I am guilty of constantly harping on the concept of “massive action” as one of the great keys to success in recovery. In fact, I even argue in some instances that massive action is more important than recovery programs themselves, or the principles that govern such programs. So let’s take a closer look at the idea of massive action and how it is really beneficial to recovery.
Photo by Geraint Warlow
* Massive action flows out of total surrender
* Prescription for relapse: failure to take massive action
* Massive action leads to consistency in early recovery
* Holistic health and massive action
* Long term recovery: how massive action lays a foundation for continuous growth
* Fighting complacency in long term recovery through massive action
Massive action flows out of total surrender
What is massive action? Nothing fancy…it is just what it sounds like. But so few people actually have the gumption to take the necessary amount of action in order to really change their life.
Addiction is a lifestyle. If it is not a lifestyle, then you are not addicted….maybe you are just abusing drugs or something. But if you are truly addicted, then drugs (or alcohol) infects every part of your life. It dominates your whole person on many different levels.
Addiction affects you physically. It affects your relationships. It affects your job, your work performance, your spirituality, and so on. It affects who you choose to hang around with and who you spend your time with. It pushes you away from certain people and traps you in destructive patterns of your own making.
Because of this all-encompassing nature of addiction, and the way that it infiltrates and infects your entire life, the only way to overcome such a condition is through taking massive action.
Now there are other pieces to the puzzle, I realize this. We need to know how to live and what actions we need to take in order to recover. But quite honestly, that information is freely available through many different outlets, and anyone who is truly ready for change can ask for help and gain access to this knowledge.
The main roadblock for 99 percent of addicts and alcoholics is a lack of action. The key to taking this action comes through total surrender.
What is total surrender? Surrender occurs when an addict or alcoholic:
– Gives up the struggle to control their drug or alcohol use.
– Stops manipulating situations and other people in order to support their addiction.
– Abandons the idea that they can find happiness through drug and alcohol use.
– Agrees to try a new way to live as suggested by someone else or a specific program of recovery.
– Has reached a point where they cannot picture their life continuing, either with or without their drug of choice.
These things describe a state of complete surrender, and if the addict has not yet reached this critical point, it is unlikely that any real recovery can begin. The reason for this is because they will not be moved to take massive action and make the drastic changes that are necessary unless they have reached this point of desperation.
Prescription for relapse: failure to take massive action
We can see the recipe for failure easily enough: just watch any number of newcomers in recovery, and watch as the majority of them end up relapsing over the next few weeks and months. Ask them what went wrong. Ask those who relapse what led to their demise. Invariably they will all tell you:
– They stopped following through on their initial recovery plan (stopped going to meetings, stopped going to treatment, etc.).
– They did not devote massive amounts of time to recovery on a daily basis, failing to make recovery the number one priority in their life.
– They did not put in the necessary footwork to start building a new life (for example, in a 12 step program, they failed to work through the steps with a sponsor, etc.).
– They did not establish new routines and build new healthy relationships, falling back instead on their old routines that led into trouble.
In all cases it is a lack of action that led to relapse. Why is this the case?
Because the addict is drawn to use drugs naturally at this point. That is what they are comfortable doing. It is actually awkward for the addict or alcoholic to NOT use drugs. It is so easy to revert back to our old ways. Relapse is the most natural thing in the world. It is effortless. If we do nothing to change our environment, change our thinking, change our natural response to things, then we will naturally reach for our drug of choice when put to the test. For an addict, using drugs is normal. It is easy. Of course it takes massive change to avoid it.
We have to change everything. Our thoughts, our reactions, our environment, where we spend our time, who we hang around with. It all has to change in recovery if we are to remain clean.
These changes all require action!
All of this change demands that we get active. If we do nothing, then no changes will occur and we will naturally pick our drug right back up. Doing this is easy and natural for a recovering addict. It happens effortlessly.
Putting in the effort to avoid relapse is what early recovery is all about. If you don’t take action, you revert back to your old coping mechanism. And that leads to relapse.
Massive action leads to consistency in early recovery
One of the big pieces of the puzzle for those in early recovery is consistency. Maybe a newcomer goes to a few meetings, or talks with a sponsor, or goes to treatment for a while, but then they slack off a bit and before they know what happened they are using again. How can they gain the consistency that they need to stay clean and sober?
The answer is massive action. This is the only way to build the foundation in recovery that is going to be strong enough to see a newcomer through the first few critical months of sobriety.
