When I came to Savannah, Ga in 1993 to start a substance abuse outpatient facility, I’d been working in the addiction field for 10 years. This was still a big change for me. I’d visited Savannah many times through the years, but I’d never lived in Savannah — plus, my wife and I were responsible for creating an outpatient facility from scratch, and this I’d never done. It was frightening and exciting.
Change is like that — frightening and exciting. At the time, we had both learned enough to know that we had to concentrate on the process and not worry so much about the outcome. We could control each day only those things which had to be done for the facility. We bought furniture, put together policies and procedures, set up a financial system, etc. Yes, we made long-term plans, but we could only carry out these plans daily. Before long clients came to us for help with alcohol and drug problems, and we were concentrating on the purpose of the facility, providing treatment for addiction.
The recovery process is a lot like this — a person can only do what they can do, and they can’t control the outcome. Focusing on the process allows a person in recovery to lessen the anxiety that comes with thinking about forever or all the things that can go wrong. A lot can be said for the saying “One Day at a Time”.
When a person in recovery is in the process of recovery, they’re doing what they can do to make changes one day at a time — they aren’t proclaiming they’ll never drink or do drugs again — they’re saying that today, this minute, they’ll stay sober by doing the things that lead to long-term clean and sober living. Each day of sobriety builds on the others and before long the person has changed and embraces this new way of life.
Of course there are obstacles, and at times recovery becomes very difficult, but by utilizing all the tools of recovery, such as support groups, friends and family, the obstacles are overcome one day at a time, and the person grows from the struggle. There’s something to learn in the good times and the bad times.
It’s cliché by now to say we learn from our failures, but it’s true nonetheless — however, something that’s not talked about enough is what we learn from our successes. Many in recovery are more afraid of succeeding than failing, although that might seem counterintuitive. Succeeding means facing the responsibility of maintaining the success, and this can overwhelm those who’ve been unable to consistently meet their responsibilities. If no one expects much of a person there’s little pressure for him or her to perform at a higher level. In recovery, though, a person has to accept the responsibility of change, has to expect more from themselves, even if some others don’t, if there’s going to be long-term recovery. The good news is no one has to accept the responsibility alone — there’s plenty of help. There are people who understand the process and will help.
So, here I am 21 years later, opening another treatment facility — frightening and exciting, but I’m not doing it alone.