I did not start out “being bold” in my recovery, and I do not think that anyone should.
Not in early recovery anyway.
Early recovery is the time to be timid, reserved, shy, cautious. This is the time of surrender. You are giving up, and it should feel like you are giving up. It has to feel like a defeat if it is going to work out. This is largely counter-intuitive. Most people believe the opposite, that they need to have this go-getter attitude in early recovery if they are to do well.
Not true. The truth is that early recovery is a time for listening, a time for taking advice, a time for taking direction. Early recovery is when you should be meek, humble–the exact opposite of bold.
Being bold in early recovery could be dangerous, in fact. It may even kill someone if it causes them to relapse, and to miss out on this new way of life.
So this is the disclaimer that comes along with this article:
Do not be bold in early recovery. If you are in your first year of recovery, or if you are still not yet clean and sober, then you can safely ignore the rest of this article.
Your journey is one of surrender. You must be meek and humble and beg others to give you direction. Do not be bold in early recovery, or it will cause you to relapse, and miss out on the gift of recovery.
Being bold is for long term sobriety. Being bold in recovery is after you have achieved stability in recovery, and now your life demands positive actions on a regular basis.
Long term sobriety requires one of two paths: You can think for yourself and create your own life in recovery, or you can let others think for you, and thus create the direction of your life for you.
Either path is fine and both will result in continued sobriety. But one path is weak and does not realize your full potential (letting others dictate your life) while the other path causes you to realize your full potential, as you push yourself to become the person you were always meant to be (being bold!).
Obviously, we do not want to just live out the rest of our lives in “passive mode,” sitting in some meeting hall and taking orders from a sponsor or a group who does not necessarily know how we should reach our full potential. In fact, chances are good that we do not know ourselves how to reach our full potential either. The point is that we need to get on a path of active growth, one that allows us to explore the world of personal growth, such that we can realize our true potential in life.
Hint: if you are stuck in traditional recovery and complacent, this is not “being bold.” In fact, it is the exact opposite. We need active growth rather than passive living.
Remember: lack of surrender is the common problem, not wrong actions
Some people prevent themselves from this sort of active life of personal growth, because they believe that they are going to do the wrong thing, and thus jeopardize their recovery. They are frozen into inaction because they fear screwing something up.
This is clearly a misunderstanding of how recovery and relapse actually works.
Your recovery does not demand that you take the perfect, correct, right action every single day for the rest of your life. Rather, there is this running tally, a running balance if you will. If you continue to take positive actions over and over again, this will protect you on the whole from relapse. If you quit taking these positive actions and the old behaviors start to creep back into your life, you will not relapse immediately. However, notice that you might relapse eventually, especially if nothing changes for the better and the old behaviors keep coming back, again and again.
Relapse does not happen overnight. It takes time. It has to build up. And it is all about this balance of positive and negative stuff in your life. If you keep drifting toward the negative eventually the balance will tip and you will pick up a drink or a drug. But it takes time for it to build and it does not happen overnight.
People are frozen in inaction because they believe that they might take the wrong action and suddenly relapse as a result. This is not realistic if they are stable in their recovery. Say you have about six months or more of sobriety–you are not going to suddenly relapse just because you take a certain action that is somehow risky to your sobriety. If you do something and it feels dangerous or like it may lead you back to using, you can quickly pull back and regroup. Remember that “creating your own path in recovery” is not for newcomers….this is for people in long term recovery. You have to be stable before you can start to experiment with your recovery. Furthermore, you need to pay close attention to how you react to each new action that you introduce into your life.
For example, say that you normally attend three AA meetings each week, but you want to replace one of them with an exercise session instead. When you do this, be sure to carefully evaluate how you feel and what your thoughts are as far as stability and relapse. If you are suddenly having lots of urges to drink or use drugs, then switch your schedule back and get back to that meeting next week. Make changes, but then pay close attention to the outcome. Measure your success based on your desire to self medicate. If you make a change and it seems to lead to more urges for you, then you are doing something wrong and you should roll things back to the way they were before. Stability in your sobriety should always come first, even when trying to carve your own path in recovery.
