Tag Archives: 12 step programs

Being in Recovery

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Edit: Something I should definitely add, in the interest of not alienating people is this- there is 12-step recovery, and there are other types of recovery, as well. But ALL recovery means DOING THE WORK to be a better person than you were when you were using. If you are not actively engaging in the process of figuring out why and how you wound up where you are, then that is not recovery. If you are still using any substance to change the way you feel (and I’m not talking about anti-depressants here, to be clear), that is definitely not recovery. For ME, that means the traditional NA, AA, twelve step path. For you, it could be faith based or whatever floats your boat. But recovery is a specific thing, and you are either doing it or not. It’s not a halfway thing. THAT is the point I was trying to make.

Something that REALLY bothers me a lot is when people say they are “in recovery” when what they mean is that they stopped using a particular drug. Listen: You are not In Recovery if you stopped using meth or heroin but you still smoke weed or drink. You are not even in recovery if you practice abstinence completely, but you have never been to a meeting. Being in recovery (for me, for instance) means attending 12-step meetings regularly, and working those steps, with a sponsor. You can say you are clean, you are sober, or anything else like that if it pleases you. But don’t say you are in recovery, because you just aren’t.

Listen, I am not trying to downplay what anyone is doing to better their lives. If you can stop using hard drugs and find that you are someone who can drink responsibly, my God, that is GREAT for you, more power to you! But please, don’t confuse that with real recovery. It isn’t. Let me explain to you why that is-

Recovery is a lifestyle. It means committing yourself to something that is serious, time consuming, and really hard at times. My drug of choice was amphetamines. Do you know how often I toy with the idea that, because of that fact, maybe it would be okay if I drank occasionally? It crosses my mind a lot. Despite the fact that I have factual evidence that every single time I have been a responsible drinker it has eventually led me back to drugs at some point, I still continue to battle with these thoughts here and there. Maybe this is not the case for you, and hey, high freaking five on that. But it has been my experience that this is what we call a “yet” situation. I am not prepared to gamble with what I have earned.

Here’s the other thing: through my prolific years of drug use, I learned something really important. Addiction is not just about the drugs, and the shameful things that happen to us and because of us while we are using. It’s really about the people we are, the behavior we exhibit, and the deep seated self-loathing that basically all people with addiction issues have in common. People who have problems with addiction have problems with loving themselves. When you take away the drugs, the problems are still there. The drugs or whatever it is you are using to control the way you feel, and the way you show up in the world, are a symptom, they are not the real problem.

Recovery is how we get to the root of that problem. It’s like manual labor of a the spirit- there’s a lot of heavy lifting and digging, a lot of time spent in the dark with all of the things you fear the most. When you are in recovery, you make a decision to face all of the things you are terrified of looking at, and to do that, you have to dredge shit up, shine light on it, pick it apart, and learn how to dispose of it properly. And you do every bit of it with NOTHING to take the edge off, NOTHING to dull the pain, even when it sounds so good, you could almost cry.


Let me tell you, it’s a struggle sometimes. Do you know how hard it is to date when you are in recovery? I don’t have the option of loosening up with a drink, and thanks to my general anxiety over who I am, this would be welcome on a date, let me tell you. Do you know how much of a weirdo I feel like when I try to lightly gloss over the fact that I don’t drink to a guy who just cannot compute the concept? “But why?” he inevitably asks, or “You don’t drink EVER?” And it feels like I have grown another head, but you definitely don’t want to lead with a horror story of WHY you really don’t drink. And yes, I could just say I’m allergic to alcohol (lies) but, you know, I’d rather just not.

My point is, recovery is a very specific thing. It MEANS something to the people who take it seriously. The ones who are fighting to grasp it, to hold onto it, to incorporate the principles into their everyday lives. We aren’t just trying to stay clean, we are trying to use a set of instructions to become the best people we are capable of being. And it’s HARD, but it is good work, and it has rewards far beyond what I ever expected to receive. So please, respect the word recovery. And now, I shall get down off my soap box. Carry on.



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So, I walked into my Tuesday night women’s 12 step meeting uncharacteristically late, just as the group was trying to coerce one of the regular girls into being the Secretary. ( I just want to stop right here and let you know that it is so early right now, and I have had so little caffeine, that I have been unable to spell both “Commitment” and “Secretary”. That’s pretty bad.) Anyway, you could see that this poor girl was NOT into it, and as I rushed through the crowded room to my seat, I heard someone go “I’ll do it!”.

Apparently, it was me. If I could, I would insert an eye-rolling emoji right here. The current Secretary was stoked, they did not follow protocol and vote me in, and by the time my butt hit the chair, I found myself with a new service commitment (neither of these words are getting any easier for me, dammit.)

For those of you unfamiliar with 12 step recovery stuff, first of all- congrats on your normalcy, hahaha! Secondly, in every meeting there are certain service positions that must be held- treasurer, coffee maker, bigger meetings might have greeters, and there are other roles, too, but the secretary (ha! I did it on the first try that time!) runs the meeting. They show up early to set up, run the whole thing, then pack up everything at the end and shut it down. It’s not hard or scary or even unfamiliar to me- I’ve held this position two other times at this very meeting over the past several years.

