One of the most powerful things that you can do in recovery is to take advice from other recovering alcoholics.
It seems so simple. And yet none of us really want to do it.
Which is why so few succeed. The few who do remain clean and sober are the ones who are taking advice and putting it into action.
Really, this was the entire secret of my success in my own personal journey. The complicated thing is that I can express this same concept in so many different ways. For example, we can talk about willingness. Or we can put it all in terms of self honesty.
But for now let’s put it in terms of taking suggestions from other people. This is actionable.
How can you “be more willing?”
One way is quite simple: Ask for advice, and then follow it.
Simple, but not necessarily easy to do.
How to completely transform your life in less than 6 months
So you want to turn your life around?
It’s not so impossible. It takes serious work to be sure, but it is by no means impossible.
I am not just saying “in less than 6 months!” in order to sound like a cheesy infomercial here.
I am saying that because before I had six months sober I had the amazing revelation that my life had been completely transformed.
In fact this happened right around the time that I had six months sober.
I was living in long term rehab at the time, and I was about to lay down and go to sleep for the day.
And I looked back at the day, which had been quite busy for me, and I had a profound realization.
I realized that I had not thought about drinking or using drugs all day long.
This was a miracle. This was amazing. This was a 100 percent complete and total transformation of my life.
I am not just blowing smoke here. Seriously.
I want you to think about this.
I had come into recovery as a hopeless drunk and a drug addict. I told the therapists and the counselors that it was probably hopeless because I would never be able to be happy again in life without alcohol and drugs. I would never be free of the obsession to get drunk and high. I would always suffer from terrible cravings and urges, for the rest of my life.
This is what I truly believed. This is what I told the therapists. I was doomed to alcoholic obsession forever, even if I remained sober.
Well, I was obviously wrong. Because right around the six month mark, I had a day where I realized that a miracle had happened.
The obsession to drink had been lifted completely. I was mentally free for an entire day. This was a miracle.
I was honestly stunned. I was shocked. I thought it was impossible, and it actually only took six months.
So when I am telling you that you can “completely transform your life in under six months,” this is exactly what I am talking about.
I am telling you that you can be totally free from the obsession to use drugs and alcohol. That you can be happy again in life without thinking about alcohol and drugs all day, every day.
And this is amazing. This is an awesome gift.
So how do you get it?
What hoops did I have to jump through in order to achieve this transformation?
It’s pretty simple really.
I had to get out of my own way.
That is, I had to kill my ego. I had to stop using my own ideas and listen to other people instead.
This takes guts. No one wants to listen to advice from others. We would rather rely on our own ideas. We don’t want to appear weak. We don’t believe that following other people’s ideas will really make us happy.
So there is a lot of resistance when it comes to this method. No one wants to do it.
And I don’t blame them for this. I did not want to listen to advice either. I was stubborn about it for a long time, and I stayed stuck in denial.
Why no one wants to take advice from other people
My problem was that I thought that I was unique, and I thought that no alcoholic had ever existed before me.
Not one who really loved alcohol and drugs the way that I did, anyway.
And so my family and friends tried to reach out to me and help me.
They urged me to get help. “Go to treatment” they said.
“You need to stop drinking so much” they said.
I was horrified at these suggestions. How dare they try to take away the one thing that gives me a tiny bit of happiness!
Seriously, that was exactly how I thought at the time. I was defensive. People who tried to help me get sober were actually a threat to my “happiness.” They wanted to force me to be sober! How dare they!
So I ended up in treatment a few times and I also talked with many counselors and therapists. These people all tried to tell me the same thing: That I should get clean and sober, that I could build a better life, that I could find real happiness without drugs and alcohol.
And I could not, WOULD not hear any of this. It was like I had my hands over my ears, saying “La la la…I can’t HEAR you!”
I didn’t believe any of it.
How could all of these people be so stupid, that they did not realize that I was miserable in life and the only thing that made me even a little bit happy was my drinking and the drugs?
How could they not see this?
That was my denial. That is how denial works. Everyone was telling me that I needed to change, and I was just pointing the finger back at all of them, thinking that they were stupid or that they just did not understand how my brain was wired.
