LifeSTAR of the Central Valley Recovery Testimony – Part 3 (Conclusion)

Moments of Victory

Today I am finding moments of victory throughout my week. Some seem small, but all give me motivation to move forward. What a sweet day it was not only to baptize my daughter, but to feel like I was a good father. I have had many more positive moments of hope, assurance, and love that make the work of recovery worth all the effort. As I look back over the last 2 years I see that I am a different man than I once was. Especially, I have become stronger than I ever thought I could be.

This summer my wife wanted to travel out of state to see her family. She would take our children and I was to be alone for two weeks. In years past this had proved to be a guaranteed relapse. I once looked forward to this time when I could act out without anyone to stop me. Even when I wanted to stay clean, I was still afraid that my loneliness would cause me to relapse. This time, however, everything was different. I looked at it with new eyes. I had a plan. I wrote it down. I shared it with my wife and with my group. I was a new person. I planned out my days in advance, providing structure, pleasure, anticipating emotional triggers, and even planned all my meals. I spent time with my parents and siblings and reconnected with them. Every day I was accountable to my wife as well as to my group. Of necessity, I swallowed my pride and brought my internet router and modem to my parent’s house to keep them until my wife’s return. I knew my limitations and I didn’t want to fight that battle every night. Instead I committed to only use the internet while at my parents’ home.

When my wife returned it was a beautiful experience. There was no fear, no anxiety, no pain, no anger. I stood tall, proud of my accomplishment, pleased with the safe homecoming I provided for both of us.

Moving forward

Now my recovery looks very different than it did when I started. I don’t fight a daily urge to act out. Instead, I focus on the positive behaviors of healthy living that bring pleasure, structure, and balance to my life. I have found that these behaviors keep me in recovery. Through my experiences, and even through my mistakes, I have learned to look at recovery in terms of personal questions that examine whether my actions are leading me to my goals. These include:

  1. Am I taking time for myself and meeting my personal needs?
    • This usually means recovery work, spiritual connection and making time for hobbies.
  2. Am I reaching out and connecting with others?
    • My most cherished connections are with my children and family.
  3. Am I providing sufficient structure and planning to my day and week?
    • A 3×5 card allows me to plan healthy behaviors for tomorrow.
  4. Am I using recreation, music, hobbies, and connection with God and others to reduce stress?
    • My stress level has become an easy way to gauge if I am meeting my personal needs.
  5. Am I engaged in healthy and positive self-talk?
    • Affirmations and self-compassion are powerful antidotes to negative messages around me.

My experience has taught me that if I engage in these behaviors, I am proactively preventing the unhealthy response to stress and pain that leads to acting out. I heard it said, “Tell me how you spend your time, and I will tell you exactly what is important to you.” I believe that our daily activities tell us where our hearts lie. As I reflect routinely on the depth of my commitment to recovery, answers to the questions above can confirm to me that my actions and my heart are congruent.

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