When I celebrated a year in recovery, I was flying high on a pink cloud—you know, the amazing kind of shimmering clouds that line a Floridian-sunset sky. But then after my first sober birthday, it hit me like an ocean-liner during a hurricane. I was suddenly confronted by all this messiness and all of this yuck and the pink soon disappeared. All of these new emotions and feelings bubbled up to the surface and I had no idea what to do. How would I manage when hard things happen in recovery?
The importance of community.
After nearly twenty years of burying the mess and the hurt and then letting it all out like a slow leak over the course of a year, it is no wonder that I didn’t get carried out to sea then and there or instantly combust. Looking back now, I’m still not quite sure how I survived my first year of recovery or a few years after. What I do know is this: if I tried to do it alone, there is no way that I could have.
When hard things happen in recovery, including working through past traumas, I’ve learned that it is imperative to do this in community.
Thankfully, during my first year sober I connected with an outpatient treatment center that encouraged connection. I attended other recovery meetings and sometimes forced myself to stay after closing prayer to talk or go to fellowship with others. Mentors walked alongside me and shared their experience, strength and hope over coffee. Finally, I learned how to let other people into my life in an authentic (and sober) way for the first time.
Life continues to happen.
Dealing with my own junk in recovery has not been the only “hard thing” that’s happened. I wish that were true. I’ve experienced deaths of friends and family, horrible diagnoses, natural disasters, and last but not least, a global pandemic. Things that my “worst case scenario” thinking could not have dreamed up. The floor beneath me has shaken. Some days it’s shaking and when I look down, I’m standing over an abyss that is scary and dark. If I let it—if I go back to my old isolating ways when hard things happen—they will break me.
The good news? When I am grounded in community and a Higher Power in that community, I am able to withstand the storm. Suddenly over the abyss, a bridge appears that I can walk (or run!) over. Your hands are holding it up. You hold me up. The recovery community and fellowship help me walk my journey. Importantly, I can be part of your bridge too; the one that is able to guide you over the trouble that life guarantees will happen.
Learning from others.
I’ll never forget some of the things I’ve learned in meetings. You’ve shared with me all of the hard and beautiful things. I’ve heard how, through recovery, you were able to withstand the death of your spouse or child. The job lost. Home destroyed. Country ravaged. All of the horrible things that in my mind I’ve secretly said: “if this happens to me, then maybe I would be justified in going back out.” And the good things too: the weddings, and births, and new friendships, and other lovely joys that shine like stars in the night.
Regardless of what happens, good or bad, my people are there to hold me up or cheer me on. Whatever life brings, I’m never alone. If you are needing a bridge or committed to be that for someone else, know this: living recovery in community makes walking through all things, possible!