And in a way, we were both right. I was stuck in addiction and I wasn’t ready to change yet. I just wasn’t ready.
Unless you are at rock bottom you are not going to be willing to take directions and advice from other people.
There is just no way. It is not going to happen unless you are truly, truly desperate.
That is where the concept of “surrender” comes into play.
You can’t take direction and advice from other people until you surrender completely.
And this is defeat. It is not a pretty moment. It is completely and utter defeat.
It is the death of the ego. When you realize that you really don’t know how to make yourself happy, that in fact you have been quite miserable for a long time now, and that this is, in fact, your own fault.
That is a whole lot to swallow all at once.
You have to admit that you are wrong, that your idea of having fun by getting drunk and high is no longer working, and that you don’t have all the answers.
It is like picking up your own ego and body slamming it onto the mat. It hurts.
Surrender feels like…..defeat.
Stand up. Lift your arms out to the sides with your palms raised. Now say out loud to the world “I don’t know what I am doing any more. Please help me.”
That is what surrender is like.
Not that fake surrender where you pretend to want to get sober so you go to rehab just so you can get out and drink some more. I did that at least twice because I wasn’t ready.
I wasn’t ready to surrender FOR REAL.
I wasn’t ready to actually ask for advice, and then to follow it.
I had to be willing to do the work. To ask for advice, to know that they would tell me what to do and how to live, and that I was at the point where I just needed to shut up and do it, to shut up and listen for once, because my way wasn’t working any more.
My way wasn’t working. So I had to surrender to someone else’s way.
And it honestly doesn’t matter a whole lot which way that is, or what program you follow, or what treatment center you end up at.
Just get professional help. It really is that simple. No treatment center is perfect, unless you are at the state of full surrender. In that case, any rehab will do just fine.
Getting out of your own way and doing some experiments
Now after you get past your denial you have a new challenge.
Go to rehab and surrender and start following directions. They hook you up with a support system. Go to AA meetings, get a sponsor. Or maybe find some other program or some other direction, the details are not what is important here. The important thing is that you have surrendered and you are following directions and you are taking action.
Now, what happens after 90 days, after six months, after a year of sobriety?
At all of those points and beyond you face new challenges all of the time.
And this is why you have to keep reinventing yourself in recovery. You have to keep facing new challenges and meeting those challenges head on. You have to keep setting goals and pushing yourself towards them. You have to keep evaluating your life and your life situation and making improvements.
This is a continuous process.
And it involves feedback and advice from others.
Or rather, it should involve advice from others.
Because if you try to do all of it on your own then you are setting yourself up for failure. If you try to figure everything out for yourself then you are just making it twice as hard on yourself.
Think about it like this:
You have a limited amount of energy and willpower at your disposal (There have been studies done that actually confirm this. Your “pool” of willpower is finite).
Therefore, you have two main tasks before you in recovery:
1) Figure out what changes to make (this can be absolutely overwhelming).
2) Actually make the positive changes (this can be surprisingly simple when you just do it!).
So look at those two things carefully.
Now normally, we spend an awful lot of time up in our own heads, trying to figure out if we are on the right path, if we are doing the right things, and so on.
This is a complete waste of our time and energy in early recovery.
Even after a year or two of sobriety this is likely a waste of our time.
Because when we sit and worry about such things, we are taking away from that pool of energy. That finite pool of willpower. Stop using that to figure out the perfect path in life.
So then how do you do it?
What is the alternative to this?
The alternative is to outsource the first part, the “figuring out what changes to make” part.
That’s right, have other people do it for you!
Now you might think that this sounds unrealistic, but I can assure you that it is not.
People do it every day.
I did it quite a bit in my early recovery.
Simply go to your trusted peers in recovery, go to your sponsor in AA or NA, or go to your therapist or counselor, and ask them in all sincerity:
“What is my next move in life? What should I focus on next? Guide me. Tell me what to do. Tell me what YOU would do next.”
Keep asking this question of the people you trust.
