If there is one form of denial that is common to most folks who aren’t sure if they really want to stay clean and sober, it’s “I don’t need a program. I can do it myself; all it takes is willpower;” or, “I have plenty of support at home, I don’t need to go to meetings.” Hard on the heels of that idea is “I don’t like (insert 12-step program here), it’s too (insert excuse here).”
You don’t have to spend much time in recovery to hear folks make these statements, and if you work in the recovery field, you hear it all the time. It usually doesn’t take too long for those people to fade out of sight, and sometimes we see them come back, weeks, months or years later, with a better attitude.
Often we don’t.
There are a couple of secrets to making it in recovery. One is to do whatever we can to get over the habits, both mental and physical, that led us to, or reinforced the use of, our drugs of choice. Without going into detail, some of those are:
- using at certain times and in certain places, or with particular people
- making excuses to justify our using (“I deserve it; If you were married to her, and so forth)
- “drinking at” people, using booze or drugs to withdraw and let them know we don’t need them
- always smoking a cigarette when we’re on the phone, if that’s the addiction we’re working on
- we could continue the list ad infinitum.
The other — perhaps the biggest — secret, isn’t really a secret at all. It’s bounced around the rooms all the time, but somehow some of us manage not to hear it. That’s to keep an open mind! If we don’t like what we’re hearing, we need to remember two things:
- there are no rules in the 12-step rooms, only suggestions; no right and wrong way to do it, only ways that we have found — through 70-odd years of experience — work for most people; and
- use common sense.
The common sense part is obviously open to interpretation. For example, the “no romantic relationships in the first year” suggestion is a good one. A new relationship is about the most distracting thing that can happen to anyone, and we don’t need distractions. On the other hand, if we’re already in a relationship that hasn’t soured completely, that suggestion obviously doesn’t apply. However, if we used with our partner, (or used them as an excuse to use) maybe we need to re-think that, too.
Another example would be the “Higher Power Issue.” If you want the god of a particular religion as your higher power, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s fine too. The thing is, we need to admit that we can’t do it alone, and surrendering to a higher power has terrific symbolism. It works for a lot of people.
If it doesn’t work for you, great. Just remember that part about not doing it alone. It’s nearly impossible to recover without the support of other recovering people. We need to remember, too, as long as we’re on the subject, that just as we have a right to choose what we believe is right for us, so do others. So if they want to talk about their god, that’s OK. It isn’t catching. If we can’t be that flexible, we’re in trouble already. After all, tolerance is the first step toward a spiritual life.
Ask yourself these questions: Do I really want to get clean and sober? Do I want to have a full, satisfying life? Do I want to improve my self-esteem, clean up some of the wreckage, and generally become a productive human being — or do I want to die in my active addiction?
That, my friend, is the most important question you will ever ask yourself. Don’t answer too hastily.