I Now Know I Belong
Throughout my time in recovery, the greatest gift that I have received has been contentment and a sense of belonging that I never thought I’d achieve. Throughout my life I had always struggled to find inner peace. I frequently felt that I didn’t fit in and making friends was always difficult. I was involved in many activities and did well in school, but still felt like something was missing. While academics and achievements came easily, the happiness that came with them was fleeting, and I often felt I was just doing what was expected of me. It wasn’t until college that I found two things that gave me purpose: dentistry and alcohol. Once I started the dental hygiene program, I threw myself into my studies and found my occupational calling. Around the same time, I began to go out on weekends, and found that a few drinks made interactions with others easier. For the first time I started to feel comfortable in social settings, even if it was only because my anxiety was masked by the alcohol.
Work and drinking became the two main driving factors in my life. On the outside I appeared successful and well-adjusted, but inside I was an emotional wreck. I had a good job, but felt weighed down by stress and the expectations of others. I lived in constant fear and uncertainty of my financial situation, and my marriage was marred by constant fighting. Over time alcohol became less of a masking agent and more of an escape I needed to get away from the ever-present conflict.
After my wife left, I spiraled into an even darker place, with worse relationships, more dissatisfaction with work, more drinking, and the consequences that came with all those things. After a second DWI, I found myself under contract with NCCDP and began the first steps into recovery. Once again, I felt crushed under expectations and had a dim outlook on what the future held for me.
However, an interesting thing happened once I started to take part in therapy and 12-step programs. I saw people with stories like mine, people that didn’t feel they belonged or dealt with inner turmoil like I had, but had found the peace and relief I’d been seeking. They had given up trying to hide their insecurities and faced them head-on, and they were winning. They might not have the typical signs of success most of society confuses with happiness, but they were living wonderful lives. Though it was hard for me to make sense of it at first, it was clear they had achieved what I wanted for myself, and I started to throw myself into recovery much as I had thrown myself into dentistry and alcohol years prior.
The results have been more than I could have ever hoped for. Instead of seeking brief pleasures, I have a sustained feeling of gratitude in my life. Instead of trying to hide my problems, I have people that I can share them with and solve them before they have a chance to grow. Instead of worrying about the future, I focus on the here and now, making the most of my time and my life as I can. Contentment allows me to be happy with who and where I am, even if I might be facing difficult situations or negative outcomes from my previous life before recovery. Rather than worry about what may come, I have an inner peace that allows me to enjoy what I’ve been blessed with. I now have a happier work life, more free time, more financial security than before, and the knowledge that there are others like me who are there for me if needed. In recovery, I truly feel like I belong.