I’m thinking about the fluid nature of my recovery program. There are moments (days, weeks, months) when I'm neck deep in meetings , conferences, active sponsoring, and step groups, desperate for the solace and sense of belonging I receive in my community. Other times are more attuned to journaling, meditation, candles and my home groups - a quieter flow. Initially, I was conscious of any tendency to slack, hearing the old-timer’s voices in my mind – “Meeting makers make it!” “I come to meetings to see what happens to people who stop coming to meetings!” And so on. That instruction was good and right when I was younger in sobriety – I needed the structure. That structure is also beneficial during any kind of life change, be it positive or negative. My default is to isolate, so being with my people is a comfort I don’t always recognize until I’m sitting in it. But, over time, I've come to understand that sometimes, self-care is staying home from a meeting. Sometimes, self-care means curling up with my journal and a recording of the ocean, if I can't actually be at the sea. Sometimes self-care = silence.
I recently heard the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) definition of recovery: 1) Recovery is individualized and self-directed 2) Recovery doesn't follow a linear progression, nor is it time-limited 3) There are various access points to recovery and can progress through various pathways, which often change over time 4) Recovery likely flourishes within a community.
I love it when the scholars verify what I know to be true from my own experience. Recovery is very individual. 12 Step programs have 100's of thousands of members, and while we have our guide, we each "work the program" in our own way. Some sponsors are very structured in their approach, some not so much. Some of us work the Steps continuously, others yearly, or just once at the beginning, and so on. And, recovery doesn't follow a linear progression. Amen to that. How many times have I confronted an issue I thought I'd dealt with, only to come at it from a different angle on the spiral a few years later? Two steps forward, a couple to the side, a hop or a skip, and here we are, on that road of happy destiny. And various pathways that can change over time... I have a friend who drifted away from meetings and went back to drinking, and another who is sober for decades after leaving AA. I know people who move from 12 Step to church, and back again; others who simply stopped using whatever it was that was out of control. Many paths...
And community - During a rather frenzied time in my life, I participated in a book group, a running group, a church discussion group and my 12 step meetings. I realized, sitting in those "other" communities, that most people simply want to belong somewhere, to something, and how fortunate I am to have a community of my peers, people who have been where I've been. There are a few other places where I feel I belong, but my 12 Step communities have been the most consistent. So, paying attention to my heart, listening for the still, small voice, I will notice when and where my spirit gets fed, and where I can be of service as well.
I keep coming back to these thoughts of how my application of recovery has shifted over the years. Here I am, nearly 64 years old, coming up on 33 years sober, 7+ years married, and a couple of years from retirement. Life is good. Life is good, and, feels different than it did 4 years ago, or 14, or even 2. I guess that's the idea - same can equal stagnant, so feeling a shift might indicate that I'm right where I'm supposed to be, even if I don't always know where that is.
Where do you feel an internal push or pull, as the seasons prepare to change? Are you moving away from, or towards your true nature?