I noticed something the other day while observing a newcomer in recovery. This person was overly enthusiastic about recovery and their positive attitude was just over the top….it was put on a bit too much, it was too fake. I mean this person had less than a week of sobriety and suddenly they are going to change the world and create this great new life for themselves. I do not believe I am a cynic because I also see first-hand the typical success rate with these newcomers.
But what is the answer the….to burst their bubble? To try to take away their hope? This cannot be the correct response. Recovery is rooted in hope. It is hope-based. So I don’t think the answer is to try and burst the newcomer bubble. And yet I see so many people in recovery who try to do that. Many of these people quote the dismal success rates of recovery programs with the idea that this information will inspire and motivate then newcomer to work that much harder.
I am convinced that a certain level of humility is necessary in order to be successful at staying clean and sober. It is great if you have a go-getter kind of attitude but I think it is somewhat dangerous for the newcomer. Without the added element of humility the person is not going to get enough new information about how to live a sober life.
The fact is that anyone coming into recovery does not know how to live. They need new information and they need to apply it. This means that they need to do a lot of learning. They need to enter into learning mode and soak up all the knowledge that they possibly can and become like a sponge. If you are not in full learning mode then you’re not going to make it.
And then of course there is the application phase. Recovery demands action and if you do not apply the new knowledge then your recovery becomes worthless and you are headed for relapse. If we don’t change our lives then we will quickly revert to what we know best and that is drinking and drugging. So action is necessary.
But the overly enthusiastic newcomer somehow has these two elements misaligned. They are focusing too heavily on action without giving the learning part a chance. I believe many of them that I have watched are simply too smart for their own good. They think they have it all figured out and therefore they assume that they know what actions to take and how to execute perfectly in their recovery. This is almost never the case and we need to focus on absorbing new knowledge first.
We need help from other people in order to recover. We can’t do it alone. Our ideas about living kept us messed up. We need new ideas in order to learn a new way to live. We have to get this information from other people.
My recommendation: slow down. Take your time if you are in early recovery. Stay humble and be open to new information. If you had all the answers then you would not need any help, but obviously you do. So slow down enough to actually learn something each day and your life will slowly start to get better.
It’s all about action but you also have to do some learning. Figure out how to balance learning with application and your recovery will be a lot smoother.