It might be very obvious to you and to others that you are stuck, stagnant, or in a rut in your recovery. But sometimes that might still be true, but far less obvious. It is possible to coast along in recovery for years. When people ask how you are doing, your answer might be something like “Everything is just fine, thanks for asking.” But maybe, way down inside, a still, small voice is whispering “is that all there is?” You might be feeling rather flat and uninspired. You might be feeling unfulfilled. Maybe your relationships aren’t quite as healthy or nurturing as you had hoped. Maybe you are spiritually dry.
I myself have had stuck or stagnant periods in my recovery, times where it felt like nothing was happening, when I felt sort of an ongoing grayness about my life. Nothing was drastically wrong; I just didn’t feel the kind of magical-ness about life that I felt in my early recovery. I wasn’t depressed, exactly. But I wasn’t happy or fulfilled, either. Way down in the pit of my stomach was the nagging sense of “is this all there is?” This period lasted for a very, very long time. A friend of mine in recovery said that it sounded to him like I might be going through a “dark night of the soul.”
The standard program tools were of no help. Doing yet another Big Book Fourth Step didn’t help. Working with more and more newcomers didn’t help. Upping my prayer and meditation didn’t help either. Those tools serve only to buoy one’s mood; they don’t do a thing to solve the actual underlying problem that is creating the sense of anomie in the first place. The only way to solve the real problem is to discover its exact nature.
At that time, there was nothing like a recovery coach to help me navigate through all of this. So, I tried to figure it out all on my own. As it turns out, I don’t recommend that to anybody. No how, no way. It took way too long and I suffered much way too much pain getting to the bottom of it. I was so out of touch with my true inner self and my emotions (i.e. I was dissociated) that I kept trying different things, almost at random, somewhat desperately, in my attempts to quell the deep-down dissatisfaction I had with my life. Attempt after attempt failed.
Eventually, it began to dawn on me: I spent my whole career doing stuff I was totally disinterested in, in settings that were, for me, soul-killing. Duh. I called my sister Bev and told her about my newest revelation. She said “I knew that about you when you were in college! You were never the corporate type!” I asked her why she didn’t tell me that way back when. She said “You wouldn’t have listened to me anyway!” Again: Duh. She was right. I always was the stubborn, bull-headed type.
That revelation led me into the new, lengthy journey of the second half of my life, and launched me into “next stage recovery.” Basically, I had to completely reinvent myself and my life. Long story short, I went back to school, got my Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Development, changed the focus of my consulting business, got training in Recovery Coaching, and here I am now.
As mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend my process. What I recommend is getting some kind of help, one of which is getting a Recovery Coach. This can shorten the process by YEARS. A recovery coach can help you – quickly – to figure out the “exact nature” of what is behind your feeling or sense of being stagnant, stale, or stuck. Among several other tools, a coach may use a “Life Wheel” (shown below) to help you pinpoint which of several fundamental aspects of your life seems to be the cause of your problem: Once you have identified which aspects of your life are not where you want or need them to be, you and your Recovery Coach can then envision where you really want to be in those areas, and can jointly develop a time-bound plan of attack to get you where you want to go. Then, you can work together to implement your change plan, hold you accountable along the implementation path, adjust the plan as things change or you change, and celebrate both small wins along the path, and the ultimate achievement of your life goals!