Our reality can be changed and rewritten at any time. Alcohol use disorder is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. So, as we reframe our journey to reflect the truth of courage and strength, we’ll notice a HEALING transformation of the mind, body, and spirit.
We underestimate ourselves!
This week, we launched our free, HEALING webinar series with our first webinar, Owning Your Courage in Recovery. During this webinar, we asked our participants, who were women (presumably in recovery)—to rate themselves on a scale from zero to five on how courageous they considered themselves, with zero being not courageous, and five being very courageous.
Their answers ranged, but most answered “two.” Two!? In my humble opinion, women in recovery have tremendous courage, and we should give ourselves a five! But to be honest, I wasn’t surprised that participants didn’t rate themselves highly enough, because for some reason, many people don’t notice how courageous we really are.
Why is it so important to recognize our courage? It matters because our relationship to our own life narratives and sense of self can actually have a profound impact on our healing and recovery journey. By owning our courage, we empower ourselves to experience greater depths of healing and personal transformation for a life of limitless possibilities.
How can you OWN your courage?
You can own our courage by following these three steps:
- RECOGNIZE what courage is.
- CHANGE your personal narrative, or story.
- FOCUS on courage so it grows.
- Recognize your courage
- Beginning at the start of your journey, getting into sobriety (Day 1) takes an enormous amount of courage.
- Staying sober every day especially in early sobriety (Day 2, Day 3, etc., for the next 3 months at least) is living one day at a time courageously, as you learn to live a sober life.
- Asking for help! This applies not only getting into recovery, but also the many times you’ll need to ask for help to stay in recovery.
- Going into the unknown (facing fear) takes courage. Every day in early sobriety we are living in the unknown. For example, walking into an AA meeting for the first time and then the ensuing times, and then speaking or sharing with the group, take courage.
- Finding new coping strategies takes courage and commitment, since your previous coping strategy of drinking is no longer on the table. Now you must find new ways to cope. For example, you might explore meditation but struggle with doubt: Will it work for me? Will I be good at it or feel like I’m not doing it right? Overcoming that resistance as you venture into new territory takes courage.
- Speaking the truth after years of lying to yourself and others takes courage. Things that might sound simple are often huge acts of bravery, like telling a friend you have alcohol use disorder. On a personal note, I didn’t share my story with some of my friends until I was two years into my recovery. This took a lot of courage for me.
- Recovery is rewriting your life’s script,and that takes courage. For example, if you used to like going to concerts (which I did), now you might wonder, Can I still go to concerts? Everyone’s going to be drinking. How am I going to handle that? Another example is hanging out on someone’s porch where you used to have cocktails. What happens if they ask you over for cocktails? How do you handle that? Do you tell them? Or how about dealing with people who are challenging? Maybe you work with them or deal with them in some capacity on a regular basis; now how do you handle being with them? The list goes on: weddings, holidays, and the time of day (e.g., 5 pm). Chances are, it all seemed easier in some ways when you were drinking (even though it was living a destructive life-threatening existence). Simply being sober in each of these scenarios, you are rewriting your script, and it takes incredible courage to stay with it. You are a living embodiment of the oft-recited idiom, “one day at a time,” and when you recite it, you are en-couraging yourself that you can get through these challenges today.
- And lastly—not right away, but when you’re one or two years into your sobriety—you might need to start making some bigger changes in your life. This could mean leaving a career that used to interest you, but now you don’t want because of the stress, or because it’s not your passion anymore. Or maybe you want to leave one career because a new career opportunity is calling to you. I am a living example of this—having gone from owning an artisan boutique (and before that running a successful medical marketing company) to launching Humble Warrior Women in order to serve women in early recovery who want to transform their lives like I have!
Other examples of bigger life changes are downsizing or moving, as well as changing or even ending a dysfunctional relationship (again, this is best avoided until you are at least two years into recovery).
So I hope now you can recognize that every step in early recovery takes courage, as we transform our lives.
2. Change your narrative
Viewing our past with a compassionate heart
can set us free into greater depths of healing.
You might be wondering, okay, well, maybe I am courageous now, but what about before my sobriety? I did some unloveable things, and I wasn’t courageous back then. This is where it helps to revisit your long-held narrative about your life and rewrite it, if necessary. Many of us tend to hold blaming, shaming, and punishing narratives about ourselves and others. These beliefs hold us back and are loaded with toxic beliefs. The good news is that we are FREE to CHANGE our narratives, without comprising any of the truth.
The key is compassion. Viewing our past with a compassionate heart can set us free into greater depths of healing.
To illustrate how we can do this, I’m going to be vulnerable and tell you my story, a story that I was trapped in before, and then show you my story now, revised from a place of clarity, compassion, and empowerment. My narrative before went something like this:
I’ve been through years of ups and downs, searching for lasting joy and fulfillment in my life. Starting in college, I turned to alcohol habitually as the answer for everything. It helped elevate my mood, helped me have fun, helped me when I was depressed, and helped me when I was stressed. But decades later, it got to the point that I needed it to survive. I became addicted. I couldn’t live without it. I couldn’t imagine life without alcohol. I became ashamed of this and did everything I could to hide it. Now, this wasn’t really my fault because on both sides of my family, there is addiction, and also because I suffered some significant childhood trauma.
