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.