One of the biggest blocks that I see to quality recovery comes from a certain level of discontent that I see in so many people. This discontent is like a hyperactivity; a need to be constantly entertained. But it is more than just a need to be entertained, it is a need to be spoon-fed, to somehow reap great rewards out of life while being lazy and putting forth the least effort possible.
This phenomenon could not be more detrimental to recovery.
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It is as if some people want all the benefits of recovery, without putting forth any of the work. As if the act of staying clean and sober alone could produce a wonderful, problem-free life. And behind it all, there is this expectation that this should be the way it is, and that this easy life should be handed to us, simply because we are somehow entitled to it.
Quality of recovery
It should come as no surprise that this attitude of entitlement does not produce meaningful recovery. Those who try to slide by with little effort are just sending themselves back out into active addiction, hopefully to return with a bit more humility so that they can slow down enough to start digesting a program of recovery.
You see, this is not about utilizing 100 different “tools” from your newfound “recovery toolbox.” It’s more about taking one tool and learning to use it deeply and consistently to help you stay clean. We are so eager for new knowledge and the promise of fixing ourselves, that we might become overly ambitious in recovery, rushing through it all, and missing a lot of the finer points that really could have helped us grow. This is the wrong attitude, and it is detrimental to our success.
Slow down. Take one technique and refine it. Study it deeply. For example, say you are working on the third step of the 12 step program, and you’re attempting to turn your will and your life over to your higher power on a daily basis. You might experiment with this step for a few days and try some prayer and meditation on it, only to rush off and start immediately working on subsequent steps.
Slow down. Have you really integrated the third step completely into your life? Have you discussed it with your peers? Read any outside sources of information about it? Extended your knowledge of the practice of it in terms of different philosophies and religions? Have you truly explored that third step and fully integrated it into your everyday life?
This is just an example, of course. You could take any spiritual practice and give it your full, undivided attention for an extended period of time, carefully exploring the details of it and really working it into your life. It doesn’t have to be the third step, or even based on the steps at all. It could be meditation. Or forgiveness. And so on.
What if you studied some of these things very deeply–and these things only–for the entire next year of your recovery? Would that depth of focus and concentration prove to be useful, or would it distract you from other spiritual steps you should be taking?
The answer is that depth and focus would be more beneficial than spreading yourself to thin across a handful of learning experiences. And the exact step or spiritual practice or learning experience is irrelevant. What’s important is the depth of study. By dedicating your efforts to mastery, you set yourself up for success when you take on other learning experiences. This is meta-learning. You’re learning about learning, taking your growth to another level entirely, and increasing the depth and focus of everything that you do.
Quality of life
What you are seeking is depth in learning about recovery. Don’t try to do everything at once. Instead, take a simple technique that is given to you as a tool and study it hard for several weeks. This could be something simple such as meditation and watching the breath, or perhaps reading a piece of recovery literature. The key is not to take it in quickly and then discard, then go searching for the next technique. Spend time with it and make it a habit. One technique is to practice something every day for 30 days straight, making it into a habit. This is why there is a tendency to suggest 90 meetings in 90 days in the AA program. The saturation and consistency leads to a greater depth of learning.
Concentrating on depth can raise the quality of your life in recovery. Instead of skipping about and dabbling in a series of meaningless activities, you will learn focus and depth and true appreciation.
This is about learning something and learning it well. Recovery demands this, because the margin for error is so small (a seemingly small relapse snowballs into a mountain of chaos).
Action items – What you can do:
1) Lack of focus – Don’t try to take on too many projects in recovery. Focus your efforts on a smaller number of more meaningful activities or experiences.
2) Depth of focus – Study things deeply. Don’t settle for a cursory or peripheral understanding of a concept. Learn it and explore it fully.
3) Attention to detail – Slow down enough to fully digest any details. Take your time. It’s not about how much you can learn, but how well you learn it.
4) Increase in awareness – Don’t just learn. Learn about learning. Watch your mind and be aware of how you react to things.
5) Practice mindfulness. Be present.