Mark H. – Peace Through Acceptance

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Peace and sobriety through acceptance is the mantra for my recovery. Acceptance has been a core part of my being throughout my life’s journey. I’m proud to be sober and serene as we celebrate Pride Month 2023.

My story is one of overachievement; overachievement to compensate for my inability to self-validate and to love myself. A lack of self-worth. In my journey, I have learned my story is common like so many friends I have met who are also in recovery. I learned early in life that a hard work ethic, studying and getting good grades, and being a top performer in sports (track & field), would bring me accolades and, at least in my mind, prove my worthiness.

Growing up I had the best family, a life filled with unconditional love demonstrated by my dad and mom, my siblings, and our very large extended family. Any trauma in my early life is not nearly as overtly obvious, and seems different from, traumas some of my closest friends in recovery experienced in their life such as child abuse or other major trauma. Coming out as a young gay man my senior year of high school was traumatic, although almost all self-induced as my family supported me with continued unconditional love. My first acceptance was accepting the fact that I was a gay man, and that I had to be true to myself and live an out and open life.

My specific early childhood traumas are not so important, other than to note they led to my overachieving mindset. Achievement to the point of exhaustion. My overachievement has motivated me to my most amazing accomplishments, successes, happiness, and joy. At the same time, it has been my greatest vulnerability and weakness. Driving myself to exhaustion, taking on more than any one person should at work or home, led to me drinking for escape. My first addiction was to achievement. Over many years, and a few other traumatic events, this led to my second addiction (alcohol) and alcohol use disorder.

Today I am in recovery. My sobriety is based on peace through acceptance. I had to accept the fact, in my heart and soul, that I now have an alcohol addiction. To treat this health condition, I attended Mountainside residential program and intensive outpatient (IOP). Today, I continue with a recovery coach who I connect with almost daily, as well as weekly outpatient group sessions, and individual therapy.

I am feeling very good. I am on a journey to refresh my mind, body, and spirit, as well as improve my fitness and health. For me, daily meditation practice is essential to my sobriety and peace of mind. My morning starts with a guided meditation and coffee, and my kitty cat usually joins me. Next, I do a 10-minute moving and breathing meditation, Qigong, which I learned while I was inside the Mountainside residential program. Then I shave, shower, and get on with my day.

A key part of my spirituality is reconnecting with nature and being outdoors. Twenty-five years into my living in NYC, I realize how disconnected I had become from nature. Getting outdoors every day and exercising regularly keeps me mentally sharp and rejuvenated. I picked up hiking during the residential program and continue to do that whenever possible. For me being in nature teaches me – guides me – into living each moment in the present moment. What animals, flowers, and skies above do I see? What do I hear, smell, and how do I feel? These tricks I use on my hikes to keep me focused and not distracted about my next meeting or deadline. I am present, in nature, at that moment, and not worrying about the future or the past.

For my sobriety and serenity, I also rely on a strong sober support network of peers also in recovery as well as medication to reduce cravings. I had to accept only powers greater than myself could help keep me sober. Hearing other people’s stories, struggles, and successes, and attending meetings (Recovery Dharma) are key components to keeping me serene and providing a safe space to share my own daily story.

I understand, realize, and accept that taking care of Marc, and taking care of myself daily – through meditation, mindfulness, relaxation, and time for enjoyment, exercise, and self-care – is essential in keeping me sober, healthy, and happy. I must practice my relaxation and coping skills, breathing exercises, and mindfulness practices in my daily routine, as well as “in the moment” when having a stressful day or stressful event. These are all key parts of my path of recovery and health.

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