How I Survived My First Year in Recovery by Michelle Ghirelli

step 12 magazine recovery
… And the harsh truths it taught me.

To many people, recovery is synonymous with a fresh start, a second chance, and new opportunities. However, to me recovery is a constant reminder of how terrible my life had become. My first year in recovery, the year that is supposed to be full of pink clouds and self discovery, was plagued by crippling depression and a media-frenzied court case.

With everything that I had lost in that first year of recovery: career, friends, money, self-respect, and self-identity, there were many things that I gained from that difficult experience. Here are the lessons I learned through the worst year of my life:

1. “God doesn’t waste a hurt”

One of my dearest friends would constantly tell me this while we were together in treatment (and she continues to remind me of this fact when she sees I need encouragement). There is a reason I went through everything that I did at the time that I did. I could have learned these life lessons many other ways but God decided that this is what was needed for me. Through all of the pain, despair, and depression something good must come out of it—otherwise what was the point? My job is to look for that good and then share it with others.

2. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”

I am a far different person now because of these experiences. When you go through something difficult and traumatic you have no choice but to change who you are and your outlook on life—what you can choose is whether or not you are going to change for the better or continue down the same path and continue to get worse. Whenever I find myself thinking I am weak I tell myself that, because I lived through this, I can survive anything.

step 12 magazine recovery3. “My God turns my darkness into light.”

Like so many people, I came into recovery angry at God and I blamed Him for everything that I was going through. It took me a while to build a relationship with God but when I did,  my world opened up. I was fortunate that God placed the right people in my life at the right time. A friend ask me to attend church with her and my life was forever changed. Look around at who God has placed in your life. They are not there by accident. He is constantly working his miracles through others. When I was able to establish a relationship with God, my problems did not disappear. However, I found myself better able to handle any situation given to me and practice patience and acceptance. These were things I could not do before.

4. “You can’t move on to your future until you let go of your past.”

The promises tell us, “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” Every time I heard this read out loud it would make me angry. Where are these people that are able to accept every mistake they have ever made? Moreso, how can I be one of them? The answer is actually quite simple. Once I was able to accept myself just as I am today, I was able to accept my past. This acceptance allowed me to move forward and have a chance at a peaceful, happy, and fulfilling life. There are days when I look back and think about what I have done and how my life would have been different if I hadn’t done them. The difference now is I am able to see the lesson in everything rather than the disappointment.

These are just a few of the hard lessons I learned in my first year of recovery. Eighteen months later and I continue to learn something new about myself, the world, and human nature every single day. I hope to continue to grow and learn because this experience has taught me (above anything anything else) that just when I think I have something figured out … I don’t.