Addiction Recovery: Why this alcoholic won't play small
Everyone who is a recovering addict accepts that it's an illness that you never get over. Once you're an alcoholic, you can never drink again. Once a drug addict, there are no half measures.
In fellowships you have to label yourself an alcoholic or an addict forever, and unlike cancer, alcoholism and drug addiction does not go into remission. It is a serious, serious illness and needs to be treated accordingly.
But unlike any other illness, you're not supposed to tell anyone about it, even when you've recovered. Drug addiction and alcoholism recovery are things that are largely secret, because it's supposed to be a shameful illness.
The worst part of addiction recovery is that even when you are better, you feel like you can't or shouldn't do as much as everyone else. You feel limited because of your past and your illness and your beliefs.
You hear of people getting over other illnesses and then organising massive events and giant feats. Cancer sufferers swimming the channel, people who have lost their legs running marathons anyway.
But the recovering/recovered addicts keep quiet for the most part. No-one says “Look, how amazing, I beat the odds and got over my alcoholism. NOW see what I can do!”
Addicts seem to be expected to get on quietly with things, have small successes and be happy just to not be drinking. We limit ourselves with believing that to be the case.
While I am ecstatic that I am now not in active addiction, I feel like I am not celebrating recovery if I play small. I would be letting my illness pull me down further and limit me even more.
I appreciate the simple things much more than most people who aren't in recovery. But that's not all there is to my life.
I often joke about the massive powerhouse addicts could be in government or politics. We were all so determined to feed our addictions that our willpower in this regard was enormous, our drive to achieve getting wasted, our ingenuity in hiding it, our strength in pushing through and making it to work when we felt like death – all these things were incredible. And of course, recovering from an addiction is, in itself, amazing.
But if I am capable of all this, what else can I achieve? It's time to play big for me. I need to do it, not just for me, but to show others what is possible. How about you? Are you ready to play big?
by Beth Burgess, Therapist and author of The Recovery Formula, The Happy Addict, and What Is Self-Esteem?