A good number of people who are new to the rooms of 12 Step recovery programs have a preconceived notion that recovery is going to be boring. “No more fun of any kind!” There are many reasons for this. For starters, everyone is told straight away that they must change their playmates and playgrounds. Well then, whatever will you do? Where will you go? Who would you go with? How are you going to fill all those hours that you previously spent feeding your addiction(s)? For most, spending time at home was not a priority, and for some, that was avoided as much as possible. Yep; recovery was looking more and more like a very boring proposition. On top of that, there is the fear of the unknown. Living clean and/or sober is such a distant memory for most. Addiction, even with all its associated detriments was familiar. Familiar almost always trumps the unknown because familiar is a comfort zone we know.
I have been clean and sober for 24 years. In those 24 years I have accomplished and experienced the following, in no particular order …
I divorced, married, divorced again, and have now been married 15 years. (Practice makes perfect, right?) I helped my current wife raise our youngest son. I finished an Associates Degree. I found out that I could draw and paint without being drunk, stoned or a combination of the two. I earned a level of proficiency in martial arts. (That’s actually still kind of amusing to me because some days I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time!)
I earned an MCSE from Micro$oft. I taught myself how to use and hack MACs (“Once you go MAC, you never go back.”) I taught myself Photoshop, some InDesign, and I am now working on Illustrator. I earned a diploma from New York Institute of Photography. I retired honorably from the military at the rank I wanted to retire at when I first entered the service.
I walk away from trouble as much as humanly possible now because I have nothing to prove to anyone and it is just the prudent thing to do in the long run. As much as I want to tell some people how much of an asshole I think they are, I don’t unless I am left with no other recourse because I have learned that most of the haters in this world really hate themselves and take it out on everyone around them.
My wife married me because she loves me (bless her silly heart), and because I am the only guy she has met that actually keeps his word. She thinks I am a “stand-up guy.” That means the world to me. My two stepsons and I get along well. I never tried to replace, nor did I badmouth, their fathers, and they respected me for that. They think I am a cool stepdad. My friends think I am a “stand-up guy” too. My wife and I managed to move into our dream home a little while ago. It’s not luxurious, but it is everything we ever wanted, and it is ours. I have also been able to spend more time with my brother, who is ten years younger than I. We were estranged for a time. Of special note: We saw David Bowie together, on the beach, in New York City, at night, and Earl Slick was his guitarist. This was our first concert together, and one week before Bowie had his heart attack and stopped touring.
I have been fortunate enough to have acquired a couple of guitars and amps (again, my wife humors me, silly girl), and I am learning to play guitar again. I am a writer and editor for the premier online blues magazine and have been able to meet and interview several musicians of note. I’ve had several wonderful experiences having my guitars signed too. Roy Clark said he thought my Strat was beautiful and wouldn’t mind having it himself. Duke Robillard signed it and looked at me and gave me a wry smile. Jimmie Vaughan gave me an approving nod as he signed it. When Willie Nelson handed my Strat back to me and I thanked him, he stepped back, held his arms open in a big hug, and smiled at me. Everyone in the room applauded – it was just an amazing moment. By the way, I named my Strat “Mary Kate” because in my twisted mind, I pictured Scarlet O’Hara’s father calling it “Mary Kate” in that Irish brogue of his.
Nowadays there are people who trust me with their livelihoods, their families, their vehicles, their property, and their friendship. This is no small thing because when a drunk/addict first enters recovery, most often, no one trusts them. Now don’t get me wrong: Recovery has not always been a picnic. There are struggles too; life doesn’t take a break just because you are in recovery. There are still disappointments. There are still things I have not accomplished yet. There are definitely obstacles in my path at times. The difference is that I am better equipped to deal with them now. My perspective and outlook have changed. I have better tools to deal with life’s trials now. I don’t beat myself up over what could have been, or stupid, selfish things I did. I can’t change the past. I have made amends where possible and appropriate. I live in the present and work toward the future. I do my part every day as well as I possibly can. Most importantly, I try to give back and help others in any way I can. Most importantly though, I am grateful for everything I have and get to experience every day. Every new day is a day I might have never seen.
Given everything I have discussed here, if you think recovery has been boring for me, well, nothing could be further from the truth. You are in for the ride of your life and it will be anything but boring, I promise you!