When people relapse there are generally only a few major reasons that they did so. The main two that I have seen are:
1) Lack of surrender.
If you are in early recovery then the reason is always lack of surrender. You did not surrender deeply enough to your disease of addiction, and therefore you did not follow through and take the advice and direction from others who tried to help you find this new life in recovery. Had you done so, you would have found the stability that comes from continuous abstinence in recovery. Relapse in early recovery can almost always be traced back to a lack of surrender.
Note that most people believe otherwise: they think that if they had maybe gone to this different recovery program, or tried a different rehab, they might still be sober and could have avoided relapse. This is ridiculous, and misses the importance of surrender. It matters very little what program people follow or exactly what actions they take in early recovery. Instead, what matters is their conviction and their willingness to embrace a new way of life–they have to be at their bottom, willing to do whatever it takes, willing to take any advice they are given in order to recover.
People who relapse in early recovery have simply failed to develop this intense willingness, they have not truly hit bottom yet, they are not done using drugs and alcohol yet. This is the problem 99 percent of the time and this is the reason that most people relapse.
The other reason that people relapse is complacency. That is what we are addressing here when we suggest that you need to “be bold in your recovery.” People who relapse due to complacency have become lazy, they are stuck in a rut, and they are anything but being bold.
If you are in early recovery then you need to be humble and take direction until you are stable in your recovery. If you are in long term sobriety and you are going through the motions of recovery and sitting through meetings that have you bored to tears then you need to shake things up, focus on personal growth, and start being bold with life.
Being timid and passive in traditional recovery serves no one
This is not just about being happy or getting what you want out of life (although that comes along with the deal, don’t get me wrong!).
This is also about serving others and being of service to others.
Who were your really meant to be in this life, and IF you have a higher power, what is his plan for you?
Do you really believe he has a small plan for you, to perhaps be the guy who cleans up the coffee after an AA meeting every week in the dingy basement of some church? Is this really your great vision of service that the universe would have for you?
I am not trying to knock service in AA–because that is indeed a great path and I have some amazing friends who make a huge difference by participating heavily in that program. I am not knocking AA here. What I am getting at is the idea that “your playing small serves no one.” This is why you need to be bold in long term sobriety. Not because you want to be happy and get stuff that you want for yourself, but because you have amazing gifts to give to the world and being bold will help to unlock them.
I used to chair a meeting each week in a rehab. I did so for over a year, a form of service in AA. I no longer do that, but I would like to think that I have evolved, that I attempted to be bold in my recovery, and that I evolved to make better use of my talents and gifts.
Instead of chairing a meeting each week I now connect with addicts and alcoholics in another venue–a venue that is more suited to my unique gifts and talents. Instead of hosting a meeting for eight to twelve people I now connect with hundreds of people every day in the online world. This was NOT made possible by listening to my sponsor or peers in recovery.
Instead, I had to be bold. I had to form a vision for my recovery, based on my own strengths and talents, and then pursue it aggressively. I had to say “this is what I want to do, this is my idea, and I am going to work hard on it.”
No one suggested this path to me. That was the old way, that was the method in early recovery.
In early recovery, I got lots of suggestions, and I tried most of them:
* “Why don’t you try to quit smoking cigarettes now that you are stable in your sobriety?”
* “Why don’t you exercise a few time each week and see how that makes you feel?”
* “Why don’t you meditate for twenty minutes per day and see how that works for you?”
And so on. So in early recovery, I took many suggestions, and I experimented and found what worked well for me (exercise works really well, meditation plays a distant second to it, etc.).
But in long term recovery, no one suggested that I stop chairing that meeting each week in rehab and start a website instead. No one thought of that, no one suggested it, no one pushed me to create that change in my life.
I had to do it. And that is what I mean when I say I want you to be “be bold” in your long term recovery.
Being bold means that it comes from you, it is your idea, it is something that you want to pursue.
Sure, it is great to take suggestions from others, and you can continue to take suggestions from your sponsor or from your peers in recovery. That is still a great way to live and you can still find many new paths of growth in that way.
