One of the most significant (in my mind) benefits of my involvement in recovery is the process of self-discovery that accompanies years of introspection and self-analysis. The key is all about getting to know oneself by taking an honest and critical look at one’s life. This can be a very difficult experience; not one for the faint of heart.
When I was in the throes of addiction and co-occurring Bipolar Disorder I was truly lost with no sense of who I was or where I was going. It was a very confusing and scary time. This feeling created a sense of uncertainty for me. I couldn’t see beyond the haze caused by substances and mental illness.
It’s hard enough to discover oneself but when you add the effects of mental illness and addiction into the mix it magnifies things exponentially. As for myself, my mind was scrambled. I just wanted a way out.
When I entered my addiction recovery program, things did turn around. The first thing I had to do was to admit that I had a problem with drugs. For so long I denied this issue despite experiencing significant problems that led to maladjusted behaviors. I just couldn’t make the connection between my chemical use and my Bipolar.
This admission opened the door to a better understanding of how using substances directly related to my mental health issues. They went hand-in-hand. But interestingly, once I stopped using the haze began to clear.
I began to practice the tools that were necessary to stabilize my life, and in the process, began to learn more about myself. One of the primary advantages of this was the fact that, through communication with my therapist and my friends in recovery, I was able to metaphorically look into the mirror and see myself for who I was. At first, I wasn’t too happy with what I saw but as time went on my self-image began to soften.
One other thing that helped me was the many confidence building experiences I’ve had. Each challenge I had was something that increased my self-confidence and kept me moving forward. I began to learn that by taking “healthy risks” I could strengthen my resolve and do things that at one time would have been impossible. Mind you, this did not happen overnight. It took years to get where I’m at today. But….the cool thing is that by setting goals I’ve been able to gain a sound assessment of my strengths and weaknesses.
One such example was when I accepted my first “real job” related to the work I do today. I was a “wet behind the ears” counselor, who frankly was not, in retrospect, necessarily ready to take on this demanding job. However, I was able to successfully take on this position and accept the responsibilities necessary to complete the duties I was charged with. By doing so, I learned so much about how I could handle the stressors associated with work; everything from communication to developing a healthy rapport with the clients with whom I served.
Twenty-five years later I can say that I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I am quite empathic. I am persistent. I am goal driven. I am a decent husband and parent. I am faithful to God. I try to have integrity. And I work hard. Not necessarily in that order.
I’ve learned all these things, as I said before, not completely on my own. The important thing is that by working a program of recovery and being willing to accept constructive criticism, I can become the person that God wants me to be. And this is, to me, the most critical piece of the puzzle to me. I’m still learning who I am and I find that to be an extremely exciting prospect. As long as I keep learning then it’s all good.