Most of us in “double-digit” recovery have learned that the twelve steps and working a program are part of a good life, but we also know that these do not protect us from illness, job troubles, problems with kids and family, all manner of loss; the things that fall in the basket called “life happens”.
Plenty of “life” still happens to us as recovering people. And sometimes, after you have some time in recovery, it can feel like life hits harder or hurts more simply because we have fewer “helpers” to ameliorate our pain. We also know, in our wiser moments, that not having painkillers—the chemical or the human kind—actually helps us get through things faster even though we can still hurt like hell some days.
What people in long recovery do have though are a set of skills and a richness of experience to fall back on. We recognize our patterns; we cut through our defenses sooner; we learn not to fight the inevitable. We have learned to surrender when we see the wall coming instead of waiting, as we did in the past, to slam into it.
We are also able to see the things that happen to us with a tiny bit more perspective. By the time we reach double-digit recovery most of us have had at least one experience of something we were sure wasn’t supposed to happen. And in many cases we’ve seen that these experiences turn out to be spiritual lessons or stepping-stones to something really great.
I wrote the book Out of the Woods so we can compare notes and to reassure you that there is no one way and no right way to be recovering. As I interviewed people for the book I found that some of us still go to three meetings a week while others go once a week or once a month.
In the chapter on attending meetings in long-term recovery I explore how to determine “your number”—how many is the best number of meetings for you. And which meetings? And which programs? That’s what makes long-term recovery challenging and exciting!