Feature by Adrienne Enns, Founder of May You Know Joy
Overcoming addiction has been the toughest thing I’ve ever done, and definitely my greatest teacher. With that, here’s a little bit about that journey and the 5 life lessons recovery taught me that I want to share with you. And remember, addiction comes in many forms. It’s not just about alcoholism, but can be addiction to certain toxic behaviors, relationships, etc… So hopefully these tips can help you with whatever you are trying to overcome in your life!By
In my late 30s, I found my life consumed with alcoholism. While I juggled the stress and expectations of being a mom, wife, friend, daughter and of my corporate job, keeping up appearances was being buoyed by alcohol. This was the go-to coping mechanism that had etched far too deep a pattern in my daily life and was nearly destroying me.
With alcohol I was seeking calm and an escape. I drank to celebrate and to drown out sorrows. It fit any occasion. Toward the end, I also drank to quell the shakes and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. It led me to a low, dark place and it honestly felt like there was no way out.
This journey is best summed up in this video, What Addiction Taught Me About Joy (renamed: Overcoming Addiction).
At my absolute lowest, I could barely function. I wondered how things had come to this? I also wondered how all the ‘normal’ people handled life? I checked myself into a 21-day treatment program because I did not have the energy or fortitude to do this on my own. While addiction is like an abuser raging at you, there was also a quiet voice inside me telling me that I needed to “come home” and that I needed to get help and to do this by myself and for myself.
On the steps of that rehab facility, my future felt like a gigantic void. I couldn’t picture it and yet, I knew there was some wisp of hope and it couldn’t be worse than where I was coming from.
This was a very tumultuous experience. Physically detoxing feels awful. Shame is also an incredible tormentor. Embarrassment, regret, resentment and anger are also able to percolate when alcohol is no longer silencing them. However, what surprised me was the incredible freedom that washed over me when I told the truth. In that facility, I could be completely honest about how I was feeling, and I felt heard and understood. I could finally drop my shoulders, begin to understand this disease, and find compassion for myself that I had not even considered.
If rehab sounds bad to you, I can tell you that re-entering the real world sober is arguably worse. It’s very hard to re-enter your life and not react to old triggers or fall into familiar patterns. I was fragile and had confided in very few people what was actually going on.
However, my time in treatment had also given me time to look at all of this and I found a strength deep within me to move forward. My desire not to drink was very strong and I knew that when I was saying ‘no’ to alcohol, I was saying ‘yes’ to a lot of other things like: my physical health, my mental well-being, my emotional wellness, my children, the people I loved and my future.
2 revelations that came early on have shifted the course of my entire life. First, I realized how much energy I put into my own self-destruction and wondered what I could do if I used that energy for good? Second, I decided that if I was going to go to all the trouble to turn my life around, then, I really wanted to be deeply happy. I wanted to create a life that brought me a lot of joy.
It is very small steps that see us through any massive life change. I think the best decisions I made were to love myself again, to be on my own side, and to decide how I wanted to show up in the world. I chose to cultivate regular practices that were nourishing, supportive and that inspired me. These included daily intention setting, journaling, yoga, and meditation.
I sought a lot of professional help (doctors, therapists, naturopaths, energy healers, etc) to work through all of the pain that I had numbed out for so long. I feel this is elemental to any sustainable path of recovery and well-being. While it’s incredibly uncomfortable, clearing it all out is very freeing and removes the desire to numb out the life you’re living.
I have now been sober for 9+ years and I can honestly say it’s been the most awesome time of my life. It’s not been without its tough periods. I would navigate a divorce. I would leave the corporate world to start my own company. And then, of course, life is always throwing big and small things at you along the way.
The difference now is that I have the coping skills to meet life in the moment, to get the help I need along the way and to feel it all and continue to move forward.
Being sober has allowed me to find a real “aliveness” in my life. I find a lot of joy in the simple things and it has always afforded me the opportunity to cultivate really healthy and beautiful relationships. A good sense of humour also helps!
