The single greatest thing I have ever done for myself is to ask for help. At first this meant reaching out for help and telling the people I was close to that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. It was not until I admitted it and asked for help that I was able to get sober. However, recovery does not end when we stop using. For me, real recovery did not begin until I practiced asking for help over and over. The first way this played out for me was having a sponsor who I really trusted.
When I was about four months sober I began working the steps in AA with my first sponsor. She was great at helping me start a daily routine and getting on track with step work. She helped me develop a morning reflection practice where I would read something and meditate each morning. She helped me schedule my day and take commitments at meetings. She taught me the importance of meeting with a sponsor each week and calling every day. All of these little things added up and made me feel more stable in my early recovery.
While I was using I was never really able to be honest with anyone. I had friends and therapists but I would never tell them the whole truth. I was scared that if they did they would run away and not accept me. One of the greatest benefits I gained from working with this first sponsor was a sense of trust. When I did my step work I did it honestly and thoroughly. I told her everything from my past and all the behaviors I was still acting out in. As soon as I was honest with another person in this way I did not feel so alone. Working my fourth step of AA with a sponsor was one of the best things that happened for my recovery.
As my recovery progressed I realized that I had to reach out to her often to ask for help. I could not fake my way through rough emotions but I need support in navigating them. She was able to help me learn to deal with my emotions, especially anxiety, in a way that was healthier than I had been. She would give me short assignments like writing exercises that helped me get my feelings out on paper. Often, even just asking her for help and talking to her made me feel better.
Later in my recovery I began working another program called refuge recovery. I found a mentor in the program who I really trusted and I thought could help me build on the benefits I had from my last sponsor. She further helped me deal with my anxiety by showing me ways to breathe that could calm me down. She helped me develop a daily meditation practice and again gave me the space to ask for help when I needed it. Another great thing that she did was encourage me to interact more with my community. She would invite me to meetings at her house or at the meditation center we both went to. We would go to the same community events and interact with other people interested in recovery. Building a loving community in this way made me feel even more safe and held. Rather than having just one person I trusted I began to feel like I had a whole community of people around me would I could trust and rely on.
All of the people who I have had mentor me have been loving and supportive but have also been honest with me. Rather than just telling me what I wanted to hear, like some friends might, they told me how they really felt. They would give me good advice because they were not afraid of hurting my feelings. Instead, they were concerned with helping me grow, even if that sometimes meant tough love. Having people in my life who could stand up to me like this encouraged me to grow and to see the truth of what was really happening in a situation. I remember a time when I called my first sponsor crying and all I really wanted was for someone to comfort me and calm me down. Rather than doing that for myself and learning how to self soothe I just wanted someone to do it for me. She told me to call her back in the morning when I was more calm and hung up the phone. I remember being so mad at her at the time. I thought how dare she not help me! But the truth is that she did. Rather than reaching outside myself for comfort she taught me how to look within and see my own capacity for self comfort and love.
Having a mentor or sponsor has been one of the most important aspects of my recovery. It means having someone to be honest with who will give you honesty in return. It means having someone to help you plan. A sponsor can be a great listener and teacher. It means having someone who can give you tough love when you need it. For all of these reasons I have seen how many benefits come out of the relationship if you remain open to it.
About Changing Tides Treatment
Changing Tides Addiction Treatment is an addiction treatment facility in Ventura, California. Offering a variety of treatment options, Changing Tides believes in treating the whole individual. In addition to CBT and DBT, they offer Life Skills Training, Trauma Based Counseling, Nutritional Counseling, Exercise Physiology, and more. With all levels of care from detox to extended care, Changing Tides sticks by their residents through the recovery process.
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