I blogged in my Charlie Sheen, Dr. Seuss and Me post about why I have twenty two years of recovery, but only eleven years clean. The reality is that the numeric particulars for some people in recovery can be complicated. For others, it is quite simple. Take Soul Mate for example. He stopped using all drugs (including alcohol) in February 1989. He has twenty-two years clean. Easy peasy. But as any of us involved in recovery from addiction know, or even those who watch Intervention on television know, many people don't get clean and stay clean happily ever after.
I had my last drink in 1987 (24 years ago), and smoked my last drug in 1989 (22 years ago). Indeed, I consider 1989 to be the year that my recovery truly began. Sadly, in 2000 I chose to use prescription meds that were prescribed to my then very recently deceased mother, so my almost eleven years clean time at that juncture, was lost. And that's okay, with me. (Losing the clean time is okay, losing my mother is still not very okay, for those of you have read this blog in the past).
I am happy today, to reach this eleven year mark. To be honest, I don't think about using drugs (including alcohol) anymore, and I haven't for a long time. That doesn't mean I never will have those thoughts, but as long as I stay on my current recovery path, the likehihood that the thought would translate to action diminishes greatly. I love my life the way it is. I've loved my life even through the agony that I have endured this past several months dealing with my workaholism and busy-aholism, and I've loved it even through the deeply wrenching emotional work that I have done and continue to do around unresolved grief. I am the happiest person suffering from depression that I know. The only substances that scare me and threaten my recovery today are Golden Oreo cookies. Yesterday I had six. I think. I may have had two more in a blackout, if I am being honest.
Being honest is important to me. Being me, is important to me. I've been reading a lot this past while, and while I take a little bit of everything I read to heart, one book in particular is resonating with me. I really like Brene Brown, and I am currently contemplating and trying to understand and absorb the rather profound guideposts that she introduces in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.
As I muddled through in my Charlie Sheen, Dr. Seuss and Me post, I really just want to be who I am. I am a lot of things, but one of the things that I am is a woman in recovery. I can't think of a reason on earth why I should be ashamed of having eleven years clean, twenty-two years in recovery. Is it something that I need to bring up in meetings at work, or to the cashier in the grocery store? Not so much. But if I want to write about it (and I do want to), then why do I hesitate, sometimes?
Why can't I "be" authentic? Brown has some ideas about the "why" (shame) but I am currently more interested in her description of what authenticity is, or is not. According to her, authenticity isn't something that we "have or don't have," but rather "It's a practice - a conscious choice of how we want to live." To that point, Brown developed a comprehensive definition of authenticity. I'm going to provide it in full, because I think it's important.
"Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we are.
Choosing authenticity means:
- cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
- exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
- nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.
Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives." (page 50)
Not every day is about my being a recovering woman. But today is. And the joy at being where I am today is indeed, intense. I can feel it.