Men’s List member Rick Fortier in this article offers us that personal look in the mirror we can all benefit from when we’re thinking about recovery and changing our lives forever.
The thought of recovery terrified me.
A part of me assumed the worst and the life I knew would be over. I would lose everything that I had worked for. How could I possibly exist without my go-to coping mechanisms?
I was dependent on a number of unhealthy habitual behaviours: pornography, self-defeating thoughts, excessive TV, work and alcohol. I had no idea what lay ahead when I finally gathered my courage and forged ahead into recovery. I chose my initial focus was to combat my mental, emotional, and physical dependency to alcohol.
Nearly a decade later, the outcome is better than I could have imagined.
Here are five awesome reasons to choose recovery.
1. Clarity of Mind
Before recovery my mind was in a fog. I was easily distracted and found it difficult to focus. I had trouble recalling details from conversations from the day before. My short and long-term memory was abysmal. My personal and work decisions often overlooked obvious and relevant information.
After only sixty days in recovery I became astounded at how clear my mind became. The fog had lifted. I was asking clear and concise questions and was more engaged in conversations. I could focus for longer periods of time. My decision-making ability improved. I took all available information into account and felt confident in my decisions.
Another benefit was a higher degree of memory function. I could clearly recall details from days or weeks prior. I was no longer subjecting myself to wondering what happened the day or night before.
For most of my life I was a self-doubter. I dissuaded myself from believing I was capable and looked to others for validation. I had trouble speaking my truth and asserting myself for what I believed in. I was a proficient liar – to myself, and others. Honesty was a concept, not a principle I lived by. I didn’t like myself much because of it.
Successful recovery demanded that I take responsibility for my past actions – the good and the bad. With that responsibility came the understanding that those past decisions did not define me. I could make different decisions today.
I chose to begin being honest with myself and with others. As my recovery progressed, so did my self-confidence. I began to believe in me. I looked in the mirror and started to like the man I saw. I walked with my shoulders back and stood taller. I was able to look people in the eye and spoke with more confidence and smiled more often. I was taking responsibility for the quality of my life. Authenticity and integrity were my guides.
I had convinced myself that I was stuck in my life circumstances and had few options. My habitual coping behaviours limited what I could and could not do on a daily and long-term basis. Those behaviours had become more important to me than taking steps to get unstuck.
My mindset shifted once I finally took action to be in recovery.
As I gained clarity, I began to see choices and options that I had not considered before. Possibilities revealed themselves once I severed the dependencies to my past coping behaviors. I began to feel a sense of empowerment. I was in control of my life, and could be free from the physical, mental and emotional constraints I had placed upon myself.
4. Physical Health
I considered myself healthy. I exercised a couple times a week. I ate okay. I didn’t sleep very well but that was usual for my members in my family. As my addictive behaviours worsened, my energy dropped. It was difficult to get out of the bed in the morning. I felt ragged. My body began to prod me with warning signs. I developed an ever-expanding waistline and dark rings under my blood shot eyes. Fatty deposits developed on my liver. I began to notice pain in my kidneys, heartburn and a burning sensation in my upper chest. To my dismay, my body created ‘man breasts’. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels became elevated. My physical health was spiralling downwards.
I feared that the mistreatment of my body could not be reversed.
Getting physically healthy became a motivating factor in my recovery. After only a few months my body began to heal. My energy level increased. I slept better. As I ate better my body demanded healthier food. I was running farther than ever and participated in my first 10K race. I did yoga. I stopped using eye drops. My blood pressure and cholesterol returned to normal. Today I weigh the same as when I was eighteen and almost as fit. I am giving myself a chance for long and healthy life.
5. Deeper Relationships
Even in my closest relationships I protected myself. I did not share who I was, who I wanted to be, or what was going on in my heart and head. I came across as a decent guy but reserved. I was adept at being a chameleon, changing my personality and conversational style depending on whom I was talking to. I avoided conflict at all costs. I allowed no one to know the real me.
As a ventured into recovery I allowed myself to become vulnerable, which enhanced the quality of my closest relationships. It was not easy and there are many challenging aspects to letting my guard down. With a deepening connection to another comes the obligation to speak my truth: without judgment, with compassion and empathy. I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I believe others want the same.
I have come to understand that short-term recovery was about replacing a set of unhealthy habitual coping behaviours with healthy ones.
Long-term recovery is about creating and maintaining new habitual healthy thoughts and beliefs about me, and my life circumstances.
Only by experiencing a contrasting lifestyle, by stepping into the unknown and the uncomfortable of recovery, was I able to understand the magnitude of this gift I gave myself.
Choosing recovery is a test and testament to a person’s courage and determination. It is one of the most challenging choices one can make.
The long-term benefits of health, clarity, quality relationships, freedom, self-empowerment and self-respect are worth the short-term discomforts.
Choosing recovery is the best decision I ever made.