But at some point I think you need to get serious about the idea that you have untapped potential within you.
You need to get with the idea that your higher power (or the universe, if you will) has this plan for you, and it involves you doing something amazing. Or being something amazing. Or changing the world for the better, in some amazing way.
Because really, what else are you going to do in your recovery?
Really, what have you got to lose by not playing it big, and going bold, and trying to accomplish something incredible?
If you try to be bold and you fail……so what? You will be just like all of these other people on the sidelines, who are living a passive existence anyway.
In fact, this happened to me a few times in my recovery journey. I tried to create something amazing in my life, and it failed a few times before something clicked and this recovery website took off. I stumbled around for quite a while, and nothing really worked at first.
Do it anyway. Your alternative is to live a passive life, to just go through the motions of recovery and try to be content with your sobriety, even though you have this untapped potential living inside of you that wants to come out.
Marianne Williamson nailed it when she said “your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” And she goes on to talk about how you are holding yourself back, probably, because you are afraid that you are wonderful. That you could actually make a difference.
Well, you can.
And I am telling you now, you need to go do it. You need to take action. Stop living a passive existence in recovery and go create something amazing with your life. Your sponsor or your recovery peers may not agree with your vision. That’s fine. Do it anyway. Think big, think about how to change the world, and then go create something. Stop playing small. It’s a waste of time. Frankly, it’s a waste of your life energy.
Have the guts to create your own path in long term recovery
It takes some guts to strike out on your own path and to try to do something bold in long term recovery. The reason is because most people will see you as being foolish, because you are being inefficient (or so they will think).
This is because most people in recovery (and in life) will be prone to just do the bare minimum in order to squeeze by with things. They are not going to have a tendency to go above and beyond when making an effort at stuff. Instead they will be content to just do the bare minimum in order to maintain the status quo.
Recovery is like that, especially when it comes to meeting attendance. People will sometimes talk about how many meetings they need to go to each week in order to feel right in their own skin. They might say something like “if I skip too many meetings in a row I start to feel squirrely.” What they are really saying is that they go to just enough meetings in order to keep them sober, and so when they drop one and go to less, they notice it and feel like it may lead them to relapse. So, they do the bare minimum.
Most people in life (and in recovery) are in this mode of thinking. They are doing the bare minimum, they are putting in just enough work and effort to remain sober, and they are ultimately living a passive existence.
Instead what you might do is the opposite of this: get active about your recovery. Build in some slack. Do enough for your recovery such that missing a meeting here or there will not affect you. Even better, stop going to meetings entirely and figure out what you have to do in order to create stable sobriety for your own self. Doing this is not passive. If you are passive and you stop going to meetings, you will relapse immediately. Instead you have to experimenting, you have to be watching yourself, and you have to be actively trying to grow in your recovery. If you do it right then it is very possible to stop going to meetings and figure out how to be stable in your recovery even without the support from others.
But you have to be pro-active about it. You have to use your brain a bit, think on your toes a bit, and be ready to make changes and adjustments. You have to want your freedom, to be rid of yet another dependency, and be willing to put in the work to meet this goal.
Doing your own thing in long term recovery takes guts, because the traditional recovery crowd will constantly be warning you of relapse. “If you strike out on your own path,” they warn you, “you will surely relapse and die.” But the alternative may be to live this passive life in traditional recovery, one that is “serving no one.” You need to think bigger than that.
Sneaky revelation: traditional recovery paths require this same level of determination and commitment anyway
Here is one last thought for you to ponder:
It takes a huge level of determination and commitment to do your own thing in recovery, to be bold, to create something amazing, or to take a non-traditional path in your sobriety. But it also takes a huge amount of commitment and persistence to “make it” in traditional recovery as well.
Even if you live a boring and passive recovery that is based on nothing but meeting attendance, this still requires a huge amount of commitment.
Either way, you have to make this enormous mental commitment. So you may as well do what you want, have your own ideas, and create a bold path in recovery for yourself. It takes the same mental persistence either way.
So do it…..go be bold in your recovery. Have your own ideas and create your own life in recovery, one that is not defined by passive living.