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Recovery is a progression

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Mr. Atwater: I know it is not customary to write without a problem or a question, but I have an observation. It seems that since all you do is talk about problems, you misrepresent sobriety (from booze, food, other people or whatever).

I didn’t get sober to continue with the same set of problems I had before. I rarely see you talk about the successes, the miracles and the pure joys of living that come with sobriety, so I want to do just that.

I try to live by a motto I saw once that reads, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” It sure is a long way from what I used to practice. Life for me today is full: sometimes hurtful, sometimes joyful, sometimes angry, sometimes grateful. I don’t feel ashamed of feeling anymore, and I don’t usually stay in one emotional place too long. When I’m mad, I express it and get through it. When I’m sad, I cry it out until I am done, and when I need something I ask directly, willing to accept “no” for an answer.

I don’t have resentments today. I don’t have “problems,” either. I’m exactly where I need to be, learning what I need to learn.

Don’t get me wrong. Things happen I don’t like, and I do feel pain, but I don’t run from it anymore. I get through it with as much grace as I can muster, learn my lessons gratefully and get on with it. I feel very fortunate I have been able to begin to accept life on life’s terms. and it makes living a lot lighter.

Dear Reader: Thanks for your observation. It seems people often want answers and are not willing to accept advice that requires waiting, accepting, letting go or other less tangible things.

Most people I talk to who are struggling with recovery issues are in a stage of their recovery that requires more tangible and direct information. My guess would be you have been a 12-step person for a good long time, and I applaud you for having found some contented sobriety.

But don’t forget how long it took you to get where you are. Just like the progression of the disease, there is a progression in recovery – it doesn’t happen overnight. Another thing I’ve noticed is everyone takes their turn in the barrel. You may have five great years and hit a rough spot, but miraculously your rough spot isn’t at the same time as those around you who support you. You support them when their turn comes, and they’ll support you when you’re in the barrel.

Even the biggest complainers, the major league deniers, those with seemingly insurmountable problems and those with zero gratitude have turned out to be happily sober while those that sounded real good got drunk.

I’ve learned to have patience, remember how important tangible things are and how often I’ve been dead wrong in my assumptions about others because, like you, I know there are miracles.

• Richard Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He can reached by email by visiting

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