Meta Recovery: Building a life second to none

Remaining open to change in mind and spirit isn’t easy. Our own fears and insecurities often lead us to isolate, drink, use, or binge eat, restrictive eat, over exercise, under exercise…. Manipulating our own little world gives the illusion of power in a Universe that can feel so chaotic. Taking action is important to recovery, but there’s ways to do it that promotes self-care and serenity.

Recovery isn’t an isolated event. It’s life-long, it’s cyclical like the dying and budding of a tree. It’s both individually unique and requires a community. The term “Meta-Recovery” refers to all of these things; it’s a patchwork of principles, personalities, tools, resources, and friendships. What we call it is less important than what it signifies: it’s an idea that a lifetime program must be all encompassing and self-reinforcing.

Meta-Recovery supports the concept that recovery is a lifestyle. It puts flesh on the bones of, “We found the only thing we needed to change was everything.” The first time I heard that expression I railed against it. I thought, “I don’t need to change the way I tie my shoes. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.”

Like most things I believe, this turned out not to be true. My therapist was brilliant in her ability to point out countless unexamined yet foundational driving forces in my life. When I emphatically told her I wasn’t going to change this, she asked me to consider why I had such strong feelings about fucking shoe laces?

Change everything and become free. It’s a ton of work and you’re investing in someone that you’re trying to see as worthy. Intellectually, you know that you’ll feel more worthy as you go, but the “fuck it” button is always within reach. Suggestion: Don’t say, “it.” Say, “me.”

The problem with recovery is that it’s your whole fucking life for the rest of your life. There’s no finish line and as Baz Luhrman said, “The race is long and in the end the race it’s only with yourself.” The key to recovery is surrounding yourself with people who are not only working it but enjoying it.

The most important aspect of Meta-Recovery is that we’re not just rebuilding, we’re free to build the life we most want. In our pursuit of holistic health, we too often overlook vitally important ingredients: laughter, relaxation, adventure, satisfaction, creative pursuits, and things that make us feel truly alive. That’s a whole lot of trial and error and a whole lot of moving out of our comfort zones while sober.

“The world is much more interesting than any one discipline.” –Edward Tufte

Combining our efforts for sustained/growing recovery with our fellowships, family, and friends is a beautiful opportunity to add tools. We can pull these out when times get rough: meditation, reading our favorite book passages, praying, yoga, the list goes on.

What works for one doesn’t always work for another, especially when rebuilding an entire lifestyle. Yet, we can learn from each other even when we decide their course isn’t aligned with our own. To dismiss a person’s chosen recovery tools limits our path by shutting down routes we haven’t even explored.

“Prayer isn’t for me”: that’s fine, but will it always be so? Limiting our recovery is a set-up for collapse. If we see only one way, we may feel like failures when life doesn’t go as planned. And things often don’t….

It’s easier to settle. Lots of people do. You can have a sober and mediocre life, but why would you want one? We all know the expression, “I didn’t get sober to be miserable” but we may lack role models who have a kick ass life in recovery. The benefits of seeking folks who “have what we want” is expanded when we practice eclecticism.

It’s not like we’ll find one person whose life encapsulates everything we seek. We’ll meet folks and admire certain traits, behaviors, and abilities. We don’t want their life but rather, elements of it. Mustering the vulnerability to ask, “Hey, can you teach me how to do that?” is usually all that it takes. When we ask others to share their passions and purposes we give them opportunities to shine.

Gratitude is a vital aspect of Meta-Recovery and a wonderful self-reinforcing system of its own. Appreciating the process and acknowledging success stirs a fire for further victories. We can even be grateful when we fail. Failure teaches us.

May we learn from others, risk failure, make changes, and put new-found skills into action. May your life-ingredients be diverse and satisfying.

 

 

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.