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In one of my earlier articles, I gave a brief outline of some incidents that occurred during my "dark days". Included were the brushes with the law and subsequent court appearances. Even though those things occurred before I had turned 18, 14 years later the effects are still catching up with me.
I have planned on visiting the United States for a couple of months now. As I am typing this I have my tickets next to me - all paid. Itinerary and travel insurance is arranged....the only problem is the travel consultant didn't brief me about visa requirements - it was an honest mistake with no ulterior motives.
When I asked about the visa they said it wouldn't be a problem.....as long as I didn't have a criminal record. The consultant must have assumed that since I was wearing a tie that I wouldn't have one! You get used to the shocked look on a person face when they realise that you have "a past". The contrast between recovery and illness is so great.
So now it turns out that the US requires Australian Federal Police clearance for me and then they will consider an application. The length of time it will take to get that clearance may exclude me from making the journey. And those tickets - non transferable and non refundable. But I have been very lucky that the consultant has done everything she can to assist in the situation, and I probably will receive a refund.
Once upon a time, news like that would have immediately driven me to the nearest bar. Actually, a shoelace snapping would have had the same effect! Today, I can deal with the situation in a rational manner - after muttering a few choice words to relieve the tension! I will have to repeat this process every time I want to visit the United States. It adds an extra $160 to my trip to do so.
Recovery doesn't mean that all the bad memories go away and all debts are settled. There are ongoing costs that stay with you until the day you die. One of my ongoing costs is that criminal record. In any new job I apply for, I always fear that question "do you have a criminal record?" When asked questions like these, it's always best to "tell the truth and shame the devil"...it will work out.
I remember applying for insurance a few years ago as part of starting my business. The application asked for a lot of background information. My application was an insurers nightmare! I answered "yes" to that many "have you ever suffered from a mental illness.." or "have you ever had duodenal ulcers" type questions, that the insurance broker who assisted me aged 10 years overnight trying to locate a company that would take me on! I could have bent the truth I suppose, but if I had ever needed to make a claim the investigation would have brought these things to light.
That insurance broker then became one of my clients and they still handle my insurance needs to this day. It always works out.
When you die clean and sober...only then is your slate wiped clean.
That's it...no gold medal, no key to the city, no statues built in memory of your struggle. 100 years from now perhaps no-one will know that you ever existed. That isn't the point of recovery.
If you enter the recovery process thinking that all the bad things of your life will suddenly disappear, you will fail - guaranteed. The disappointment and responsibility will drive you back to where you were before.
I guess this all sounds pretty discouraging, but it isn't meant to be. The concept that I am trying to relay is to be realistic during your recovery. You will be able to make amends for some past errors during the first couple of years of being clean and sober, but not all will go well. Some attempts of making amends will fail, or be rejected. Recovery is a very tumultous time and things can really feel that they are closing in. You may even feel at times that the recovery process is worse than the disease.
But it isn't...because you are working towards a solution, not increasing the problem. Any block or challenge that you will encounter will have its own solution, but we need to use the proper approaches. Knee-jerk reactions will solve nothing.
There is an old saying that really applies here - "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time"
The major difference in recovery that leads us to feel that it's all too much is when things go wrong, we no longer have the avenues of escape we once had. Actually, the mechanisms we used to deal with our problems then caused the problems that we are properly dealing with now.
I try (emphasis on "try"!) to use experiences such as I had today as yet another reminder about how bad things were, and how privileged I am now to be able to face the results of my actions (both current and previous) with some degree of logic and ownership.
But it doesn't always mean that I deal with these situations correctly, I fall down often....the ability to accept failure and rejection in a healthy manner is also another important trait to develop....
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference"
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