What I’ve Learned About Freedom In My Addiction Recovery

We have all heard the phrase “willing and ready.” It’s used to describe someone who is both compelled to do something and properly equipped to see it through.

Take the example of running a marathon. Many people might be willing to run a marathon, but are they ready? Willingness alone doesn’t make them ready to do it. Unless they’ve spent their life running long distances, they will not find themselves in the physical shape necessary to run 26.2 miles. It takes months of calculated training.

Like training for a marathon, recovering from addiction requires long-term training. The process starts when a person who is struggling with addiction admits that there is a problem. It also requires a willingness on his or her part to get sober, as well as consistent, committed action.

As a Recovery Coach for Feinberg Consulting, I speak with people every day who have these pieces in place. They have accepted that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. They have experienced pain and consequences, and as a result, they have a sincere desire for something different for their lives.

But are they ready for long-term recovery? Are they truly ready to do what’s necessary? Often times, the answer is no. They’re not there yet, and my job as a Recovery Coach is to support them in getting them ready.


“Moment of Clarity”

Addiction is quite literally a disease of perception. Part of its insanity is the inability of people with the disease to see themselves, their situations, or their consequences accurately. People who are suffering from addiction cannot at times differentiate what is true from what is false. It’s as if there is a shut window between their thought process and reality.

Something very interesting happens when a critical consequence occurs. A common example might be a person who regularly drives his or her car while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This behavior is unlikely to change until the person suffers a consequence, such as crashing their car and being jailed for DUI/DWI.

In situations like these, a “moment of clarity” can happen. A window opens up in the person’s thinking, and he or she can see things clearly. It’s as if there is a fresh breeze coming from this window that temporarily clears up addiction-fueled thinking errors.

With this new clarity, this person is able to see and accept two facts:

  1. He or she can’t drink alcohol or use drugs safely.
  2. He or she can’t get sober, or stay sober, without help.

Those who experience a moment of clarity believe that it will last forever, but without the proper support, it never does. Without daily action toward recovery, the window closes little by little until it’s completely closed. Then one day people wake up, and it’s completely shut. They drink or use again. And again. And again.


My Story

It was January 2004. I was in the very early stages of my recovery, and I had an important choice to make. I was close to completing my in-patient addiction treatment at a facility located in the middle of nowhere in Central Florida, a few away hours away from my hometown of Tampa.

I had been there for almost 60 days and my discharge date was quickly approaching. 

The counselors called me into their office to discuss my release and present my options. They said that I could either go back home, which they were not suggesting, or that I could move to this little town in South Florida called Delray Beach.

Mind you, I was born and raised in Florida, but I had never heard of Delray (it might as well have been in Egypt). But I was told that Delray had a thriving recovery community and was the go-to place for people looking for a fresh start.

The last thing I wanted to do was trade one far-away place for another. I wanted to return to what was safe, certain, and familiar. After all, that’s what I had been planning on doing for months. If I was truly ready for recovery, did it really matter where I started the process? Wasn’t recovery more about me than the external circumstances and conditions surrounding my life?

After some further discussion and deliberation, the answer came suddenly from within. Something inside told me, “Do not go home. There is nothing there for you.” So I took a risk. I stopped trying to do things my way. I listened to the professionals, and it was one of the best choices I ever made.


When Is Someone Ready For Long-Term Recovery?

It has been proven that human beings are hard-wired to stop taking their medicine. Whether it’s antibiotics or physical therapy, there is a compulsion for self-reliance — especially for active addicts and alcoholics.

One of the most important things we do as Recovery Coaches is to help people remember their moment of clarity — why they need to keep “taking their medicine” so to speak. We offer strategies that help them remain sober and create a life of recovery for themselves.

You’ll know that someone is ready for long-term recovery when they are no longer the one trying to dictate the terms of their recovery. When they get to this point, they’re not only willing to make a change; they’ve surrendered to do what’s necessary. This requires a certain amount of hope, trust, and sometimes blind faith — but it’s a commitment that is also freeing.

When I first entered recovery, I believed what most people believe: that freedom is doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. Through my own journey, I have come to discover that freedom is actually something quite different.

The ultimate freedom we can experience is being able to choose what’s right and what’s good. We’re at our best when our actions meet our intentions, and that’s especially true in recovery.

I believe that we create freedom in commitment. That’s why every day, I wake up and choose recovery. It’s what keeps my window open. I’m able to choose what’s healthy. I’m able to choose what’s good. In having those choices, there is freedom.


Thatcher Shivley

Director of Community Relations | Recovery Coach

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