Do It Any Way

There are no shortcuts in recovery. It’s not a buffet of items I can pick and choose. Rather it’s a recipe that I need to follow on a daily basis in order to get the results of happiness, joy and freedom. Initially I may not like doing a step or part of the step but leaving it out is an open invitation to return to the life I had before. Leaving out the sugar or substituting salt is going to alter the results of your mother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, regardless of how much love and care you put into their making. The same is true of a recovery program: “If you want what we have, then you do what we did.”

Is it always easy? No. There are times when I want to skip an apology to someone I had an argument with. I don’t always feel like praying. What if the meetings are boring? Why should I do it all? I’ve been in recovery a month, or a year or ten years. I’m doing fine. Right? How do you think the cookies taste without the sugar?

“Do it anyway: do it any way!”

Larry was a friend of mine in recovery who often said this. A recovery program requires trust. Even if I don’t understand what is happening, even if I don’t believe it is going to work, even when I don’t have any desire, I need to do ‘it’. And I need to find a way to do ‘it’. ‘It’ has to get done. ‘It’ is part of my recovery work.

What is ‘it’? Perhaps it’s working the next step. Perhaps it’s making amends for the argument I was in yesterday or last year. It might be sitting down to pray or meditate. It could be looking into the real reason why I’m depressed or why I avoid social situations. It’s that which gnaws and knots our stomach. We all have an ‘it’. And if we’ve been in recovery even a short time, we won’t have to dig very long to know what that ‘it’ is: the next right thing I need to do.

If you ask anyone who returns to the program after a relapse if they were ‘thoroughly following their program the answer is always ‘no’. They left something out of their program that was vital to their success in it. In going to meetings you will run into members whose recovery is much less than happy, joyous and free. They too are living without some of the ingredients of a healthy recovery program. They aren’t doing ‘it’.

I’ve learned to trust the Twelve Steps as my guide. I learn to go over and review them regularly because I don’t want to go back to where and how I was living before. I can’t guarantee that I’ll still be in recovery ten years from now, but I don’t need to. If I keep doing the next right thing, if I live my recovery today then I will be okay today. Tomorrow is another day.

Today I’ll do it anyway/any way because I want recovery.  I am grateful that Larry was a part of my recovery. RIP big fellow!


Embracing our Addiction

I was talking to a fellow this morning who was with the four horsemen: Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, Despair. He had been sober for six months until Christmas and then decided to join the festivities. He now finds himself with no job, no home and few resources. It’s never his fault: someone else is always to blame for the soap opera that he’s living. It’s work, relationships or politics.  All fingers always point away from him. We’ve talked about program in the past, about rehab, but he’s always sure that he can do it on his own. He believes that his relationship with his Saviour will save him.  Only it doesn’t seem to be happening this way.

I’ve seen him repeat the process of sobering up, cleaning up, getting along okay for several month and then binging out of control until he comes to, one morning, realizing that they’re back again. I hope someday soon he’ll be ready to stop trying and start doing.  I’ve learned in recovery that I cannot give him my sobriety. I can only tell him my story and hope that he can relate to it enough to make changes for himself. We carry the message, not the mess.

How do we stop and stay stopped? I believe it is by embracing our addiction. I believe that what I resist in my life will persist. If I resist the changes in my life, I will be faced with lots of changes. If I resist conflict, I will be surrounded by conflict on all sides of me. If I resist anger, then people, places and things that I cannot control will be all that I see. I have to stop resisting these things and embrace them, accept them,  and ask myself what I can learn about them.

When I resist something I am putting my focus onto it. I resisted before I arrived at the meeting rooms. I told myself I could manage this, I could control it, I could function, I wasn’t living on the streets. I was focused on trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t one of those people. Only, of course, I was. Coming into the program of recovery I embraced my addiction: I accepted it as a part of me and I accepted that ‘I’ wasn’t able to do anything about it alone. I dropped my resistance and that allowed me to change my focus onto recovery, but first I had to realize that I needed recovery.

My buddy who is facing the Four Horsemen? He’s still resisting. He’s still focused on his disease and unable to admit he can’t control it; he’s trying to push his disease away. I hope that someday soon he will make the choice to accept and embrace his addiction. Once he does, I’m sure that he can leave behind the Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration and Despair that have been stalking him and find his own long-term serenity in recovery.

Peace my friend.

Don’t Forget your Program

As the end of the year approaches, it seems that time moves faster. There seems so much that needs to be done and little enough time to complete it. It’s just a perception; the earth doesn’t spin any faster this time of year, but we want to squeeze in so much more in a period of 24 hours. My message today is: don’t forget your program.

When things are moving at a fast past it is so easy to let a meeting or two or seven slip by. Once a couple of days goes by and we feel that we’re okay,  we begin to think that if we made a couple of days without a meeting, we’ll be okay skipping another day. Maybe yes, maybe no. I always have to remember that I am just a couple of bad decisions away from a substance. After that, all bets are off. These holidays are tough for a lot of us. We’re dealing with family: the people who have years of experience at pushing our buttons. And we’re dealing with a lot of expectations, ours and those of others. Depending upon where we live, there may be a blast of nasty weather blown into the mix. This time of year, probably more than any other time, is filled with opportunities to do the next right thing, as well as the next wrong thing, especially where our recovery is involved.

I have a friend in the program from NYC. He’s a great guy who works a good program. One of the things he often shares and that stuck with me is this.  He tells it, “When I came into the program I got a lot of very good suggestions. The were all given freely and free for me to use by members who had a lot more time in the program than I did. I took those suggestions. The only ones I had to pay for were the ones I didn’t take.” Work your program, especially when you don’t feel you have time for it. Make being clean and sober your number one priority. If you put your job, or your family or preparing that perfect Christmas ahead of sobriety, you are putting yourself at risk of losing everything, including all your clean time. Failing to heed this suggestion may turn out to very costly indeed.

Somewhere along the line many of us were told to believe that we had to constantly prove our strength and our worth. You don’t have to do that anymore. You don’t need to prove you’re stronger than your substance by putting yourself in harms way or by tempting yourself. None of us is made of stone. Things affect us. You don’t have to lead yourself into temptation. The old standby slogan of H.A.L.T. is especially true this busy time of year: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Make sure that you treat yourself to what you need in your life: Recovery. Let that be your gift to yourself and your loved ones.

Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël.