dont fear choices in recoveryWhen you are in the throes of a particularly spectacular addictive episode – you could be drunk for three days and have very little idea of what carnage you have left behind until the sober dawn greets you with a smack around the head; you could be holed up in some den, having not seen the light of day, lying to yourself that this is the last hit and then home, full of the anxiety filled knowledge that the last remaining friends, the ones that haven’t given up on you yet, are looking, you feel angry and want them to give up as you have already done; you could be at the black jack table, wishing, praying that this is the turn on the card that will see you start the process of getting all the money back you have lost, the rent, the school fund, the TV, the card turns and your bust, true desperation fills every fibre of your being, you have nothing left to lose, literally – there is one luxury of life that seems to have left the building. The ability to choose, the freedom of choice.

And there is a blissful simplicity attached to this phenomenon in the active addict’s mind. It’s like the responsibility of choosing, of making decisions has been passed over to the illness, leaving you free to focus on scoring, using, manipulating and deceiving your way to your escape, your uncomfortable, comfort zone. After all, you are at the mercy of the dis- ease.

Then your reach your nadir. The crossroads. That point that most alcoholic/ addicts reach when you wake up one day realizing the pain of using is far outweighing its perceived benefits. Like everything in your life, the drugs and booze have now abandoned you, after promising so much. You start to hear the screaming of the sane you, desperately pleading to get help, that part of your brain that has been buried under the garbage addiction brings, but today you hear it. Today you heed it. Today is the day that you have to make your first proper decision, you first proper choice, in years.

Do I ask for help, or do I carry on?

On the surface it is a no brainer, but remember, all your conscious decisions have been made for you in recent history, and it is those addictive choices that have led you to this point.

The sanity and the spirit prevail, and you put your hand up and ask for help. You decide to give recovery a go? In whatever form that program may be. For me it was via a treatment centre and through the fellowships of AA & NA. You have just made the toughest, bravest and best decision of your life, although it won’t feel like it yet.

From your first day in recovery you will be presented back the ability to choose. Often it’s terrifying, at other times its empowering, but what isn’t in question is what it is all of the time. It’s liberating. It’s freedom. The cell door of your mind has been opened, and you are free to go, walk out of the darkness. Old feelings and sentiments die hard, and you will find days in early recovery that see you scurry back into that cell, but you make sure that the door is left open so you can leave, picking up and using again would be mean the closing of the door, and more time spent in that despair.

Every time you step outside the cell, you will be confronted with choices, and when you do, you start to learn more about consequences of your choice. You’ll make the right choices and learn, and you’ll make poor choices and learn even more. Just remember that the reason you are free to make these choices is because you have chosen to. The ‘real you’. How great is that!

Accepting the responsibility of choice means accepting the consequences that result. And it is in this practice, that true living, real living, and emotional growth are obtained.

Not over night, but in time, the choices you make become easier as you establish what works for you and what doesn’t. In the bad days, the only choice you feel you have is to hold on to recovery, but that is still a choice. Your choice. Just keep choosing recovery, and before too long the good will outweigh bad.

Choose to listen, to connect, to the real you, and surrender to the addicted part of brain.

I have a little ritual that I will share with you. It is a fundamental part of my day, and part of my recovery. Before I do anything, regardless of how shit or good I feel, I drag myself out of bed, stand in front of the mirror, and say, ‘I have freedom, I can choose, and I choose recovery, I surrender to the rest’ – if anyone could see me they would probably have me sectioned, but it’s a mantra that helps align my muddled thoughts into some kind of order, and gives me a sense of purpose at the very least.

I’m choosing to do that, not my illness. Try it, and really connect with the words as you say them.

Don’t fear the choices that you have to make, regardless of how uncomfortable they make you feel. In fact, the more uncomfortable the choice you have to make, the more likely it is that is the right one. And once you do, and see the positive nature of the outcome, you’ll feel less stressed the next time it comes to decision time.

It is in these small victories that the true value of recovery can be found. So, pay more attention to the choices you have to make today, even the ones that seem automatic, feel the feelings that these choices generate, and connect with the person that is generating them. The real you.

– Andrew Sullivan