There was a time I was quick to shy away from admitting when I fucked up.

On occasion, I would readily point out the mistakes of others and all the errors of their ways. Yet when it came to myself, I would slowly and quietly tiptoe away from the carnage that my actions caused. Or I’d aggressively move into the adage, ‘the best defence is a good offence’.

What I failed to recognise at the time was that eventually, it would be my actions, not just my words that would expose me.

FOR INSTANCE

When I came into recovery in 2004, I found a solution in the rooms of the Twelve Steps that led me to find a way to live life on life’s terms. After being heavily involved for a few years and having so many positive experiences and meeting so many amazing people, I slowly came to see I had a form of tunnel vision. Although my friends and I often spoke of ‘open-mindedness’ rarely, if ever, was consideration given to other recovery healing modalities.

In relatively short order, I adopted the attitude that if you weren’t doing recovery my way, then you weren’t doing it right! 

As often happens when people view real recovery as abstinence-only, I saw friends start to relapse. Instead of reaching out to them in their time of pain, I began to shun them. Unconditional love went out the window if they weren’t practicing recovery in a manner in which I as Master of All that Is Good in the World (rolls eyes) determined to be the best for them. 

That didn’t sit particularly well with my conscious. Instead of looking at it and taking responsibility, I took the easy route and stayed engaged with a group of people who supported my way of looking at recovery. I was more comfortable in an echo chamber, and any type of change seemed way too threatening.

So I hung my hat on the number of years that I had. It provided grandiosity and entitlement. After all, I and a few in the circle I ran with had x amount of clean time don’t you know!

WHEN THE PAIN OF HANGING ON . . .

After spending a number of years with an ‘old-timer’ sponsor, I often heard her making judgments about other women that troubled me deeply. The anxiety of ignoring my intuition was becoming too much. The conflict I felt inside left me feeling frustrated and questioning the validity of my recovery. Was I headed for relapse? Did I need more meetings? Should I buckle down and do another set of steps?

My circle of support had grown smaller. I had no idea that some of those friends had seen a change in me that prompted them to distance themselves from the person they had once known.

A MOMENT OF CLARITY

Have you ever had an experience where you see something and you can’t unsee it? Me too!

I came to a place where I had no other choice but to face myself. That moment of humility was an intense and painful time.

I had always thought of myself as warm and welcoming. But the truth was my actions towards many were the complete opposite. It was a painful fact to face.

It took a while to untangle myself from the person I had become.

Little did I know, the burden would continue to grow lighter as I remained committed to doing the work I needed to do.

WILLINGNESS

I set out to make amends to the people I had hurt with my actions. It sounded something like, ‘Look, I fucked up. I’ll understand if you don’t want anything to do with me, but please know I see the pain my behaviour caused and I will do everything in my power to work on myself so that I don’t knowingly do that to anyone again’.

In some instances, I was welcomed back into the lives of those I harmed. My willingness to own my mistakes was the resurrection of the bridge to those friendships. As for some others, well they were simply unwilling to take a chance on me again. I accepted that. I understood clearly that this was an exercise in clearing up my side of the street and any expectations on my part would have negated the lesson.

CHANGED BEHAVIOR 

As I continue to grow and evolve, I take great care to check in with myself and my integrity. I pay attention to my discomfort. I ask my friends and family for feedback. And sooner rather than later, even when it’s uncomfortable, if I’ve fucked up, I own it.

As far as Twelve Steps go, well that’s a whole other blog!

Suffice it to say, today I will support WHATEVER you’re doing to move closer to the life you know you deserve.

NEVER MISTAKE VALUE FOR EXPERIENCE

One of the biggest lessons that came from this time of undoing for me was learning that a piece of who I am is reflected in the people who are closest to me. My husband, my children, and the people I surround myself with are my mirrors. They show me in real time who I am and where I’m at.  If I don’t like what I see in them, it’s up to me to look in the mirror and go from there.

All of this to say, we’re human. We make mistakes and there’s no shame in saying so. I’ve done and said things in my life so far that have caused myself and others much anguish, but I don’t fixate on that. I cannot change what happened, but I can change my behavior going forward. Not to prove anything to anyone, but to be able to live with myself and the values that truly mean something to me.

My life, my lessons.