I’ve been coaching individuals and groups since 2011. Prior to becoming a personal development coach, I considered myself a recovered alcoholic. I don’t see it that way anymore. I still don’t drink. But I’m no longer comfortable with labels like alcoholism.


I do like the idea of recovery. You don’t have to be an alcoholic, addict, or even someone who is chemically dependent to be in recovery.


When I became a coach, I had been clean and sober for 28 years – meaning that I had abstained completely from drinking alcohol and from using any mind-altering chemicals. And according to some of the literature I was familiar with in the self-help group that supported my sobriety, I was recovered. If I was someone who liked tattoos, I probably would have had the word, RECOVERED inked somewhere on my body.


But as I look back, I realize I wasn’t fully recovered. What was I recovering from? I only drank for about 9 years. I drank a lot and did a lot of dumb and even wrong things while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs during that time. Was I recovering from drinking a lot for 9 years? I thought so for the longest time.


Any damage I’d done was or at least could have been restored, repaired, or recovered after just a few months of abstinence.  I worked hard to clean up as many messes as I was aware of for those first few years, but I certainly didn’t feel recovered.


I felt like a mess!


Recovery can mean getting over something and it can also mean getting something back that has been lost.


What had I lost? I had lost the trust of my wife and the people closest to me. I’d lost trust in myself. I’d lost my moral compass and the ability to tell the truth. I’d lost clarity and the ability to tell the difference between reality and what I thought of it. I had lost connection to myself and others and so much more.


I couldn’t consider myself recovered until I stopped doing things that burnt the bridge of trust between myself and everyone in my life. Until I trusted myself again and started telling the truth, I couldn’t consider myself recovered no matter how long I had been sober.


What was I getting over? I was over 20 years sober before I realized that what I was getting over was what had been limiting me for my entire life: false beliefs. I’ve read, and it makes sense to me that by the time we are 8 years old, we are about 80% programmed. What we decided was true to explain all that happened in our first 8 years got cooked into our unconscious and has been running our lives ever since then. That is, unless we recover from that bad programming.


And that, in my opinion and in my experience is the real work of recovery. Sure, I will take a medal for my length of sobriety. But honestly, how long someone has been clean and sober only reflects recovery if it is accompanied by the inner work that it takes to develop personal responsibility. That means challenging what we have always held as truth. It means letting go of our sacred cows and becoming mentally and emotionally aligned with reality.


There are many stages on the journey to recovery and many stages from recovery to recovered.


Do you have or have you had habitual (automatic and repeating) behaviors intended to ease the discomfort of your existence?


Take a look at the accompanying graphics I created to describe the stages of recovery. Are you somewhere in the following list of stages of recovery? Reading through the list, what is missing in this description for you?


I work with people who are in the Advanced Recovery Stage, helping them to move out of survival and into the mainstream of life, empowered to live a purposeful and fulfilling life.


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