56, 25, 4 Marking Time

For me, July is a month of marking and celebrating the passage of time. My birth date is July 5th, 1962. I was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on July 5th, 2014. My Narcotics Anonymous 'clean date' is July 6th, 1993 and I was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints July 6th, 2014.

Since I have been very young, birthdays have been emotionally awkward for me. There has always been this odd mixture of desiring attention and recoiling from it at the same time. There have been periods in my past where I received many cards, presents and hundreds of Happy Birthday Facebook wishes. In my recent life, the acknowledgments of my birthday are few and far between. I do not post my birth date on Facebook and it has become a rare thing for friends to track the birth dates of others outside of Facebook. 

The experience of being relatively anonymous on my birthday is one that, like many of my experiences in the past few years, has been very self revealing. I find great joy in coming to see that I am far less desirous of attention and that I need far less proof of how others feel towards me than ever. Coming to understand that how others feel towards me is not defined by how I am acknowledged on my birthday brings great freedom to me and to my friends and family. In short, allowing others to show love for me in their way, rather than in the way I desire them to show it, in a prescribed social way or in ways that I can easily recognize has been a lesson I feel I have learned well and the emotional freedom in my friendships that has come from this lesson is truly a great gift. 

The celebration of my recovery has become far more emotionally complex for me. The pride I once felt in celebrating another year clean has vanished and I believe this change has come about as my perspective of addiction and recovery has so dramatically changed .

I believe that full recovery from drug addiction is possible and in this way I feel fully recovered. I have no desire to participate in any mind or mood altering substances and have not had that desire for years. I call that - the loss of a desire to use - recovery from drug addiction. But I cannot claim that I do not have the desire to use other things to change uncomfortable feelings into feelings I prefer. 

Feeling and observing negative feelings with compassion and curiosity can lead to great self awareness and result in astounding growth. I have come to understand that it is small minded to only want to feel good, as feeling good rarely brings growth. The vast majority of my growth has been obtained through finding my way through difficult and uncomfortable feelings. From a growth perspective it makes more sense to welcome the hard uncomfortable feelings over the easy good ones. 

In and of itself, it is not a wrong, bad or an inappropriate action to make attempts to change uncomfortable feelings into more comfortable ones. It is natural for us to seek to reduce suffering but how we do so is key to our growth. 

It is not a requirement in life to constantly sit in discomfort but learning to be able to sit in discomfort, understand its source, express it to others when appropriate, and then seek out effective and healthy resolutions to the discomfort is a great and necessary experience that allows for true and ultimate 'recovery' that reaches deep within myself. 

One cannot learn how to manage feelings without paying attention to them, quickly covering them up or changing them before understanding their source only helps them to endure. Objective, compassionate, observation and the resulting change (recovery) is a life-long process that requires much more than simply abstaining from mind and mood altering substances. 

This is the beginning of the complexity of how I feel towards celebrating an anniversary in recovery. In part I feel that my success in staying away from drugs and alcohol is only a small portion of my on going recovery, and celebrating my 'clean time' is a celebration of just part of my ongoing recovery. 

I am still learning how to live with uncomfortable feelings in order to understand and resolve their source and not use distractions like shopping, food, entertainment, Facebook, games or use alternative emotions to cover up discomfort - emotions like anger, self abuse, and inappropriate psychological tools I can unknowingly use that manipulate emotions - like when combating low-self esteem by judging others and then using that judgement to generate a false sense of self worth.

I am grateful for July and its many markers - not because of the events marked, but because of how these markers allow me to reflect, grow and find new ways to live on a daily basis. I am grateful to be in ongoing recovery and that I have found (new - to me) powerful and effective ways to enhance my recovery. I am grateful to know that recovery is a spiritual process - the healing of a spiritual illness and that the more God I have in my life, the deeper and more effective recovery I am given.

I am grateful to understand that recovery is ultimately about being in service to others. It is about becoming well enough to give freely, without any need of my own (which is still my goal). 

I understand clearly that self-obsession is at the core of all addiction - and that freedom from addiction is also freedom for 'self'. 


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