No matter what route you take for your Recovery process, odds are you’ve heard of the phrase: “LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS.”
The connotation and meaning of that phrase is most likely different for each person, so I want to simply share my perspective and experience with this common phrase.
To me, “LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” means that no matter if it’s positive or negative, I get to be present for, and accountable to, whatever life may throw at me.
In early Recovery, I always thought of this phrase as referring to simply battling through the negative, crappy parts of life without picking up a drink or a drug (or resorting back to any of my old negative behaviors)….but I have since changed my outlook on the phrase to include the positive aspects of my life today.
Life is full of both up’s and down’s, so maintaining my Recovery (and hopefully my sanity) through both extremes is the key challenge of the life I live today.
Yes, life isn’t always easy, and yes, sometimes I wish I could curl up in a ball and either ignore what life is telling me or to check out through my old vices….but my Recovery doesn’t allow me to do so.
You see, for me, Recovery isn’t merely just NOT doing drugs or alcohol, manipulating others for my benefit, making rash decisions based on my initial reaction, playing the victim to justify my sometimes criminal behaviors, etc. Those things were never my #1 problem, they were my #1 solution.
Good, bad, or indifferent, my go to solution was getting loaded, using others, either ignoring the issue or making a knee-jerk reaction, or victimizing myself to give myself permission to do whatever the hell I needed to do to make myself feel better.
Recovery taught me new solutions, better solutions. Recovery taught me to face both the positives and the negatives that life presents me. Recovery taught me to accept responsibility for, and take action with anything that I may face. Recovery taught me that emotional suicide is making a permanent decision based on a temporary feeling…and that isn’t how I want to live my life anymore.
I’m not saying facing “LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” is always fun. I’m not saying that facing “LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” is always easy. But I will say, in some weird way, facing “LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” is…rewarding.
Going through the bad times, in crisis mode, it absolutely sucks at times. But once you get through it and look back at how hard you fought, how steadfast you remained in your Recovery – it’s awe-inspiring and confidence building.
Going through the good times, keeping a level head and staying the same person despite the success is a different sort of challenge. For me, that’s when I need to be on guard the most, because that’s when I’m susceptible to think that I don’t NEED Recovery anymore, that I’m CURED, or that I EARNED a little taste from my past life as a reward to myself. Keeping an even keel while being appreciative of the positive is the best way I find to stay humble and grounded because I know that more often than not I earned the positive event through hard work and faith, but it’s only because I kept my priorities in order that it worked out that way.
I bet at this point, you’re starting to wonder if I’m going to keep speaking in generalizations, or give you some concrete examples. So here are my three most challenging Life of Life’s Terms examples that I’ve faced in my over 4.5 years of Recovery from active addiction.
DIAGNOSIS OF MY SIGNIFICANT OTHER & BEST FRIEND
My girlfriend was diagnosed with super aggressive breast cancer in 2015. That was a huge shocker, to both of us. I can say today I am proud with how I handled that situation because in the past, well….I wouldn’t have handled it well. The only “old Marv” response I feel comfortable making public at this point is to simply say, “You’ve got the Big C? Well, good luck with that…I’m out!”
I didn’t do that. Instead I stayed by her side, I went to every single doctor’s appointment, every single treatment, I took notes, asked questions, communicated with her family, and I didn’t make it about me (which I absolutely would have done in the past, just like I had done with my ill mother). Neither of us used it as an excuse to get loaded or act out. It was terrifying, it was hard, but we made it through it. She is in remission today, although she continues to take multiple medications including chemotherapy, and one day we hope to raise the funds necessary to afford her reconstruction surgery.
LOSS OF MY MOTHER
As I write this, it’s actually 2 years ago yesterday (January 12) that I lost my mother to Lyme disease. I’m most proud of how I handled this situation because I honored her memory by being there for my family and didn’t use it as an excuse to go back out into active addiction. When my grandfather died a few years prior while in the midst of a “secretive relapse” I regrettably didn’t do the same. I dishonored his memory and acted very shamefully. I didn’t have to repeat that when my mom passed.
I’m very grateful that I had found the courage just 2 weeks prior to her passing to make my amends to her. She got to pass on knowing her son was FINALLY doing well. She got to pass seeing me clean and sober, working on bettering myself, and looking to help others. I am very proud of that and it’s why I hold onto my Recovery so tightly no matter what I am facing. I am, and will continue to make her proud as she looks down from above on me, her son, who she prayed so hard for to overcome his addictions and make something of his life.
QUITTING MY JOB & STARTING MY COMPANY
This may be of a surprise to you, but I had no intentions of ever making One Rep At a Time my full-time job when I first started it as merely a blog way back in April of 2015. It was more of a passion project that I started at the urging of my sober living roommates who were blown away by my knowledge when it comes to fitness and health. I kept the blog aspect hush for well over 6 months before I started to publicize it – in hindsight this was a mistake, but everything I’ve done with ORAAT has been a “learn on the fly/in hindsight” type deal.
At that point in my life I was working the same job that I had gotten after I transitioned out of treatment. I am extremely grateful to that job as they gave me a chance despite my recently questionable resume, and when my girlfriend was diagnosed they worked with our schedules so I could go to her treatments with her. But that job turned toxic and began to wear on my spiritual, mental, and emotional condition. It became clear that it had served its dual purpose of:
1) giving me some stability with my Resume
2) teaching me some ******* humility. It was time for me to move on.
In July of 2016, I found the courage to quit that job and pursue ORAAT full-time returning to my personal and online training roots. It was one of the hardest, yet best decisions of my life. Am I rich off ORAAT? Absolutely not. I have made (and continue to make) lots of mistakes when it comes to the business side of things, but I don’t let that deter me. ORAAT is my life’s purpose. Everything I went through put me in the position I am today. That’s not to say that ORAAT will be successful long-term or expand the way I would like it to…but blending top level fitness information along with my own personal experience with addiction, muscle dysmorphia, and Recovery is what I was put on this earth to do. While I believe in my heart that ORAAT is the vessel through which I’m meant to do that, I am open to the idea that this may just be a stepping stone to something greater and bigger. Only time will tell.
For now, I’m grateful I had the courage, the drive, and the self-worth to start this endeavor. I NEVER would have done so in my past, or at best, would have self-sabotaged it after a few successful months. I’m not worried about doing that this time because I discovered the core issues that led me to such self-destructive behaviors in my past. Those are my biggest gifts of my Recovery.
So, there you have – my take on the phrase “LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” and the three biggest examples of doing just that.
I will close with this – my own phrase regarding “LIFE ON LIFE’S TERMS” that was actually one of the very first One Rep At a Time Instagram posts when I started to dive into the world of social media:
I can’t stop the waves from coming, but I can choose which ones I surf. With Recovery as my surfboard, without it, I won’t stay above water long.
What’s YOUR viewpoint or experience with this phrase? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.
And as always remember….we can accomplish anything we want.
Just One Day at a Time.
One Meal at a Time.
One Set at a Time.
One Rep at a Time.