Now, even though the events I described are accurate, my narrative about them has completely changed. So let me share with you my new narrative:
From pain to purpose
Pain: “I had been through years of ups and downs, searching for lasting joy and fulfillment.”
Purpose: “Now I accept that life is challenging, and it’s natural to have ups and downs. I am now focused on living with inner peace and living in the present moment one day at a time, recognizing all forms of joy. And because of my experience, I have become inspired to become a recovery coach so I can help other women with alcohol use disorder.”
From weakness to strength
Weakness: “I turned to alcohol habitually as the answer for all things. I needed alcohol to survive.”
Strength: “My recovery from alcohol use disorder is now my superpower. I am super proud of my accomplishment to overcome my active alcohol addiction.”
From shame and guilt to courage and pride
From shame and guilt: “I am so ashamed about this secret and the many insane things I did when I was drinking.”
To courage and pride: “I practice self-forgiveness. We have all made mistakes. We’re not alone. We are loveable even if we did some unloveable things. I now recognize how courageous I was to get help and stick with it. Even when I relapsed a couple times, I picked myself up, made sense of my relapse, and got right back to it. I’m so proud of my accomplishments, and I want to share it with the world to help others.”
From blame to acceptance
From blame: “This was not my fault, really. My grandfather had it. In fact, both sides of my family have a history of addiction, and I suffered difficult trauma in my childhood. And then in my adult life, I had two heartbreaking experiences that were out of my control.”
To acceptance: “I surrendered to this disease that I acquired through my biology and my choices, in part as a reaction to my life’s challenges. I accept this, and I also embrace my new reality. I’m thrilled to move forward to seek fulfillment and happiness. I am no longer a victim. I focus now on what I can control, not what I can’t control. Other people’s reactions are not my responsibility.”
From resentment to forgiveness
Resentment: “I’m resentful that these various circumstances caused me to be defeated and caused my alcohol addiction.”
Forgiveness: “I forgive myself and I forgive all around me for issues that kept me in a state of sickness. These are in the past now. I have taken full responsibility for my life moving forward.”
You can see how I have transformed my narrative to include positive outcomes, learnings, experiences, accomplishments. Note that I am not sugarcoating my feelings or changing the events that happened. Truth is part of my identity. But I am living my truth in this present moment, and I am empowered by choosing how I see myself (and my narrative) in the past, present, and future by holding myself with compassion. And that feels liberating, frankly.
Can you now see the power in owning your courage and your strengths? I urge you to explore how your personal story is trapping you and holding you back from seeing all of your courage—and how you open your world to new possibilities for yourself when you finally see your courage.
As we progress through early sobriety to sustained recovery, we
learn to reframe our story from one of weakness (shame) to one
of immense strength and courage.
3. FOCUS on courage so it grows
What you focus on grows. So try to do one small act of courage every day (that is, in addition to being sober, of course!) Developing courage is like strengthening a muscle; it grows a little bit stronger every day when you exercise it regularly. We are strengthening our courage muscle! And one act of courage a day might grow to two, three, or countless acts every day.
Use daily affirmations to make courage a part of your identity. For example, I AM Courageous. Say it, write it, and feel it. Think of present situations and ask yourself, does this take courage? Or, if you can’t see your courage in the situation, consider what the situation would be like without courage, and ask yourself where you would be?
To be honest, I’m afraid of public speaking, which might surprise some of you who know me, because I’m an outgoing person. Yet, despite this fear, I do a weekly Facebook Live talk every Saturday. That takes a lot of courage for me. But it is also making me more courageous, because I am strengthening my courage muscle!
Journal regularly about examples of courage in your daily life. If you forget to ask yourself about courage while it’s happening, ask at the end of the day. When you’re journaling about gratitude, ask yourself, How was I courageous today?
Bring courage to life by speaking about it at AA meetings or to friends. This way you’re bringing courage to life and also helping others see their courage. When you teach something, you get it back in spades. I’m teaching courage; I’m getting courage. So help others see courage in how they overcame their hardships and challenges, and how they’ve moved forward, transforming their pain to purpose.
“Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than
you know, and capable of more than you imagine.”
― Roy T. Bennett
Start Owning Your Courage Today
I invite all of you to ask yourselves these questions about your own courage and to practice strengthening your courage muscle, whether you’re in recovery or not. Look at the story you’re telling yourself and ask yourself these questions:
- Is this helping me?
- Is this loving me?
- Is this recognizing me?
- Is this helping me become the best version of myself, my authentic self?
If not tweak it, rewrite it, or even start from scratch in order to reflect your purpose, your accomplishments, your strengths, your courageous acts, your pride, your acceptance of reality, and your forgiveness for yourself and others.
We can change our narrative anytime we want or need to. We can do this today. This practice is a game-changer. So, I urge you to OWN YOUR COURAGE TODAY.
Stay strong and COURAGEOUS, Humble Warrior Women! Until next week, Namaste!