‘Are you recovered or recovering?’ by Veronica Valli

Unknown-1Here’s a great piece from one of my favourite bloggers.

‘It’s time to address a somewhat contentious issue in recovery circles. The matter of being either a ‘Recovered alcoholic/addict’ or a ‘Recovering alcoholic/addict.’

I am a recovered alcoholic and have considered myself one for many years. Let me explain why.

If you have read my book or read any of the posts on my blog, you will know that I predominantly believe that alcoholism is a manifestation of a spiritual condition. Alcoholism is not caused by external factors although they most definitely contribute.

For years many of us walk around with a vague sense that something is wrong but with no idea what that actually is.

I knew there was something wrong with me from about 5 years old. I just knew I was different. There was something missing in me and it scared me. As a child I had no idea how to express how I felt, there were no words I could find to describe this emptiness inside.

I was 15 when I first drank and it was like a lightbulb switching on for me. It made me feel comfortable in my own skin. Finally I fitted in. You know how the rest of that story goes….

The point I am trying to make here is the internal condition that caused me to become an alcoholic existed long before I took a drink. Alcohol exacerbated it, the consequences of alcoholic drinking caused the darkness in me to expand. But drinking alcohol, alcoholically did not cause this internal condition.

It was already there long before I drank. For some reason I was just born that way.

My default setting is discontent, isolation and fear. It is inevitable for anyone who walks around feeling that amount of emotional pain, to seek out an anesthetic for the pain.

That is all alcohol is. It is not the problem, it is just a symptom. Which is why getting sober just isn’t enough.

If I had just stopped drinking I would have still had this aching pit of darkness inside of me which drove all my behavior. In my first couple of years of sobriety I stayed away from drink and got lots of help, my life improved but my spiritual sickness was still there.

This kind of emotional pain cannot remain untreated for long, I actually found it easy not to drink but began to see how I was using other substances and behaviors to anesthetize my pain. I developed an eating disorder and was entering into extremely unhealthy and obsessive relationships in an attempt to ‘fix’ myself.

You see, nothing had really changed.

At 3 years sober I was suicidal and desperate. It was the ‘gift of desperation’ that motivated me to do what was necessary to finally heal my spiritual sickness.

I finally understood that nothing would change unless I found a solution to my ‘soul sickness’. I understood my problem wasn’t alcohol, drugs, food, weight, money, men, work or family. My problem lay within.

So I did the work, I took what measures were necessary whether I wanted to or not, and something began to shift inside. I began to feel differently. I began to see things differently, I began to think differently and my experience of life began to change.

Up until that rock bottom in sobriety I truly believed two things were unequivocably true. They were:

  1. 1. I wasn’t good enough
  2. 2. I wasn’t going to be loved

These were the guiding forces of my life and a direct manifestation of my soul sickness.

After believing these things for nearly 30 years I realized one day that I simply didn’t believe them anymore, and they had furthermore been replaced with a belief that I was good enough and I was worthy of love.

It was then that I realized that the darkness inside of me had finally gone and a feeling of wholeness was there instead.

Since then I have never stopped working on my spiritual well being. I fully understand that this is something I will have to do for the rest of my life, and by doing this work I continue to grow and thrive as a person.

So when I say I am a recovered alcoholic it’s because I have recovered from the ‘soul sickness’ that caused my alcoholism. It’s been over a decade now since I felt that darkness that way. I can barely remember what it feels like.

It is gone. I have recovered from the conditions that caused me to drink alcoholically.

Being recovered doesn’t mean that I think I can drink like a ‘normal’ person ever. I know I can’t. It also doesn’t mean that I can just stop doing activities that enable my spiritual growth.

I will stop growing spiritually if I did that and if I stop growing spiritually I know the darkness will return. If the darkness returns I know eventually I will seek an anesthetic.

But to say I am recovering, implies that I am not quiet well, that I am still suffering from this spiritual illness. And I am not. I haven’t for a long time.

To say I am recovered states that a problem has been overcome and a solution has been found. And that is exactly the message I want to give out.

It’s the difference between living in the solution and embracing the richness of life or living in the problem staying away from a drink ‘one day at a time,’ which is about living in fear.

It’s also about the message we give out. I want people to know that you can recover from alcoholism (the spiritual, internal condition that exists before the drinking).’