I look back over my time in recovery and I can see that I’ve changed. I am not the same person, thankfully, that walked into a meeting room seven years ago. If I continue to follow the program, then I will be a different person in another seven years. If I want to grow I have to change. If I am going to change I have to be willing to let go of the old me and trust my Higher Power’s plan for the new me.
“Every next level of your life will require a different you.” Leonardo Dicaprio
This, for me, is the essence of Steps Six and Seven. A willingness to let go of character traits that made me and an acceptance of who I am becoming. It is taking the next step toward life and embracing changes. Everyone in recovery can look back at their lives and be amazed at how they have changed. This change can continue if we allow it but it means a continued willingness to let go of who I am. If a ship changes course only one degree, it won’t be far off its original course the next day. But as time goes on, that course it is further and further from where if might have otherwise been.
When I arrive at a meeting room, I was on course for cell, a sanitorium or cemetery. I know that because I saw it happen to others around me. I know that I am no different than they were, except that I made the slight course correction. Seven years later I am far away from the iceberg I was heading toward. And, as a result, I am a different person from who I would otherwise be.
The changes and course corrections are still happening as a result of the program. I am enjoying my journey and I am continuing to change. As I continue to live the program of the Twelve Steps, I am continuing to grow and correct my course. I like who I am today. I like the changes that I have experienced in recovery. However, I want to continue to grow and to do that I have to let go of who I was yesterday to be a new person today. Letting go of the old me isn’t easy. It means expanding my comfort zone yet again.
The results of who I will become in the next iteration of me can be just as dramatic as the change between who I was seven years ago and today. I trust the process and so I look forward to whatever might come my way.
Step aside Tim, there’s a new you working its way down the production line!
How does one recover from addiction and alcoholism? This is the H.O.W. of recovery: Honesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness. These attitudes go a long way toward a life that is happy, joyous and free. Without any of them, my chances at recovery are slim.
Honesty is an attitude of no more secrets. Revealing who I am, at least to myself, my Higher Power and another person is a necessary part of my recovery. I need to be accepting and true to who I am. Honesty is standing tall without pretending or pretense. It is humility: this is ‘me’, this is who I really am. I need not tell everyone everything about who I am, but if I want to live with integrity, I can no longer hide behind a curtain of half truths and false impressions.
Open-mindedness is that which allow me to seek answers and to step away from my comfort zone. It is a realization that I don’t know everything and that what I do know may not be correct or in need of a change or two. When I am open-minded I am asking questions and seeking answers. I am convinced that seeking the answers to new questions in life today is far more important to my personal growth than hanging onto the answers that solved yesterday’s question.
Willingness is the desire to move forward, do the work and put forth some elbow grease. It’s often easy to rest on yesterday’s laurels and take my comfort. But if I am to grow I have to be willing to move, to change and to expend the energy necessary to make changes in my life. It’s doing the work even when I don’t see the results right away. It’s following the recipe of recovery even when I don’t understand it or why I am doing it at the time. It is trusting the process and moving on.
Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness are H.O.W. I got sober and they are the attitude that keeps me that way. If I am lacking any of these attitudes I am taking steps away from my recovery. They form the foundation of a recovery that will allow me to grow and change and evolve. Who I was yesterday is not who I am today. I cannot cling to the self I started with in the program if I want to change. Believing that I’ve ‘got it’ leads to stagnation and decline. I have to keep it fresh.
I think these attitudes are absolutely necessary for people in recovery and I am quite sure they are absolutely necessary for people who aren’t. Honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are attitudes that allow for a life that is constantly growing, changing and evolving into a newness every day.
I am grateful to my sponsor Bob who reminded me of this acronym last week. ¡Gracias amigo!
When I first started in recovery I was told that if I want to get it and to keep it I needed to do five things: don’t drink/use, go to meetings, get a home group, get a sponsor, work the steps. A little over seven years later, I’m still doing these five things and I would have to say that there is no way my life would be as complete as it is today without following that advice.
Over the years I’ve probably gone to an average of six meetings a week. At the beginning I often went twice a day: it gave me something to focus upon and besides, I didn’t know what else to do with my time. Before recovery I spent most of my time drinking/using or scheming to drink/use, scrounging for cash or dreaming of the perfect high. Now (somewhat) sober, I found meetings allowed me a reprieve from drifting back into my old ways of thinking and taught me new ways of approaching life.
By going to meetings I learned how others applied the steps to their lives. I could use their experience as my own. I know what happens when you allow anger to take over your life because I have heard about the experience of others. I don’t have to invent tools and approaches to situations because I can borrow the tools and approaches that others have shared at meetings. I don’t have to wonder what will happen to me if I stop going to meetings because fellow members have shared what happened to them when they stopped. I may only have a day or a week or a year or 10 years in recovery, but if I go to meetings with an open mind I can benefit from the many, many years of experience of those that are sharing around the table. You’re my team and without you, I have no chance of winning.
Early on I was taught the 70-20-10 rule of going to recovery meetings. Seventy percent of the time you hear good solid material that you can pack into your toolbox and use at a later date. Twenty percent of the time what you hear has you at the edge of your seat because it’s exactly what you need to hear now. And ten percent of the time the share is a lesson in patience and tolerance of others. What I must remember in this, because it has happened to me it that while I may be experiencing a 10% moment, it could be a 20% moment for another person in the room. I can always learn something at a meeting.
Making meetings isn’t the program of recovery; the Twelve Steps are the program. Meetings, however, are part of the way that I can learn about the program and deepen my understanding. They are one of those first five things that have been working for me in my recovery. When I feel I don’t really need a meeting or I don’t want to go, that, I have learned too, is exactly when I need to go to a meeting. I keep the program close to my heart and mind; I don’t even want to consider the alternative. I’ll stick with the winning team.