If you are trying to give an alcoholic help then you might want to pass this on to them.
“There is hope for a better life.” This was a bunch of meaningless crap to me at one time, when I was still drinking heavily. I did not care about the possibility of a better life, nor did I think it was possible for me.
“Hope for a better life.” I heard people say this at an AA meeting, that I could quit drinking and have this awesome new life, and I just didn’t care. I could not bring myself to care.
And, I did not think that it really applied to me. They were saying that I could have passion and purpose in my life again, that I could be excited about life and have fun again. I did not believe them.
I thought to myself: “These people do not know me. They don’t know how I am wired. I’m different. For me, drinking and drugs are my whole world.”
So I did not believe them when they told me that I could have this awesome new life in recovery.
I was terrified of AA meetings and I did not like the idea of going to them on a regular basis. I was even more terrified of the idea of speaking at an AA meeting. And everywhere that I looked, it seemed that the only solution being offered for the problem of addiction was 12 step recovery.
That was the only solution I could find. 12 step recovery. If you want to get clean and sober, they told me, you have to go to meetings. It is the only way. I heard this same message – this same idea, over and over again.
And I was terrified of meetings.
So I was pretty discouraged with the whole prospect of recovery.
But I was sick and tired of drinking and using drugs so I decided to give it a real shot. I agreed to go to treatment and ended up in a residential and detox facility.
Now I had been to treatment twice before and I knew that there was no magic in short term treatment stays. If you just get out and go back to your old environment then you’re gonna go back to your old friends and you’ll end up using again. So I knew that I needed a more drastic solution.
This might not be true for everyone – it’s just what I needed to make recovery work for me. I was fairly young and had a ton of friends that I used drugs and alcohol with and I needed an escape route. My whole life was built up around using drugs and alcohol so I needed a drastic way to change my entire life. For me, that drastic change was most easily brought about by living in long term treatment. And so I jumped at the chance to move into a long term treatment center where I spent the next 20 months living with 12 guys.
Long term treatment saved my life, because it was the only way to muscle my way through stage one recovery. By the time I left this facility I was well on my way into “living the solution.” I was actively creating my new life for myself and starting to use holistic principles to stay clean. People who go to short term rehab of 28 days or less miss out on this opportunity to transition to long term sobriety. They are essentially still in “stage one recovery” when they leave treatment and don’t know a thing about how to actually live sober.
I had originally thought while I was living in long term treatment that the whole point of early recovery was to firmly establish a foundation in the 12 step program by going to lots of meetings and getting involved with sponsorship and with the fellowship. Turns out that the whole point was instead to transition to holistic living and embrace a creative path in recovery. This is evidenced by the fact that nearly everyone that I knew in recovery who stuck closely to the 12 step program eventually relapsed.
Now this is not to say that the 12 step program doesn’t work – it merely points out the tragic numbers game, that most do not make it. There certainly are success stories in AA, but they are the ones who are actively creating a new life for themselves with a holistic approach – completely independently of their 12 step efforts. The winners in recovery are the ones who are “living the solution,” not just hitting daily meetings and paying lip service to the steps.
This is not an anti-AA rant, but instead it is a pro-creation rant. There are people in AA who are using the creative approach without really realizing it. They are the winners who go beyond the boundaries of traditional recovery and push themselves to grow in other ways. What I’ve learned on my 7+ years in recovery is simply this: that the winners in recovery have a holistic, creative approach that goes beyond 12 step programs. Some of the winners are in AA and some are not. But the defining characteristics are not yet neatly wrapped up in any recovery program. My efforts to describe the creative theory are an attempt to do just that.
For so long in early recovery I believed that mastery of the 12 step program was the answer. This proved to be incorrect (for me). Recovery is about living, not about programs. I watched so many people who dedicated their lives to the “program,” only to relapse.
I also thought that spirituality was the whole key to recovery. This was partially true. Turns out the solution is bigger than that. The real solution to recovery is the holistic approach. This includes spirituality but goes far beyond it, treating the recovering person as a whole. With the creative approach to recovery, a holistic strategy targets all the areas of a person’s life. This is much more powerful than the traditionally narrow spiritual approach.
Anyone can get a few days clean and sober but the real key is in making the transition to living in recovery. Those who fail to make this transition are the ones who relapse.
The creative theory, to me, is just a certain term that I use to describe goal oriented living. Really it is not much more than that….but I have tried to adopt a new vocabulary to describe it in a way that is exciting to most people.
Many folks get excited about “purpose based living.” They talk about the purpose driven life and how they think that is the ideal way to live.
There may be truth to this, and it is possible that I am missing the bigger picture here. But I really think that in recovery from alcoholism, we can benefit tremendously from having individual goals. There is nothing wrong with goal oriented living. Seek to achieve something, and then set out and do it. Take action. This is very effective when it comes to overcoming drug or alcohol addiction, and I think it is a key concept in early recovery.
Think about it: purpose-based living in early recovery is not a good idea. Our only real “purpose” when we first get clean and sober is leaning more towards being selfish and self-serving. It was all about medicating our own feelings and emotions. It was all about medicating our own pain and our own suffering. Our addiction consumed us in this way. Our purpose was to escape reality through our addiction.
In recovery, I think we have to take a step back and simplify, at least at first. Maybe later on when we get some sober time under our belt, we can start to think about living with purpose, rather than being goal-driven. But early on, it is all about baby steps. You can’t just put down the bottle one day and become a spiritual guru the next. Baby steps! And that means living with some concrete goals in mind.
Think about it: most people in early alcohol recovery have some very concrete and specific goals, such as:
1) Don’t drink today, no matter what.
2) Go to a recovery meeting today.
3) Read some recovery literature today, maybe pray or meditate on it.
And so on.
Simplify, people. If you want to help alcoholics, don’t preach concepts at them when they are in their first week of sobriety….just my 2 cents. Better is to give them some firm direction early on and show them an exact path that can lead them to sobriety.