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Our Addiction, Our Recovery, Is Not an Excuse

An apology is “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.” Apology can also be “a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something.” As women in recovery, it is easy to lay our addiction to drugs and alcohol down as an excuse. We apologize over and over again for the things we did when we were drunk and high. Regret is an understatement and “offense or failure” don’t seem to adequately describe how we feel about our past. Too often, however, we cut to our intoxicated experiences as a quick and readied response so that we don’t have to take that regretful responsibility.

Eventually, we do take responsibility and we start to make an amends. Amends are different from apologies because they aren’t minced words, they are centered in action. Most simply defined, an amends is taking action to right a wrong. We cannot go back and change the past, but we can diligently work in the present to change the future. By sticking to our recovery and working on our mind, body, spirit, we don’t have our addictions to justify our behaviors any longer.

What are we justifying when we justify our behaviors in recovery or our behaviors in our past of active addiction? A justification is “the action of showing something to be right or reasonable.” When we try to justify ourselves away from responsibility we keep ourselves from critical learning opportunities. More importantly, when we justify behaviors that might harm others, we justify ourselves out of responsibility for the consequences of our choices, as well as our compassion for others. Our recovery is not an excuse, just like our addiction was not an excuse. Indeed, we are vehemently facing and courageously overcoming the consequences of our past as well as the complications of our present every single day. Geoffrey Bunting writes for The Mighty, “It is…easy to hide behind our symptoms and the effect they’ve had on our lives, and in doing so, create a kind of wall of sickness that separates our behavior from our person.” Recovery is not about becoming a good person after being a bad person. Recovery is about becoming a well person after being sick. Though recovery can be challenging, it is not a new diagnosis. We are not doomed as “recovering alcoholics” or “recovering addicts”. “As a result,” Bunting continues, “we allow ourselves an extra level of privilege and entitlement, and an avenue out of responsibility- i.e. it wasn’t me, it was my illness.”

We are not saints, as “The Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it. We will not work a “perfect program” as nobody ever does. Being gentle with ourselves and with others is a lesson in compassion we increasingly embrace. However, we have to remember that we’ve left our excuses behind us in exchange for a conviction to continue progressing, one day at a time.