Is it possible to “figure out” alcoholism recovery, or drug addiction recovery, such that you are able to stay clean and sober and know that you can continue to do so with confidence?
Traditional recovery seems to say “show up and listen, you have a lot to learn, don’t try to figure all of this stuff out or it will overwhelm you and lead to relapse.”
But what if you want to figure it out? What if your personality is such that you just have to know how sobriety actually works? What if you are driven to figure it all out?
If that is the case then I would suggest that there is hope, because I really feel as if I figured some things out that were able to help me a great deal, and many of those things were not being talked about at AA or NA meetings.
I even had peers from AA or NA say to me “You stopped going to 12 step meetings, and you are still sober, yet I continued with the meetings and I relapsed….so what is your secret?”
I think that everyone in recovery has to kind of “figure it out” to an extent. The program of recovery has certain fundamental concepts, and each of us has to embrace those basic concepts. But within the overall program of recovery, there are many details that we each have to sort of make our own, by applying them to our own life in a unique way.
Let me give you examples of what I am talking about.
First, what exactly are “fundamental concepts of recovery” that everyone has to embrace?
These would be things such as the concept of surrender. No one can overcome an addiction without first surrendering to the fact that they have a serious problem, and also surrendering to the fact that they need a new solution in their life.
Another fundamental concept in recovery is that of personal growth. If you are not improving yourself and your life in some way on a continuous basis then you are in danger of complacency, and thus in danger of relapse. This is fundamental to recovery. In other words, it doesn’t matter which program of recovery you are working on, you still have to surrender, and you still have to overcome complacency. They are universal problems and therefore you cannot bypass one of these issues simply by choosing a different recovery program. Everyone is in danger of complacency in long term recovery. It is fundamental to the recovery process.
Now second of all, let’s talk about how you have to implement the principles of recovery in your own unique way.
I explored the world of prayer and meditation for a long time. Actually, I would say that I thoroughly explored meditation and prayer for about 2 to 3 years straight, every single day, until I stumbled upon the right application for my unique personality.
What I stumbled on was not something that was being discussed at the AA and NA meetings I was attending.
It was jogging.
I found a sort of spiritual awakening through jogging outdoors. Distance running. Jogging for long distances and letting my mind wander.
And I did this consistently enough that it started to have a meditation effect on me. In other words, my brain would wander for a while during the jog, but eventually it would run out of stuff to think about, and then it would simply shut off and zone out as I watched the countryside roll by.
This was an awakening for me. This helped me in ways that no one in AA or NA had ever articulated. It was a huge boost to my recovery and it is still a big part of how I live sober today.
And that is just one example. So people in recovery told me that I had to pray and meditate, and I had to figure out how that worked for me. I had to figure out what that looked like in my life.
Early recovery is tough, and it is going to be tough for you no matter what, because you are a beginner. You don’t know what the heck you are doing, and all you can really do is experiment to figure out what is working for you and what is not. That is your only hope in early recovery–to figure it out through experimentation.
And that is the key right there–to listen to suggestions from other people, and take those suggestions.
You need to take advice and then apply it in your own life.
Of course, not all of the advice that you take is going to work out perfectly for you. Some things will kind of fizzle out and you will eventually let the idea go, and that is fine.
What you need to remember is that you have to keep pushing, you have to keep learning more about yourself, and you have to keep taking suggestions from other people. This is the best way to build a foundation in early recovery.
If you are listening to peers in AA or NA who are successful in sobriety, then you are taking a massive shortcut.
Because those people have already lived through several years of their own experiments in recovery. They have already discarded the ideas that did not work for them. The stuff that remains actually helps them in recovery, and so that is what they are passing on to you. So there is a really good chance that, if you take advice from “the winners” in AA or NA, that you will be taking advice that is actually helpful, and that is not just helpful for them.
This is how you figure it out. After a few years of living this way, you will look back at your first six months of sobriety and realize how far you have come since then, and how much you have learned since then, and you will realize that you really have figured it out, at least to an extent.
And another part of you will realize that you won’t ever have it all figured out, and that you are okay with that today. Because now you realize what it means to be on a path of personal growth, and you realize how much you can benefit by being on this path of learning, and you will not fear the idea that you may not have it all figured out. You can be okay with that today, with not knowing every little thing.
Part of the problem is that as we move forward in recovery, we make mistakes here and there, and then we can look back and understand those mistakes and learn from them. If you want to avoid the mistakes then you need to have faith in another human being, someone who can tell you exactly what to do, so that you can avoid all of the mistakes that they made in their own journey.
Some of us are willing to do this, and take advice based on blind faith. Others are more stubborn and we have to bang our head into the wall a few times, and learn from our own mistakes.
If you know you are going to have to make your own mistakes, then you might want to work on increasing your level of trust with other people, so that you can learn to take some advice and avoid some of those mistakes that you would be making.
Ultimately you cannot figure out recovery until you have experienced it for yourself, and that means you have to sort of meander your way through the first tentative year or two of sobriety. You have to feel things out as you go along. But in the end you will be able to look back and see the progress you have made, and you will see that the personal growth you have experienced has allowed you to remain sober, and you will realize that the hesitation and the blind fog of early recovery was a necessary part of the process.