Is it possibly to be too enthusiastic in early recovery?
I think so. Because I work in a treatment center, I get to watch a lot of people try to get clean and sober. And I’ve noticed a trend regarding some of those people who are overly enthusiastic about the program and about their new found sobriety – they almost never make it. I would go so far as to say that they never do, actually.
This is perplexing because it would seem that these people who have a genuine enthusiasm for recovery would have the best chance at maintaining sobriety, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.
It’s not that you don’t need a positive attitude, because you almost certainly do. It has to do with the level of confidence. If you’re absolutely sure that you’re working a perfect program and that you’re not gonna drink again, then chances are good that you are setting yourself up for failure.
Here are a couple of reasons why the overly enthusiastic in early recovery are setting themselves up to fail:
1) No true surrender – those who have not tasted defeat when entering recovery are unlikely to change and find a new path. Why would they, if they don’t feel like their ideas haven’t failed them? We need to experience some level of defeat and devastation when getting clean if we’re going to have a chance at making real changes. This is known as “hitting bottom” and most in recovery will tell you that this is something that unlocked their life in recovery for them.
2) Not humble enough – I’ve seen too many people in early recovery who are so positive and almost cocky about their chances that they are not really in “learning mode” any more. This is definitely setting them up for failure because you have so many new things to learn during the first few months (or years) of sobriety. Essentially you have to learn how to live again. Then you have to learn how to create a life worth living that doesn’t involve getting drunk and/or high.
3) Focus on talk and not action – The overly enthusiastic newcomer is good at talking the talk. However, they tend to fall short on action and making real holistic changes in their lives. They are a perfect fit for the social solution that comes from daily meeting attendance but they don’t really put the principles of the program into action outside of meetings.
The key is to be positive but remain humble. Have hope for your recovery but be reserved. If your focus is on expressing your conviction for staying sober to others then you are on the wrong path. This is what the overly enthusiastic individual will do in early recovery – they try to convince the world that they are going to stay clean by expressing conviction. This is a waste of energy because it does not actually help them stay clean. There are plenty of other actions out there and creative life strategies that actually will help someone stay clean and the focus should be on those.
I hope this did not come off as being negative but I just see so many people in early recovery who have this type of overly active enthusiasm and they always relapse. I just want to grab them by the shoulder and pull them to the side somehow and say “hey….slow down a bit. You’re going too fast and you’re too cocky for this thing to work for you.”
The path to recovery is slow, long, and steady. It’s not a big hill that you can just race up in a single afternoon. Approach the task with genuine respect and humility.