But it is a big commitment. And I had no intention of signing up for anything when I left my house on Tuesday night. Yes, my darling sponsor told me months ago that I needed to find a position, but I ignored her, as one does when it is something one is not interested in. And I am busy. Overextended. I have my irons in too many fires. I am busy working, and writing and planning my two upcoming vacations, building this blog, and going to the gym, and…and…and…

And God had other plans for me when I walked into that meeting Tuesday night. AND I wouldn’t be so busy, would I, if I didn’t have this gift of recovery…right? I probably wouldn’t have my job, I certainly wouldn’t be planning any vacations, or going to the gym, or writing anything I was proud of.

Do you know that when I wrote out my list of resolutions this year, I committed to writing, to my meditation practice, to my home life, to caring for my body, to building my relationships with friends- but there was not one word written down about how I would commit to my recovery. It never even crossed my mind, and that is troubling. Because the person I am RIGHT NOW, this woman who I really like, I mean, I LOVE myself- I was created, at least in part, in that very room full of women. They let me cry, they listened to me go from a scattered, broken, angry, loud mess to someone so much better- admittedly, still pretty loud, but I’m a work in progress.

I guess it’s okay though, because my God has got me- he puts the words in my mouth so that I can blurt them out; “I’ll do it!”, and of course, I will. Every morning, I pray (so sorry if this makes you uncomfortable- it used to make me kinda wiggly too, when people started talking about God, and prayer. My best advice to you is just, you know, get over it. I’m not trying to convert you. This is just my deal. 🙂 ) for God’s will to be done in my life, rather than my own. He took me up on it this week, for sure.

I was remiss in not adding my recovery to the list of things I will commit to this year, for without it, I wouldn’t have anything else, and I know this to be true because I have lived it. When drugs are in my life, they are ALL that exists. My program saved me, gave me almost everything I needed to find my way out of the darkness, and showed me that there was still something good, something worth salvaging, inside of that darkness. I will commit to my recovery this year. It’s time to give back.


The Best Christmas Yet.

the best christmas yet


In the 42 years I have been on this planet, I have had all kinds of Christmases. I have had magical ones- lots of those, thanks to my mom, who REALLY pulled out all the stops every year to make it special for us kids. I have had terrible ones- I remember a year, when Aisley must have been about seven, when I had stayed up partying all night, and all of her presents were from the dollar store. Also, a guy I didn’t know was passed out on my living room floor, left there by his friend the night before when we couldn’t wake him up. We just stepped over him. That’s the kind of life I have lived.  I have had angry Christmases, and lonely ones, Christmas days filled with too much driving, too much fighting, and too much wishing I was somewhere else.

But I have never, ever, had a Christmas day when I was so overcome with gratitude as I listened to the sound of my family- all the people I love most in the world- chattering away and laughing in the living room behind me, that I broke down in tears. Not just a pretty little drop or two as I brushed garlic butter onto bread, but full on, “Oh shit, Courtney, this is not the time for a breakdown” kinda tears. Sobs, you might even say. I don’t know how to describe it to you, the way I was feeling, except for that worn out word, grateful. So, so, so full of gratitude that it hurt a little bit.

Because that, that feeling that I had, that sent tears pouring out of my eyes, and my mother rushing to hug me- that, my friend, is what recovery is. All the meetings that I make and the stepwork that I do, all the self reflection and correction and digging deep and starting over, forgiving myself, forgiving others, all the TRYING. All of the never taking anything, no matter what- THAT is what I have been searching for, and striving for, and wanting in my life and heart all along. That feeling of peace. That feeling of love, and belonging, and contentment and family. I have been really working a 12 step program for two and half years straight, but I have been trying to be where I was yesterday my entire adult life. My whole life.

If you are reading this, and you are new in recovery, I want to encourage you to stay the course. Don’t give up. There were times in the beginning when I was more miserable than I had been when I was using. I had zero coping skills, nothing left to take the edge off, and my brain was fucked up, even if I couldn’t come to terms with that at the time. My temper was as short fused as ever, and goddammit, I got clean so that I could stop being so hateful, but it didn’t seem to be working. If this sounds familiar, just wait. Just find whatever small improvements you do see, and hold onto them. Know that it will change.

When I had about a year clean, I got really mad at my mom, for a good long while. She didn’t do anything wrong, and I didn’t understand it- I hated it, actually. I was afraid that I was going to stay mad forever, and it scared me. But I had faith that I was working through old shit, feeling feelings that I should have felt a long time ago, and I held on. I kept pushing forward, inch by inch. One day, I looked for the anger that I had almost gotten used to lugging around with me, and I found that it had faded. Day after day, it lessened, leaving me surprised by what took its place- love, warmth, affection, acceptance. Yesterday, I can tell you, I did not have one single weird feeling where my mom is concerned. I never felt judged or criticized, picked on or even remotely insulted. The reason I am telling you this is because relationships change in recovery. You will change, and they will change.

Every single person in my house yesterday has been hurt by me in my addiction. Every. Single. One. I just now realized that. Wow. How blessed am I, that I get to make a living amends to these people? That they have forgiven me? That they still love me, that they are so proud of me? I literally would not have ANY of it if I wasn’t clean. I wouldn’t have it, and I wouldn’t even know that I wanted it. I would still be trying to fill that hole in my spirit with all the wrong things, wondering why everything hurt so much.

Listen, I want everyone to be able to feel the way I felt yesterday. If you have reached the end of your rope, and you need some help figuring out what to do next, shoot me an email. I will try to help you figure out a solution. Clduncan1@outlook.com, or just message me here.  And again, if you are new in recovery, I promise you- the pain will be worth the gain. It will be worth every second.