It doesn’t just go away…

Nuclear power can be a safe, sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions, and produces only steam, not the thick smoke of coal plants; however, there is one draw-back: it produces nuclear waste! This waste is dangerous, and cannot just be dumped in a landfill, it must be managed carefully or it will kill people.

Dumping it in the ocean did not work well, and while some thought of shooting it out into space, this was not the best idea either, so this waste is usually kept underground, in old salt mines, encased in concrete, buried in remote locations. Although these materials are managed and out of sight, they are still dangerous, and cannot be ignored.

A lot of attention gets focused on the challenges of getting Sober and early Recovery. This makes sense, because these are crucial events in the lives of anyone struggling with Addiction, and it is also a time of risk, as people in early Recovery can be especially prone to the temptation of people, places and things that could draw them back into their old lives!

That said, even those of us with long-term Sobriety need to remain vigilant in the face of our disease. Like nuclear waste, our Addiction is always there waiting for us no matter how long we have been Sober!

Okay, it may seem like an extreme comparison, but both remain dangerous no matter how long they have been in storage, and both can kill, even after many years of lying dormant.

This is one of the problems facing people with long-term Sobriety: complacency! After years of Recovery, not only can we get used to living a Sober life, so can everyone around us! Those who knew us when we used can forget how bad it really was, and the longer we stay Sober, the more people come into our lives that never knew us any other way! And this familiarity can feed into our propensity for becoming complacent!

The Old-Timers used to tell me that our disease of Addiction is “doing push-ups in the parking lot” every time we are working on our Recovery! It was a way of reminding us that Addiction never really goes away, and was easy for me to understand with only a few months under my belt. Now, with a few decades of Sobriety, this warning still rings true, although it can get forgotten in the midst of our busy lives!

Sometimes, we will have a well-meaning friend or family member who will ask us why we continue to work on our Sobriety, or whether we can go back to drinking ‘normally’. This can be forgiven, especially if they never knew us then, and if they are not troubled by this disease themselves! However, when this happens, even someone in long-term Recovery can find themselves thinking “Maybe they’re right!” That’s our disease talking to us…coming out of hibernation to remind us that it is still with us!

We can also get in our own way, when life has fallen into a comfortable routine, and put Recovery on a back-burner. We can start to believe that we no longer need to manage our Sobriety so carefully, not that we run back to our drug of choice, but that we let our guard down…and an unmanaged Addiction, like forgotten nuclear waste, can be deadly!

Hopefully, through years of Recovery, we have gained the tools to think through our actions, to remember that we are still Addicts, that even though we have not used in a long time, Addiction doesn’t just go away!

Making managing our Recovery an on-going event!

This is not a bad thing, just as science has learned a lot about how to store nuclear waste more securely over the years of practice, the longer we practice our Sobriety, the more we learn, the more tools we gain, and the stronger it gets, and this leads us to becoming better people.

Fortunately, one of the greatest tools we gain from long-term Recovery are the people in our lives, both those who are also in Recovery, as well as the people who don’t have the disease, for both can give us the support, wisdom and understanding we need to keep managing our Addiction, no matter what challenges we face in life, fighting back our complacency! They can help us keep the dangerous waste of our past stored away safely, where it cannot leak out into our lives and cause us more pain!

Long-term Sobriety is gained one day at a time, through practice, patience, and collaboration. By joining together, we can manage our Sobriety, as we continue to grow and learn! While we must never forget that our disease is still there, waiting for us to have a lapse, so too are the people willing to hold us up, when we are in danger of falling back into that toxic pit of despair!  People who can see us through to the other side, where we can see that nothing is so bad that a drink or a drug will not make worse.

And herein lies our greatest tool, our greatest gift: Hope!

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