Recovery and the Big Picture: Strategy versus Tactics in Overcoming Addiction

Recovery and the Big Picture: Strategy versus Tactics in Overcoming Addiction


Let’s talk for a minute about the idea of strategy versus tactics in recovery. First, the quick definitions. A strategy is your overall goal. In recovery, we would say that our strategy is to “elicit a personality change sufficient enough to relieve us of our drink problem.” In other words, our strategy is to find God. Our strategy is to have a spiritual experience. That is our strategy for recovery.

strategy for recovery

The tactics are the specific actions we use to implement that strategy. For our purposes, working the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is a tactic. This is our tactic aimed at meeting the goal of spiritual transformation.
See the difference? Our overall strategy and goal is to have a spiritual experience. A popular tactic for that is to work the twelve step program of AA. There are undoubtedly other tactics that you could use to try and “elicit a personality change sufficient to overcome the drink problem.” Likewise, there are other strategies out there for overcoming addiction other than having a spiritual experience. One example of an alternative strategy might be behavioral therapy that aims to control drinking.

So what is the point? There are three of them here that jump out at me.

First, I think it is important to keep in mind your overall strategy for recovery. If you are working the AA program, keep your strategy in mind. You are striving for a spiritual experience. Does that mean you should dump AA and run to the nearest church? Of course not. Your strategy is not religious involvement, but rather a personal spiritual transformation. Also, we can become so caught up in the tactic (working the AA program) that we forget about the overall strategy for overcoming addiction (spiritual transformation). So stay aware of your overall strategy…always keep it in the back of your mind.

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The second point to be made here is that you should stay open to supporting tactics. What do I mean by that? Well, if your overall strategy in recovery is to have a spiritual experience, then keep yourself open to ideas that fall outside of the usual twelve step philosophy. Does this mean that you should abandon AA altogether and seek other spiritual alternatives? Of course not. But keep the open-minded part of the program at hand when you are considering your strategy of the spiritual experience. For example, someone might hand you a book about spirituality that doesn’t necessarily relate directly to addiction and recovery. Instead of turning your nose up and saying “I only need the big book,” realize that this book they’re handing you could be potentially life-changing, and could very well be the catalyst that “rockets you into the fourth dimension” of your spiritual existence. It pays to stay open-minded!

Finally, I want to point out that the strategy of having a spiritual experience in order to “solve the drink problem” is the only thing that every worked for me. Personally, I could never maintain any sort of meaningful sobriety or clean time (much less any “recovery”) until I transformed my life through the twelve step program. The spiritual connection is what brings me peace today. Perhaps I could have found this spiritual experience though other means, but AA suited me just fine.

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