Every day we’re given countless opportunities to learn. We may not always “get it,” but over time we amass a set of values and skills that guides us through our lives. We go through different stages where we’re met with different challenges in which we get to “practice” the things we’ve learned and to learn even more. Addiction and recovery are stages that offer some of the richest experiences and learning opportunities. Today I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in recovery.
The first thing I learned is what I’ve already mentioned – that we’re always given opportunities to learn. When you see people making the same mistakes, it’s because they haven’t learned anything from their experiences. I want to improve myself every chance I get, so I actively look for the lesson in every situation. When something bad happens, I ask, “What can I learn so that this doesn’t happen again?” When something good happens, I ask, “What can I learn so that this keeps happening?” The answers aren’t always obvious, but they’re there.
Another thing I’ve learned is to always ask for exactly what I need or want. You often hear this bit of advice in reference to romantic relationships – “your significant other can’t read your mind” – but it’s true for all of our relationships and interactions. It’s not always easy to do, but practicing does make it easier. I don’t want to waste my time dropping hints and waiting for someone to pick up on them, and I don’t want to risk getting an outcome I don’t want. When I’m specific, everyone is happier.
I’ve also learned not to expect anything from anyone. This is a lesson that’s made a considerable amount of difference in my life. I used to have certain expectations of people, and when they didn’t do what I expected, I was angry and disappointed. Those negative feelings weren’t healthy for me, and I got rid of them by learning that you can’t control what anyone else says or does. You can only control yourself and your reactions; everyone else is unpredictable.
Finally, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to be nice to myself. I definitely lack self-esteem, and learning to be confident in myself is something I’m still working on – a lot. I have to stop putting myself down, and I need to stop having such unrealistic expectations of myself. I don’t expect things of others, but I often expect too much from myself. Falling short of my own standards is painful, and I need to give myself a break. I need to treat myself the way I’d treat a good friend.
These are some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in recovery so far. I still have lots of room to improve, but I’m happier and healthier than ever before. I may have made some mistakes along the way, but I’ve allowed myself to grow from them rather than be set back. As clichė as it may sound, I encourage you to view your struggles as learning experiences. Addiction is a soul-crushing disease, but recovery offers profound insight and strength – if you pay attention.
About the author: Lisa M. Hann is a freelance writer and author who specializes in addiction recovery. She is the author of “How to Have Fun in Recovery” and “365 Ways to Have Fun Sober” (available in the Kindle bookstore)