothered by gin. I felt feelings that were not mine. I could no longer stand many of the basic facts of city life such as noise and body heat. I needed to, well, shut it down.

But I couldn't, and realizing that these gifts and this pain was mine for life is what began to show me how to move forward. What I have been through will never go away; I will not fix it or forget it. I will, however, learn to live with it, and having been through it, can guide others back from the fires of hell. 

That is truly what healing is: guiding. Whether we do it for ourselves or we hold space for another, we can only offer guidance. We can guide our bodies to fight a cold or heal a wound. We can guide our minds to release fear and bring in joy. We can heal.

There is a saying in addiction circles that I quite like: I wish you a long, slow recovery. To a newly sober person this can sound like a curse. We want to be recovered! Past tense! We want to move on! With time, the ability to savor recovery can become a blessing. I find healing to be similar. We are never healed, past tense, move on. Healing is constant, and to slowly savor our relationship to ourselves is a beautiful way to live. There is a whole world out there to experience, but there is also a whole world in each of us to explore. Healing work opens up the possibility of a new kind of life, one where challenges appear to push us forward, and pain teaches us so we can help others who suffer similar fates. That is what I am here to do. I did not survive for my own wellbeing, but caring for my own wellbeing is what enables me to be of service to others. 

So, then, how to heal? Painfully and deeply, and not alone. Ask for help, dear ones. Others have been where you are and they know the road back. They also know the most important thing: you do not need to be perfect on this path. There will be setbacks and disasters and great joys and small annoyances which push you in directions that are uncomfortable. And that will keep happening, forever. And you will learn about yourself. And you will be able to share what you have learned with others who need your hard-earned wisdom. When you work to heal yourself, you also create healing for the rest of us.  

I wish you a long, slow recovery. 

Sarah Chappell