I Thought I Was Different
From the moment I walked into my first recovery meeting, I had a very clear picture of who I was, and an even clearer picture of how (I thought) everyone else saw me.
I was different. I was special.
Getting and staying clean would obviously be harder for me than everyone else. I had a list of reasons my addiction and recovery would be met with unique struggles.
- I didn’t go to a detox facility or rehab center, I didn’t learn the tools that it appeared everyone else had.
- I never had any sort of therapy or addiction-related counseling.
- I didn’t relocate. I got clean in the same town and same house I got high in.
- I was one of few not residing in a “sober-living” facility, and wasn’t surrounded 24/7 with “housemates” that were recovering too.
- Compared to what I was hearing from others, my story was lacking. I hadn’t used _____ drug, or _____ method, or done “that,” yet.
- Unlike many others in the group, I didn’t come from one of the more dangerous cities. I was an educated, suburban girl. I wasn’t “tough.”
- My “war stories” couldn’t hold a candle to others.
- I had not suffered any intense traumas to run from or use over.
- I had no children, so I didn’t have extra pressures or people to get/stay clean for.
- I didn’t suffer many severe consequences in active addiction. The worst that had happened was the loss of a bullshit job I hated anyway.
I felt like I could not relate to what I was hearing about the details of the lives of the other recovering addicts around me. I was absolutely certain they couldn’t relate to me. I heard and saw only our differences, and I never looked for our similarities. I wasn’t listening for the loneliness, despair, and isolation that surrounded out addictions.
I am very grateful no one in program called me out for my obvious focus on what made me different. If someone had, I probably would’ve argued with them anyway. One by one, all of the reasons on my list were debunked by what my friend Lisa calls, “God winks.”
I started to see old using buddies collect substantial clean time. I ran into people from the school I went to at meetings. I started to hear others tell my story, and hear my feelings echoed in their words. I began to understand that I had more in common with the people around me than I thought. I was still convinced, however, for a long time that others didn’t think anything I had to say was relevant.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I now understand why it was so important that I be different; separate.
I was setting myself up to fail at recovery.
If I set myself apart, I would always have an excuse to use again. There would always be a reason why recovery wouldn’t work for me.
Changing my perception of who I was had to start with me; how I felt, what I wanted, and not defining myself through comparison with others. I rarely feel unique today among other recovering addicts.
Today I’m learning not to listen with my ears, but rather, with my heart.
Rachel has been in recovery since October 29, 2010, and she’s not afraid to speak out about it. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two daughters.