Recently we explored the idea that a person can recover from alcoholism with or without Alcoholics Anonymous.
But people have expressed concerns that the alcoholic “should not be designing their own recovery program.” Some people in recovery think that this is a recipe for disaster.
They cite bits of wisdom to back this up, such as:
“Our best thinking got us here” (to AA).
“We cannot solve our problem with the same level of thinking that created it.”
And so on.
So there is this idea out there that the alcoholic or drug addict cannot possibly navigate their own path in recovery, because their thinking is damaged, and they would inevitably sabotage themselves if they tried to do so.
Another way to put it is: if you try to recover based on your own ideas, you are doomed to relapse. The reason for this (the logic goes) is because your thinking is broken, and you will not be able to overcome your addiction with your own ideas / thoughts / willpower / etc.
So the traditional recovery wisdom says that we cannot possibly “out-think our disease,” and that to try and solve our own problem of addiction will surely end in disaster.
I disagree with this traditional wisdom, and my own experience has led me to believe in the power of customizing your own recovery program rather than having others dictate what you should do and think in your recovery.
Some key points to this:
* The concept of surrender still works well in early recovery, and especially well if you are still trying to quit alcohol and other drugs. Relinquishing control works well for the transition out of denial, and is probably even necessary. But after you have broke through denial, it is your responsibility to start thinking for yourself again.
* There are many paths in recovery. Experimentation is key to see what recovery strategies work best for you. With traditional recovery wisdom, you simply do what you are told, and fail to explore other avenues of recovery that might work better for you. “Take what you need and leave the rest” is how the saying goes in traditional recovery circles. Well, I suggest you apply this to everything – including the traditional recovery programs that you are expected to take as your only hope of salvation. If it is not serving you well, discard it.
* Long term recovery demands customization in order to overcome complacency anyway. So even if you try to stay completely rigid by following a program exactly as it is outlined, eventually you are going to have to start making positive changes and deviations in your life. What got you sober will not keep you sober forever – recovery demands change.
* People who get stuck in a recovery program and stop pushing themselves to grow end up relapsing due to complacency. The motivation needed to overcome this complacency is not solved by following a specific program. The problem is the lack of motivation, not the lack of a program. Design your own plan of growth, provide your own motivation, and reap the rewards of recovery.
* Ultimately we all know as individuals what works best for us in recovery. We can cover this up with denial or self sabotage, but once those barriers are removed, it is up to us to find our best path in recovery. The longer you have been clean and sober, the more true this becomes. Therefore, the best long term strategy in recovery is to take responsibility and find out what actually works best for you in terms of personal growth.
So yes, you can design your own recovery plan, and probably should, eventually. Anything less is putting your future in others’ hands, and runs the risk of relapse due to complacency.
Personal growth is the path to success in recovery. Some thought is required. You might want to take action too.