Through the course of my work, I have come to know some recovered alcoholics . They have taught me a lot. Some are extremely articulate, and have explained what it is like to get caught up in the cycle of addictive drinking.
They recognize the pain that they have caused others and the damage they have done to themselves. They have had the courage, one day at a time, to loosen themselves from the grip of their addiction. Often, they had to endure the pain of withdrawal, along with the pain of what they were drinking to escape.
I have such deep respect for these individuals; for I know that their path was not an easy one. Because of their challenging journey, and perhaps the humility that they gained along the way, they know how to speak from the heart. In order to heal, they have had to be brutally honest with themselves, in ways that few people are. Often, they have both supported, and been supported by others on the same path. They know how to listen, and they know how to reach out.
Certainly, there are those who have quit drinking and still have not healed associated dysfunctional behaviors. Stopping drinking is not the end of the process, it is the beginning. It takes courage to admit your mistakes and to acknowledge to others the hurt you have caused: a lot of courage. It takes courage to know that some of the damage is irreparable, and that you cannot change the past , but to continue to move forward in your life. It also takes courage not to replace one addiction with another.
The recovery process is about self-honesty. Interestingly, the path of growth for any human also involves self-honesty. Many people take the path of avoidance or denial when it comes to truly being honest about their behavior or motivations.
This is true of many well-adjusted individuals, who seem successful in their lives. On the surface, everything looks smooth or perfect, but underneath they may be hiding their true natures from themselves or those close to them.
Everyone has his or her dark side. In order to heal, the recovering alcoholic must bring his or her dark side out into the light, and honestly take stock. Part of the healing process may involve admitting to the support group where one has dishonored self and others. This is the beginning of truly taking responsibility.
How many of us are willing to do that within our own hearts and minds, much less in front of others? The recovered alcoholic has, in doing this, traveled the toughest part of the road to enlightenment.
I used to think of recovered alcoholics as those who had failed, and then managed to get back on their feet. Now that I have known some, I see them as very special people who have lived through pain and struggle – people who have gone deep inside and found their own souls. They have much wisdom to share.
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