5 Life Lessons Recovery Taught Me
I want to share with you 5 life lesson recovery taught me. In the last several years, I have become very grateful for the lessons. I’ve also come to learn that there aren’t any ‘normal’ people who just glide through. We numb out things in all kinds of ways from binge-watching Netflix, to shopping, to sugar to anything else that helps you avoid your own life. So, even if you don’t struggle with alcohol, perhaps these life lessons will also ring true for you.
- Love Yourself
Being kind and loving ourselves is the best thing we can do for ourselves. I mean really loving all of it – loving yourself no matter what. This can be the toughest thing to do and sometimes it’s best to just start gently. Look at yourself in the mirror and be kind. Notice what activities, people and environments feel nourishing and include more of those in your daily life. Above all, pay close attention to the running commentary in your mind and shift it from mean and judgemental to kinder, compassionate and forgiving. Loving ourselves is like a big hug for our wholeness – embracing all of us – and then, choosing to show up in the world as the fullest expression of ourselves. Let’s abandon perfection and choose to show up rooted in our values and be real.
- Being Intentional
To me, being intentional means we choose how we want to show up in the world. For example, I want to be kinder, I want to be open and I want to cultivate joy. When I choose my intentions then, I can align my actions. It’s about being an activist in our own lives and choosing to show up very mindfully. It is the antidote to life on autopilot. It will take sufficient energy and attention to get out of your patterns but, all of a sudden, life becomes so much richer, meaningful and fulfilling. Being intentional is about creating the experience you want to live into.
- Choose Joy
When we choose joy, I think we are showing a real reverence for this life. I believe that we are meant to be happy and to celebrate our time here. Is life perfect and hassle-free? Of course not. However, if we take life’s hardships and use them to learn and grow, there’s joy in that. Also, choosing joy doesn’t mean being naively happy all the time. Choosing joy means taking the next action that will align us with our most joyful life. That might mean doing something tough, having a difficult conversation or taking a break. What action is going to connect you to your most rooted, true and joyful life? Finally, joy is not meant for other people or some far off moment in the future, it’s meant for now. Regularly connecting to joy is what will create a truly joyful life.
- Let Go of Shame
A significant step is to let go of shame. This is a big one and I should know because I had a lot of it! There can be things we regret or that caused us deep pain. It can also take a while to really work through these. I’m not saying it’s easy but, I’m telling you it’s worth it. Shame keeps us small and trapped. When we own our experiences and choose to learn from them, that is the true power of transformation. We need to take the lessons and move forward. We use this as a catalyst for a new way of being and showing up in the world. That is where the magic happens.
5. Create Your Life
What if you could create your life? The truth is, you can! I love the idea of creation energy because it is inspiring and full of possibility. When we look at life this way and start to ask “what kind of life do I want to create?”, really amazing things can begin to happen. I encourage you to ask these kinds of questions without putting limitations on yourself or figuring out the logistics just yet. Then – and this is the key – begin taking small, mindful actions towards creating that life. Do you want a better relationship? Explore how you want to show up and how you could begin to create that? Do you want to feel happier? Begin to ask and explore – what makes me happy and what could I do today to infuse my life with more joy? I’ve seen a lot of people get paralyzed by overwhelm and then, nothing happens. Be creative. Be curious. Begin to take small steps in creating a life you love and I know you’ll be surprised and delighted with the results.
I have found this journey of life to be about recovering ourselves – our most beautiful, truest authentic selves! It’s not hard to get lost and disconnected in this busy and insatiable world. It’s not hard to get disappointed, frustrated and just plain old worn down. But, I’m encouraging you to pick yourself up. Start simply but, show yourself some love and compassion. Get help if there are things you need to work through or if you can’t do it on your own. Use all of these lessons to learn more about yourself and grow into the person you really want to be. Choose joy and invite it into your daily life. Above all, create! Create a life that feels nourishing and inspiring and fills you up. Life is meant to be enjoyed and savored. We want you to show up as the fullest expression of yourself and contribute to a better world. Let’s recover together!