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We Can’t Compare Recoveries from Addiction

Years ago, my sponsor gave me some incredibly valuable advice. At the time, I was waiting tables at an exclusive restaurant in South Florida. I was regularly interacting with people who were fabulously wealthy, and I used to joke that every shift I would meet at least one person whose watch was worth more than my car.

I wondered what they had done to get where they were. It wasn’t so much their wealth I was drawn to. Would it ever be possible for me to be as secure and accomplished as they seemed to be? When I mentioned this to my sponsor, he offered a simple suggestion.

“Don’t compare yourself to the people you wait on every night,” he said. “Compare yourself to the guy who, years ago, could not stay sober and could not stop drinking.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it’s become a principle of my Recovery Coaching. As people in recovery, we can’t compare ourselves to others. We have to compare ourselves to ourselves.

My vision was clouded by comparisons. I wasn’t seeing the progress I made or my journey clearly, and my sponsor reminded me of this. It created a space from which I could move forward to where I wanted to go. I stopped feeling bad for myself. I stopped longing for the life that other people had and became inspired about the life I could have.

After reflecting honestly on the facts and experiences of my past:

  • I stopped thinking about what I didn’t have and found gratitude for what I did have.
  • I became more trusting of the recovery process.
  • I gained more confidence in my journey. I thought to myself, “If I’ve come this far, why can’t I continue to move forward to where I really want to be?”

As human beings, we are hardwired to be more focused on certain negative aspects. We give less weight to positive things because they pose less of a threat to our survival. That’s why recognizing the good in ourselves often takes help.

In recovery from addiction or substance abuse, having the right focus is especially important. It’s incredibly helpful to have people on your side who are objective and willing to offer honest feedback. They can see the obstacles we can’t, and they can keep us from getting sidetracked.

Think of it this way. If I asked an artist to draw a realistic portrait of me, they would simply draw what they saw. It would be an objective assessment. That wouldn’t be the case if I sat down to draw a portrait of myself.

In drawing a picture of myself, I would take into account a number of factors that had little to do with my physical appearance. I would be drawing the picture through a lens of my past experiences, memories, and perception. I would rationalize certain elements, justify others, and minimize things without even realizing it. That’s why having a Recovery Coach in your life — someone who can “draw what they see” — is so important — especially in early recovery.

As we finish up the first month of 2019, I want to encourage you to stop and reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Maybe you’ll be inspired by what you’ve created over the last few years, or maybe even what you’ve created in 2019.

I also wanted to share a story of inspiration and learning from one of my Recovery Coaching clients. Last year was an incredible one for Evan, who gave me permission to share a little bit about his story. He is an example of what it truly means to be a person “in recovery.”

Last year, Evan completed both the residential and IOP phases of treatment. He went on to secure employment, and just recently he received a promotion to a management position. He moved out of a transitional living facility, got his own apartment, and purchased a new car. Evan has also reconnected with key family members in a meaningful way. And most importantly, he celebrated a year of continuous sobriety in December!

Evan’s life is now full of hope, opportunity, joy… and commitment. Ultimately, it was Evan’s commitment to his recovery that made all these gifts possible.

I know I speak for the entire team at Feinberg Consulting when I say that I’m incredibly thankful to have been able to support him in his journey!

Thatcher Shivley

Director of Community Relations | Recovery Coach

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  1. It’s such an inspirational story and this really moved me “Compare yourself to the guy who, years ago, could not stay sober and could not stop drinking.”

    1. A case manager works for a community mental health program and is a mental health professional. While you are a customer of public (government) mental health services, it is their job to assist you in achieving your recovery objectives. They operate on your behalf to ensure that you receive the greatest treatments possible to help you recover.

  2. I totally agree with the article’s point of view. Each and every one of us has its own decision that will affect us in our future. Thank you for the nice article.

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