One of the big differences between traditional recovery and the creative life in recovery is the level of enthusiasm.
You could probably stay clean and sober in traditional recovery, but would you want to? This is the question you have to ask yourself when examining a program of recovery that you’re expecting to engage in for the rest of your life. Is it sustainable? Will it keep you happy?
Because we all know that the default response for a recovering addict or alcoholic can be to simply pick back up and use drugs. It is an answer for boredom, for apathy, for exhaustion, and for many other things.
When I was still drinking, I used to dread a life lived sober, because I thought it would be so dull and uninspiring. Now obviously it doesn’t have to be that way. But if you look around at examples in traditional recovery you might start to wonder. The vast majority of people seem stuck in a holding pattern that manages to keep them sober while not really pushing themselves into a life of passion or purpose.
If going to meetings every day keeps you clean and sober then this is a great starting point and foundation for recovery. But this is not the endgame. Don’t think that this holding pattern is the key to your lifelong problem of addiction. Anyone who has to go to meetings to remain sober is not fully engaged in recovery. All they have is another dependency and are not really creating a new life for themselves (at least not one that is worthy of replacing their addiction).
Is just being sober good enough for you?
Remember that we change and grow over time. What got us clean and sober will not keep us clean and sober. We have to change over time or we will stagnate and eventually relapse. Our default is to use drugs and alcohol so we will slowly revert to that lifestyle if we are not actively creating something different for ourselves.
Closely examine the new lifestyle afforded by traditional recovery. It is there for the taking if you want what it has to offer. I personally wanted something different. Daily meetings were OK but I wondered if my time couldn’t be better spent somehow. I also questioned the idea of a “growth cap” that I was seeing in traditional recovery. People seemed to rise to a level of recovery that would keep them sober and then level off, without really pushing themselves to branch out in to new areas or learn new things. The prevailing wisdom seemed to be “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” and they also told me that “everything I ever needed to stay sober was in this book right here” (referring to the Big Book of AA).
For a while I accepted this wisdom. If these people stayed sober while so many others relapsed, they must be right about this, no? But of course I saw a different truth as I stayed in recovery and watched certain people relapse over the years.
What I noticed is that the winners in recovery were growing and progressing outside of the boundaries of traditional 12 step recovery. I also noticed that many of the die hard 12 steppers tended to relapse at an alarming rate, regardless of their dedication to the program.
I decided that I wanted something more out of my life than what traditional recovery seemed to be providing me with.
If you want to change your situation in life then the task in front of you is one of creation. You need to make decisions and take action and thus create. This is true if you are a drunk who wants to sober up, and it’s also true if you are a sober drunk in a traditional program who feels stuck and wants to make something new happen in their life. The path in front of you is one of creation. Embrace the path as such and intend to start creating a new life for yourself.
You can do this by simply holding a creative vision for yourself. Where do you want to be? What do you want to see happen in your life? At it’s essence, this can be as simple as goal-setting, but the real creative life is driven by passion and purpose and becomes a positive feedback loop that starts fueling itself as you progress in recovery.
If you want something more out of your life then you are going to have to create it. No one can just hand you an awesome life in recovery, so why would we expect a program to do the same thing? Getting to your ideal life is going to require action on your part and some of the decisions that get you there are not going to come out of a big book. Creative recovery goes further than that.