Awareness and Action In Personal Recovery

“Awareness requires a rupture with the world we take for granted; then old categories of experience are called into question and revised” — Shoshana Zuboff

In recovery meetings, I often hear that awareness is something to be obtained. It is discussed as if I will stumble upon it, maybe as I once did with the home furniture or walls. In this view, It obstructs my path, immovable, yet ever present. I don’t have to seek it, only be lucky enough to bump into it. I have found in my recovery work that this is not reality. Awareness is a momentary flick or flutter that, when pursued, opens up a deep, cavernous area previously unexplored. I am in trouble, however, if I rely on this “feeling” of awareness and fail to dig deeper into its offerings of truth.

My path to a sober life has come in fits and starts. In 2007, after losing all my hair to meth and nearly dying from a three month binge, I took my last dose and surrendered to the process of recovery. I was a homeless, convicted felon, penniless, skeletal, an empty and hollow shell. I was defeated, destroyed even. In the movie “Fight Club”, the narrator, Jack, fights himself, punching his own face, and falling into countless pieces of furniture. His boss watches in stunned horror while Jack bloodies himself. This 2 minute scene represents the entirety of my drug use. The scars and scabs on my flesh showed the world my pain, yet I limped around with an ever darker soul.

Coming into recovery wasn’t something I chose to do willingly, but the scant alternatives were few and permanent (i.e. death or permanent physical consequences). As the fog began to lift, and I began to actually hear and retain the things people spoke about in meetings, I started to gain a sense of certainty that I was on a better path. Awareness for me is a process, one that begins deep within the caverns of the heart. It’s a warming, a slow and steady thaw of the polluted sludge encapsulating the truth.

It’s been many years since I looked in the mirror and had a stranger looking back. It’s been many years since I had to steal from those I hated and even those I loved to secure one more hit, one more fix. These years have taught me that awareness also comes in fits and starts. There are periods of extreme growth, and periods of a certain silence, a kind that feels stagnant. But even in those stagnant periods, there is a renewal present, if I can get quiet enough to hear it, to feel it.

This is a lifetime journey, and the manuals are but guides. They cannot reveal all the stops along the way. I know that with the awareness comes a certain responsibility. It is up to me to enrich and strengthen the cords of sobriety. It is up to me to seek and rely upon the great power and the tribe of others that allows this all to be possible. I have a responsibility to take that awareness and put my feet to the ground; to incline my heart to the voice that speaks within, and my hands to the task of building a new and better life. When I have reached the limit of my own power, I open my hands and let it all flow into the great expanse, leaving the results to the power that exists beyond me.

Lasting recovery, for me, means that I tune into that voice within, constantly refining my ears to hear it in all circumstances, and that when it speaks, I use that awareness to put my body behind the message of recovery. I fail, and sometimes I mishear the voice, or even choose to ignore it. Great and powerful lessons come from failure, though, and in failure, I am encouraged even more that the path is still illuminated.