Alumni Story: Keeping the Change

Most people come into the drug and alcohol recovery process accepting that some sort of personal change is necessary. What I’ve come to learn is that it is one thing to accept change, another to give up what that change will look like and yet another to accept how long that change process will take. Someone should have said to me, “How about forever? Does forever work for you?

I’ve often heard that the journey from addiction to sobriety is not unlike the five stages of a grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance–followed by the sixth and unpublished stage, “replacing your cell phone.” Resistance to change comes at many levels, and my resistance has shown up in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

I accepted change piecemeal–as if I were doling out my possessions at a yard sale. Certainly, my life today is not the end product of a plan that I had put into place. Riding out on a dusty Texas road to listen to a fifth step yesterday was not something I could have ever planned. When I was sitting in the back seat laughing at crude rap lyrics with my friends, (half my age and the tattoos to prove it), I wondered about how I was plucked from the suburbs of Washington, DC and Saturday morning soccer games.

Underlying my resistance was some deep-seated belief that I should, I must change, and an equally frightening thought that I couldn’t, and then an almost unspeakable thought; some things I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want to skulk around church basements afterhours, I clung to the version of myself that I had projected before I came unraveled. Today, I don’t put as much weight into sentences that start with, “I want.” It no longer makes sense.

When crushed by a self-imposed crisis I could neither postpone nor evade, I eventually did become willing to change old conceptions of myself, but then my self-will popped up in another way: I wanted to put a timeframe on exactly how long this would take, and how much of my life I would carve out for this purpose. In the 9th Step promises, where I read, “Suddenly we found that God was doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” I wanted to change the word “suddenly”, to “eventually” or “soon enough.”‘ Not much has come suddenly to me in this program.

So another layer of my acceptance lies in the parameters I want to put on any sort of psychic change. I would change my address, my marital status, but my pride and self-reliance? Not so much. And so the layers are peeled again.

Promises are fine, but I don’t cling to them. Much better for me to learn not to attach good or bad values on change. I try not to put limitations or parameters on what my life should like, or how long it will be before things change again.

When you believe that you absolutely cannot change, and then find that one day you have–this is to me a demonstration of divine grace. It is becoming aware of occupying an other-worldly space where personal preferences are immaterial and a sense of well-being materializes nonetheless.

-Nina James

Nina James is a recent alumna of BRC Recovery. Previously an amateur blogger from Washington, D.C., Nina now lives in a sober house in Austin, TX and currently works part-time as a fundraiser for BRC Recovery.