“The moment we decide to stop and look at what is going on (like a swimmer suddenly changing course to swim upstream instead of downstream), we find ourselves battered by powerful currents we had never even suspected – precisely because until that moment we were largely living at their command.”
~ Stephen Batchelor, The Awakening of the West
Early recovery is rough. We have to deal with physical withdrawal, feelings that are unmedicated (perhaps for the first time in many years), the normal stresses of everyday life and quite a few others directly related to our addictions, expectations of ourselves and others, financial and legal problems…the list goes on and on. For most of us, getting through the first few weeks and months sober will be the most difficult thing we’ve ever done.
For years we not only went with the flow of our addictions, as Batchelor Roshi implies, we often drifted aimlessly. There’s a lot of catching up and growing up to do. We don’t have the answers yet and we have to accept that. As another wise man once wrote, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.”
For folks in recovery, acceptance no longer means going with the flow. It takes a lot of uncomfortable buffeting and lots of effort when we choose to swim against the current. It’s exhausting. It can wear us down to the point of simply giving up, drifting through the rapids and banging against the boulders of our addictions until we are drowning again.
But there are options. We don’t have to swim against the current and turbulence, we can swim across it until we get to shore. When someone throws us a life preserver (I’m not going to insult your intelligence by explaining metaphors here), offers us a hand up, leads us across the stepping stones so that we don’t have to fall back into the torrent–that’s when the acceptance comes in.
We have to accept that our way didn’t work, and that just because we’ve gotten through a short time clean and with our enormous egos intact, it doesn’t mean that we’ve passed the Water Safety Instructor course. If we can’t accept and share our vulnerability, admit that we needed help and still do need it, we might as well jump back in the river right now–because the bank beneath our feet is crumbling.
We’re free to do that, always. Many of us have found, however, that accepting the hand up, getting into some dry clothes and warming up in the glow of unconditional love makes a lot more sense than jumping back into that cold, rocky river.