How can you embrace the recovery principles that will keep you clean and sober? How can a struggling addict or alcoholic dive into the recovery process and really take the actions that they need to take in order to thrive and succeed in recovery?
First and foremost is the concept of surrender, which must be achieved before a struggling alcoholic or addict is going to be able to make any kind of progress.
This is because, without total and complete surrender, the addict will simply continue to try to manipulate the situation, manipulate other people, and manipulate their own emotions so that they can continue to to justify using their own drug of choice. In other words, there is a magic line that is crossed when it comes to surrender. It has to do with denial.
If a person can admit that they have a problem, that is one thing. But if that same person is not accepting that they need professional help, inpatient rehab, and an entire new program of recovery for their life, then that person is still hanging on to some denial, and they have not yet fully surrendered.
Instead, the struggling addict must reach a point of extreme desperation in which they realize that things are never going to get any better if they continue to self medicate, and therefore they fully accept not only that they have a real problem, but they also fully accept that they need a new solution in their life in the form of a recovery program.
In other words, the real line of surrender is when the addict or alcoholic says to themselves and to the world at large: “I don’t know how to recover on my own, please show me; I will do whatever you tell me to do.”
That is the line that must be crossed in order for a recovery effort to be successful. Now you have to understand that lots of struggling addicts and alcoholics get close to that line but do not fully cross it; in other words they have agreed that they have a problem with drugs or booze but they are not willing to fully accept that they need a 28 day inpatient rehab followed by 90 AA meetings in 90 days, along with a sponsor and a great deal of effort in terms of step work, literature, and so on. They might accept that they have a problem, but that does not mean that they automatically have accepted a solution.
Now once the struggling addict has passed this line of surrender and they have agreed to seek help, they need to take positive action. At this point they can ask people for direction and they will most likely be directed towards an inpatient rehab facility. At this point the person will start to learn about the recovery principles that have the power to keep them clean and sober for the long run.
The first such recovery principle is that of surrender, and you don’t really learn about surrender the same way that you learned how to multiply fractions, but instead you experience surrender as you finally pass that imaginary line in the sand. You are either in a state of total surrender, or you are not. And I do not believe that you can just wish this into existence. You have either suffered enough pain from your addiction and finally hit bottom, or you have not.
Now when you get into treatment you will quickly learn about the concept that one recovering addict can help another to recover, which is the entire foundation of recovery programs such as AA or NA. Put more accurately, this is about identification. In other words, the addict is typically feeling isolated and as if they are the only person who has truly struggled with addiction; they feel as if no person has ever loved drugs or alcohol as much as they do. And so when they get to rehab and they start listening to the stories of other addicts, they begin to identify with those addicts and realize that they are not so different after all. And then when they start going to AA meetings and they identify with the people there, they will realize that those people have several years of sober time, and that there is hope for them after all. This is because they listened to the stories and they identified and they had that light bulb moment in which they realized “hey, this guy telling the story is really just like I was….”
So identification and surrender are some of the main concepts that you will embrace in the recovery process. What other concepts are there?
If you end up working a 12 step program you will realize that each of those 12 steps embodies a recovery principle such as faith, hope, willingness, confession, humility, and so on. Of course not every person who recovers in this world does so by working through the steps of AA, but every person who recovers has to embrace some of the same principles.
For example, you cannot really recover successfully without first embracing the concept of humility. If you are not humble in recovery then you cannot really learn new things, because you will instead assume that you know everything that needs to be known. Some people have too much pride to be able to recover successfully because they are not able to listen to everyone and learn all of the lessons that are nearly everywhere in early recovery. Just about every single person that you encounter in early recovery can teach you something about the recovery process if you care to listen and really learn the lesson.
Perhaps one of the most important concepts that need to be embraced in early recovery is that of gratitude. They have entire AA meetings that are dedicated to the concept of gratitude because it is so important.
The basic idea is this: If an alcoholic is going to pick up a drink and relapse, they are going to do so because of the thought process that is going on in their mind right now. In other words, they will have mentally justified the relapse before they actually lift that alcoholic drink up to their lips. They somehow made it okay in their mind that they are going to drink alcohol again and throw away all of their recovery efforts.
Now when this happens the person is never in a state of gratitude. Instead, the opposite is true: The person is in a state of extreme selfishness. They are saying to themselves “I deserve this drink because….” They are justifying that relapse and that drink by telling themselves something like they are a victim, the world has done them wrong and it owes them, or something similar to that. They have mentally jumped through a certain set of hoops that somehow makes it okay that they are going to relapse.
This mental justification for relapse would be an impossibility if the person were grateful in the moment.
Think about it: If you are truly grateful and you feel happy towards the universe for all that it has bestowed upon you in this very moment, how could you possibly be angry enough to justify a relapse? If you are grateful for everything the universe has given you, how can you be selfish enough to want more for yourself in the form of a relapse? As they say, “gratitude never relapses.” If you are truly grateful you would not justify a drink or a drug for yourself.
So those are just a few concepts that can be embraced in the early recovery process, and some methods and examples for how to adopt them yourself. Good luck!