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My First Year in Recovery

My First Year in Recovery

Acceptance and Understanding


I describe my childhood as my ‘dark ages’. I grew up without approval, acceptance, unconditional love, warmth, openness or understanding. Instead I faced judgment, criticism, shame, guilt, avoidance, transference, anger, raised voices, slamming doors, codependence, manipulation, denial and the tag-along silent treatment. In recovery I discovered acceptance and understanding. I found the confidence to be myself and to speak my truth. I was given access to suggestions, and tools.

As a child, I was necessarily present any time something went wrong, but I became instantly invisible as soon as I needed something. My parents communicated minimally with me and my siblings. When they did communicate – it was almost certainly negative. In turn, my siblings and I also failed to relate positively to each other.

“Feeling” was the equivalent ‘F-word’ in my childhood. It still is to my adult siblings. I always knew my feelings didn’t matter.

The atmosphere in my parents’ house was determined solely by my mother’s mood. If she was in a good mood, everything was wonderful. If someone angered her, or her mood plummeted for any other reason, her wrath came spewing out.

Unfortunately, as a child I was too young to understand that her moodiness was not caused by any external stimuli – it stemmed from within. With typical childlike understanding, I absorbed her vitriol with no filters or boundaries.

Through recovery I’ve come to understand and recognize the unreasonable responsibility my mother placed on my siblings and me, expecting us to be gate-keepers of her happiness.

In recovery I’ve met others who understand me. I’ve found friends, with whom I feel comfortable to chat, vent, sit in silence or cry without feeling self-conscious. Recovery has introduced me to people with whom I can share my story without worrying about what they might think or who they might tell. That’s not what our relationship is about. It’s about me and my recovery, about them and their recovery. It’s about supporting one another. It’s about building trust, openness, acceptance and understanding.

In recovery I’ve acquired tools to help me through tough encounters with peers who are less than aware, less than open, less than willing. I’ve learned to react from a balanced, healthy and open place, in a way that preserves my dignity and sense of self.

Recovery has taught me how to stand up for myself and allow myself the dignity and respect that I deserve. I’ve learned that I’m under no obligation to enter into situations that are unhealthy, unsafe or which further the dysfunction. I feel stronger now, able to walk away from unhealthy situations without giving explanations or becoming defensive. I’ve learned how to protect myself.

Using the information and tools I’ve obtained in recovery I continue to work through the grueling process of Step Four – to look at the darkness and see it for what it really is. It is part of me, most likely a learned coping mechanism – not a big part of me and, more importantly, not the real me. It’s learned and it can be unlearned – through training, awareness and vigilance; through acceptance, compassion and understanding.

My journey of recovery has released me from the expectation of having my needs filled by those who cannot fill them. Instead, I’ve learned to find other, better, sources of love, acceptance and understanding. Recovery has changed my self-perception. I am not the person others named me – I am not their ‘stupid little sister’ or daughter who just ‘can’t get it right’ or ‘doesn’t toe the line.’ I am His child, searching for truth, a place to call my own and a bit of happiness and peace along the way.

Recovery has imbued me with the courage to pursue my dreams. I’ve summoned the courage to express my truth in front of a room full of strangers and to recognize my feelings without shame or excuses. My fellow meeting-attendees continue to support me week after week. Even after I quit and dragged myself back, these strangers accepted my return with understanding, acceptance and I’ve-been-there hugs. These strangers quickly became my new family – my ‘chosen family’.

Recovery gave me, and continues to give me, the courage to look in the mirror, change the parts of myself I am able to change and accept the parts I can’t. I’ve learned to look inward, to acknowledge and accept. I’ve been awarded the ability to appreciate the good in my life – the friends who love and accept me unconditionally.

Most of all, recovery has taught me to put myself aside and offer compassion to another in sorrow or pain. And by being there for another, my inner child gains a measure of healing. By sharing some of my experiences, I can help guide another to avoid a painful fall or misstep.

Slowly but surely, recovery has shown me that healing is possible, and that ultimately, to quote a fellow member in recovery, “the joy in our lives is proportionate with the pain we’ve experienced”.

By Anonymous
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Anonymous Los Angeles July 10, 2015

Feelings I have experienced the pain of recovery like Anonymous. The reason I have felt the pain is because before, I would drown out the pain of lonliness, anxiety, sadness, etc with something or I'd just bury it. I wouldn't allow myself to feel the feelings. They were too scary. Recovery meant for me to hear others share their feelings and hope and recovery which gave me the ability to do the same. Now I can be honest more often and when I feel lonely and recognize it, I reach out to somebody. When I feel tired or sad, I do something like rest or garden or paint, which I never allowed myself to do before. Self care. Thanks to all those who have the strength to recover and to share their experience. I helps me. Reply

Jewish Alky July 9, 2015

First year Just came across this and signed up,
I too just celebrated my first year a couple days ago, I think it's wonderful how positive your article is, however I must say in my case life has been a hellish journey, I became sober a year ago, the first things I heard were "you will never have to feel like that again" they were right, but that's because in all my years of hell never have I experienced a year of torment like this year, to the point where I did not even want to celebrate, why celebrate torment??
I can only hope things will get better by some miracle. Reply

Mark Los Angeles, CA May 2, 2014

Thank you for sharing I think that 'personal responsibility' is part of the "just say no" school of recovery, which might work for a few people, but not most. overcoming tragedy and trauma involves working through things for many people. if only therapy were so easy as to tell someone to "get over it," we would not need therapists. we all have our own ways of coping, some become depressed, drug dependent, abusive, etc. it is generally through looking inward and becoming more aware of what makes us think and feel the way we do, that we can move on, forgive others or ourselves. G-d bless. Reply

"call me Frankie" July 22, 2013

Thank-you,Thank you... My childhood also was like yours...The big Book &12x12 are my constant companion not a one shot deal... Reply

Melly Rose Portland, Or November 15, 2011

Thank You! first of all you write beautifully..Totally jealous of that gift.
I mean this-good for you. You have learned and are continuing to learn your life's lessons. You have and are answering your call to a" life worth living" by taking, doing the right actions. You are doing good deeds by sharing your story.Your mother is exactly like mine-honestly.
Vigilence takes discipline and that is a soul trait mandatory if we want to implement change and not just yak or whine about it.
Gratefully yours, Reply

Anonymous ny, ny October 26, 2011

personal responsibility i applaud the strides you have made but here is my point; the first third to have of your article is ll about how bad your youth was.Yet there are thousand maybe more people, who have gone thru worse yet didnt develop your issues. people go thru horrible trauma , sometimes are even orphaned yet dont choose to use drugs. What is the purpose of wallowing in self pity-whats done is done and you are the maker of your own fate. Stop looking back and blaming others, look towards the future which is in your hands and decide that blaming is only going to keep you stuck. Reply

Anonymous L.A, Ca July 18, 2011

I can relate Having grown up with a mother who became crippled and later a divorce, I became a codependant, becoming addicted to doing anything to "cure" my mother and bring my family together. It didn't work. After many painful years searching for the answer I have found recovery in a 12 step program callled Codependants Anonymous or Coda. Thank G-d it is working. No longer do I feel alone. I am learning how to deal with painful situations and not to try to control others, as I have in the past. It has helped me to come closer to Torah and Mitzvos in a more sincere way. I appreciate your thoughtful and well written article and can surely relate. Reply

Rus Devorah Buffalo, Ny June 15, 2011

Thank you Melissa Thanks for sharing your courageous journey to search and heal yourself! Reply

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