In the span of six days, I moved house and purchased a new vehicle. I’m still rummaging through boxes for socks and toothpaste, eating off paper plates. I drive a Forester now, which may as well be a truck compared to my old subcompact. And in the midst of all of this rapid change, I’ve been experiencing several moments of whose life is this?
Empty House/ New Life in Recovery
Many of my clients lament trepidation about starting a new life in recovery. I’m reminded of those conversations now. When we make the decision to recover, we’re required to reshape our routines, style of relating, downtime. That’s intimidating. But starting over also brings opportunity.
Sometimes, the fear of discomfort prevents us from taking the first step. It may be “easier” to stay the same, when the alternative is so very unknown. Sort of like stepping into an empty house… nothing is where we remember, belongings piled in a mess. Bright white and echo-y walls. Suddenly, an urge to run back to the familiar. There’s a lot of safety in the familiar, even if the familiar isn’t a necessarily safe place to reside. But is it wise to judge a new experience by the discomfort of its newness? In actuality, we’re capable of establishing a new normal rather quickly. The human brain is good for that, it’s driven by habit and repetition.
Is is wise to judge a new experience by the discomfort of its newness?
After a while, the dust settles. We fall into routine. (Or, in my case, figure out which side of the new car/truck the gas tank is on.) Because once we take a breath and begin to unpack, intimidation does fade.
Don’t get me wrong, the recovery process is lengthy, it’s lifelong. It can take years before PAWS resolves. It takes practice to successfully navigate triggering people, places, and things. We may continue to struggle to assert our needs after months of tedious discussion, or set and keep boundaries. But the throat tightening “Whose life is this?” moments quiet as we make efforts to strengthen our sobriety and find what works.
This is MY life …
Other things happen as well. Our physical body heals. We regain control over our decision making. We pursue forgotten passions. And we reclaim our true selves, as our mindset moves toward “This is my life.” In my life, I don’t miss my child’s soccer games. I don’t drive intoxicated. I don’t make excuses, lie, hide, forget deadlines. This is my life, guided by my values. I’ve walked into an empty house, filled with trepidation. But I’ve turned on the lights, opened the windows, laid down carpet. I’ve made it my own, and now it feels familiar and warm.