For example, consider long term rehab. Living in a treatment center is a unique form of massive action that allows the recovering addict to draw from many resources. Generally they will go to meetings on a regular basis, have group therapy, see a counselor, and so on. All of this happens while under the accountability of a treatment center providing a safe and stable environment. Most people balk at the idea of living in rehab for several months, and this is no surprise. Massive action takes a lot of work.
Another example might be someone who dedicates themselves to a 12 step program and fully immerses themselves in it. Instead of just doing daily meetings, they might go far beyond this by getting involved with other members of the fellowship, working with newcomers directly, and so on. Instead of just showing up to meetings and giving lip service, they are living the program on a daily basis through meaningful connections with others in recovery. Their 12 step work extends outside of meetings and this is where they take massive action and derive real meaning in their recovery.
12 step programs are one path in recovery. There are other paths. The important factor is massive action, not the specific program you choose to recover with. Because 12 step programs are so widely available, they make a really good starting point for the newcomer, and give plenty of direction when it comes time to take massive action.
Thus, my suggestion for early recovery is not to quibble over which path you are on. Find the positive actions that are working for others in recovery, and then start using them in your own life in a really big way. Don’t just work a program of recovery. Embrace it, own it, live it, and let it become a daily part of your life. This is the best way to create the foundation that is necessary for long term recovery. Without massive action, and without this consistency in early recovery, people are bound to end up relapsing before they even get a handle on recovery.
Holistic health and massive action
So we have seen how massive action can help someone in early recovery. But what about long term sobriety? What role does taking massive action play in securing our continued success in recovery?
In my experience, there is a strong connection between holistic growth and long term recovery. I am also convinced that a deliberate effort at achieving holistic growth will lead to better results in long term recovery. For example, consider the recovering addict or alcoholic who:
– Quits smoking cigarettes.
– Starts exercising on a regular basis.
– Eats healthier food.
– Seeks emotional balance.
– Discards unhealthy relationships.
– Seeks spiritual growth.
– Continues learning and seeking knowledge.
And so on. All positive actions, all part of holistic growth. Are they all directly related to staying clean and sober? Not necessarily. But, they all help. That is the point behind holistic growth. They can all play an indirect part in helping a person to achieve a better life.
Remember that addiction affected us in many different ways, on many different levels. An holistic approach to growth in recovery is one way to try and restore ourselves to full health.
Now, take a look at that list again and think about whether or not those things happen on their own, or if they require great effort and massive action.
Yep….you guessed it. Holistic growth requires massive action.
If you want to improve in all areas of your life, then guess what? That requires real effort and decisive action.
Long term recovery: how massive action lays a foundation for continuous growth
Recovery is a learning process. Many people have described it like the peeling of an onion, where we continue to peel back layers about ourselves and are continuously rediscovering who we really are. So how does massive action lead to the peeling of this onion? How do we get to the point of continuous growth and development in recovery, while continuing to learn about ourselves?
This process starts out slowly in recovery. Many people will find their way through this process by using the 12 steps. Others can make this journey of self discovery in other ways. There is no one process or tool that will get you there. But all addicts will share similar experiences on this road to addiction recovery.
For example, a recovering addict might have several sources of discomfort in their life. These could be resentments, fears, relationship problems, or any number of possible roadblocks. Regardless of what process they choose to use, the addict will eventually have to face these discomforts in order to find real freedom. This is the peeling of the onion. We find the problem areas in our lives (through sensing discomfort) and then work through the issue to gain real freedom. We face our fears and grow in the process of doing so.
It all starts with identifying the problems in our lives and becoming willing to take action on them. We might still be peeling the onion at 5, 10, or even 20 years sober. And guess what? It demands massive action every time we plunge deeper into the rabbit hole. It takes real guts to keep looking at ourselves, finding our flaws, and making corrections. It takes real action.
Fighting complacency in long term recovery through massive action
What happens sometimes in long term recovery is that a person will get lazy. They might stop growing, stop learning, stop peeling the onion. When that happens, the risk of relapse increases greatly.
So how do we fight complacency? Through continuous action, of course. Staying involved with helping others in recovery is a huge piece of the puzzle. But we also do well to keep pushing ourselves towards holistic growth.
If we have made it through early recovery then we know what processes work for us. Of course, we have to have the courage to keep looking at our sources of discomfort and striving to improve ourselves in a holistic manner. This is the willingness part of the equation. We have to remain willing.
And after that? It’s all about action.