Now there will likely be people around you in your recovery journey who are not worthy of this question. I hate to judge them but it’s true. If someone has 10 days sober then I don’t want to hear their answer to this question. I really don’t. Maybe that makes me a horrible person, but I don’t really care about that.
I care about results, and I care about staying sober. So that I can improve my life and maybe even help some other people with their life one day. That is what is important.
That said, I want to “stick with the winners.” They say this at AA meetings: “Stick with the winners.” It basically means: Don’t follow advice from losers. Or to put it in a more positive light, take advice only from the winners! Follow those who are successful. If someone has multiple years sober and they are happy and have some real integrity, then try to listen to their advice. Especially listen to their advice over the guy who has 10 days sober and is angry and is trying to tell everyone how they should be living. Don’t listen to that guy.
So yeah, “stick with the winners.” Good advice to be sure. But do more than that…..listen to them and actually follow their advice.
This is what transformed my life.
This is what turned my life around in less than six months.
I started doing what the winners told me to do. I started to actually put things into action.
I started walking the walk in recovery. Doing the work. Taking advice, trying it out, giving it an honest effort.
And the results started to come, slowly.
Slowly at first.
Then later on the rewards of recovery were raining down on me in great abundance. But that came later.
Withing six months time I had already found complete relief from the obsession of using drugs and alcohol. That in itself is amazing.
And I owe it all to the death of my ego, from being able to push my own ideas aside for a while and just listen to others. To listen and follow advice.
Such a simple thing, but so hard to do.
The power of the 30 day trial
Here is another technique that is too powerful to ignore.
The 30 day trial.
I did this with exercise. I could not seem to get into the habit of exercise.
So what I finally did was to commit to it for 30 days straight.
I gave myself full permission, at the end of that 30 days, to walk away from exercise forever.
But up until that point I was fully committed. I would do the 30 days of exercise, never missing a single day, and I would not evaluate the new habit until the 30 days was over.
This may sound very simple, but it is an amazingly powerful technique.
Do you know why it is so powerful?
Two main reasons:
One, you will realize many benefits after 30 days that you will not necessarily see in a week or two. This was especially true for exercise but is also true for many other goals that you might have in life. For example, nutrition changes. Or quitting any form of drug or substance abuse. In fact, some of the benefits will still be kicking in after 30 days, but a full month is a pretty good length of time for most benefits to show up.
Second of all, after you do something every day for 30 days straight, you have it locked in. You have formed a new habit. Now you have power. You can easily continue with the new habit if you like, or you can walk away from it.
So in a sense, you can use the idea of the 30 day trial in order to “trick yourself” into establishing a new positive habit.
I did the same thing when I quit smoking cigarettes. Just get to the 30 day point, and then you can evaluate.
Such a simple technique, to commit to something for 30 days, but it is very powerful.
So when you take suggestions from other people in recovery, consider combining those suggestions with this proven technique. Turn their suggestion into a full 30 day trial so that you can really evaluate it fairly.
Personal growth cannot all be self directed or self inspired
It would be nice if we could motivate ourselves for any problem that we want to overcome in life.
This is not realistic.
In the case of addiction or alcoholism, this is especially unrealistic. We have to learn to “borrow” wisdom from other people.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel in recovery. Many have come before us, and many have recovered successfully.
Now granted, not all of those recovering alcoholics did exactly the same things in order to recover. And this is part of the beauty of sobriety. You get to experiment. You get to find your own path.
But you construct that path (if you are wise) by borrowing the wisdom of others.
There is not much new under the sun. You are not the first person to recover. This means that you can take advice from people and get much quicker results than those who came before you. There may not be a magic cure out there, but you can certainly accelerate your progress if you are willing to listen and take advice.
And be willing to act on that advice. To put it into practice. To be honest with yourself, to be willing, to be open to new ideas. This is the essence of recovery. This is how you learn, how you grow.
This is who you reinvent yourself in sobriety, over and over again. By learning about yourself, a little more each day.
And we need the wisdom of other people to help unlock these lessons……
What about you, have you found it helpful to take advice from others in recovery? Why or why not? Let us know in the discussion forums. It only takes a second to register!