Recovery and Change

Seeing things again for the first time
Family sandunes hill
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We change whether we want to or not—it's in our nature.

Why, oh why do we have to keep changing? Every time I think I've got something figured out I'm told it's time to change it. When do I get to the end? When do I get to stop? When will I get a rest?

Well, the answer for those of us in recovery is "never!" This is a daily journey we're on, but as Cervantes wrote, "The road is much more interesting than the Inn." The part that makes it interesting is the change we see, the change we initiate, and the change that comes just from our experiencing it. The truth is: we change whether we want to or not. It's in our nature.

This time of year people reflect on their lives during the past months. Some put a positive spin on how things turned out and feel grateful. Others only focus on the way things "should" have been and feel resentful. Those in recovery are lucky because one of our many promises is, "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." We have come to better understand the things we can change and the things we cannot. We further accept that the life we have today is a gift when lived one day at a time.

It's possible that not all of us have reached this point in our journey. Before recovery, many of us may have thought of life as a game of stud poker. We were dealt a hand and those were the cards we played. By our estimation they weren't generally very good cards. Today we begin to realize that life is much more like draw poker. We can throw in our bad cards for new ones anytime we want. In that moment of changing out our cards, we are often filled with the positive anticipation of what these new opportunities may afford us.

The other benefit of this positive anticipation is the ongoing experience of seeing things again for the first time. This is a concept with a long tradition among the reflective and penitent. The story is that monks coming back to their sparse rooms or cells after their day's experience see this space "for the first time" every time they return. In other words, the experience of life throughout the day changes the way they see their space. When they return they are literally seeing that space "for the first time." How much easier would each day be, if we could embrace the understanding of seeing everything for the first time.

Wait a minute! We can! All that's required is a willingness to change. Although change may be a long process, the firm decision to change is immediate. The commitment to change is just as fast and the first step to change is right now. So rather than taking a break from your recovery, why not take a break from your struggle with change?

Twelve step and spiritual retreats offer many recovery programs dedicated to helping people embrace the positive anticipation" of change. Give yourself the gift of coming back to your life for the very first time.

Richard Choate was formerly manager of Recovery Support at Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota.

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