Walking the Walk
“Practicing what you preach” is an important part of anyone’s recovery. As people become mindful of spiritual principles and begin recovering from addiction and its attendant attitudes and behaviors, it is a very good motto for recovering addicts to aspire to.
The beginning of becoming authentic to oneself is to honor the truth of their experience and to live that truth. This sounds simple, but is difficult to do for those who have lived in a state of denial and dishonesty about the nature of their addiction and its impact and influence over their life.
Coming out of denial means facing some harsh truths about yourself, your life and your behaviors. This then becomes a path that one embarks on to recover from the addiction that dictated its denial in order to survive. As recovery takes place, new ways of looking at oneself and new ways of behaving are necessary. It is vital that the truth be apparent not only to that person, but to the people around him as he goes along the recovery path. This then, becomes the new “walk” for his recovering persona. While a recovering addict may know the lingo of recovery, it is essential for his recovery that he learns how to walk it as well.
Most of us have a vision of who we are and how we want to live in the world. Active addiction creates a huge gap in that vision and the reality of becoming a practicing addict who is inauthentic to others as well as himself. This conflict does not allow the addict to feel a sense of unity between his view of who he is and the view others hold of him and his behavior. Becoming authentic is the path of recovery. In finding his own set of inner principles and guidance, the addict begins to walk the path he feels called to walk. Authenticity begins to become integrity. After a time, this same recovering addict can begin to trust that there is a path that belongs to him and that he is on it. As trust is developed and grows, it becomes possible for the truth to be manifested in all his actions and behaviors. Self-esteem and self-worth are apparent in the way the addict walks through the world and takes great care to behave in ways that bring him more and more satisfaction and integrity.
All of this new behavior is part of “walking the walk.” To talk about doing the right thing in difficult circumstances is something, but to actually go out and do it is evidence of the power of recovery. A saying that exemplifies this is, “Recovery means doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” Integrity means that what is said and what is done are the same thing. The words and the actions match, even if only one of them is observed by another. That inside himself, the addict knows that the right way is the way he wants to walk. It isn’t the right way according to others, or society, or a religious body, or any other judgment of what is right, but his own that rules the behavior he exhibits. It is his inner compass that determines the path he takes and that his compass is true and honest and willing to be seen by the world around him as the way he is and the person he is becoming. As well as authentic and integral, this is the path of honor.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.