Do It Any Way

Larry was in recovery for over 25 years before he left us for the big meeting in the sky. He died as he wanted, sober and with two close friends, who are also members of his home group, at his side.

He was the group philosopher. Though he accused himself of over thinking things, he always had something worth an ear. He was a larger than life character who towered above most everyone and who never failed to help another member. His big old bear hugs were smothering but always honest and genuine. And though he’s been gone for well over a year, his bits of wisdom which were gleaned from his own experience are still echoing in the rooms of the city.

“Do it anyway,” he’d often say at a meeting, “or do it any way.” It was Larry’s manner of encouragement. Find a way to get done what needs to be done. There might be an “I don’t want to,” or an” I don’t think I can,” but when it came to the program, friends as well as sponsees heard this wise words to push forward regardless.

Sometimes in life it isn’t about desire or want. It’s about need. Larry’s words are for those things we need to do, the things we fear doing, the things we don’t even know how to do. Do it any way.

Commitment, consistency and courage are behind these words. Sticking to one’s convictions day by day regardless of what happens. This is how we live a life in recovery. This is the example Larry set for us. It is also the challenge he left with us.

“Do it anyway, do it any way.”

Thank you Larry.

“ONE” at a Time

One of our recovery group’s slogans is, “Live one day at a time.” It’s a good slogan to live by for anyone in recovery or not. The idea is not to get too far ahead of ourselves; stay in the moment and leave the future to one’s Higher Power.  Along with this slogan I would like to add a bit of an addendum: “Do one thing at a time.”

Those of us in recovery suffer from the disease of “More”.

We wanted more of whatever our addiction consisted of when we were in our disease, and we still want more of everything now. If a little is good, then more should be even better is our logic. It comes as no surprise then, that when we try things, we try them in a huge way. I think it is a recipe for failure.

The floor of gyms and fitness centres are strewn with the remains of lost resolutions and self-promises.  How many times have we said to ourselves on January 1st that we are going to join a gym, workout, go on a diet, loose those extra pounds, eat healthier, quit smoking.  You know those resolutions we make to become better physically.  Or we resolve to meditate daily along with taking walks in nature, reading inspirational literature and eating a vegan diet.  There is nothing wrong with all of these things in and of themselves, but those of us with the disease of “More” it spells disaster.  Why?

I think it’s because we put all of our eggs in one basket; mentally, all of these resolutions are tied together as one. Should I fail at one of these, say slip up on my diet, then in my mind I have failed at all of them.  Or if I miss going to the gym one day then it’s easier to miss another day. My mind says: “Well, you missed going to the gym, you screwed up on that and everything.  You may as well eat that eclair now because you’re going to screw up your diet too!” So, downhearted by one small failure, we let all of the other eggs fall out of the hole in our basket instead of stopping and repairing the hole. I am not saying that making several major life changes like this is impossible to do all at once, but I am suggesting that we are putting ourselves at a greater risk failure if we do.

Do one thing, do it well and only then move on.

This is what I have been learning. It takes time for the old habits to die and new ones to replace them. I’ve read in several places that we need to practice a behaviour for at least a month before it becomes a habit. I need to give myself time.  I focus on one thing at a time and I have a better chance at success.  I believe that is important for those of us with the disease of “More” because we think we can handle it when we’re probably not ready to do so.

It brings to mind a person who was in her second month of recovery.  She decided it would be good for her to give up smoking cigarettes too.  She asked me to be her ‘quit smoking’ sponsor; if giving up booze and drugs is good then so is smoking. That’s true. However, I recommended that she get through her first six months at least in the program to get herself grounded in recovery before attempting another major change in her life. Unfortunately she was back smoking within 10 days and drinking about a week after that.  I can’t say that she would have succeeded in sobriety had she not quit smoking.  I don’t know.  However, I have seen it happen more than once where people in recovery take on too much at the beginning and make it very difficult for themselves.

One of anything at a time; that’s about all I can handle.

Sobriety has to be my number one priority.  As we say in our group, whatever I put ahead of my sobriety will be the second thing I loose. I take my sobriety one day at a time.  I’ll share one more metaphor.  I like a nice frosted chocolate cake.  Hmmm.  However, if I shove the whole thing in my mouth at once I will choke. If I eat it one forkful at a time, I can enjoy and savour it.

Take it easy folks.  ONE of anything at a time is about all any of us can handle.


Photo: Barrie Cripps

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Real Recovery

In the 82 years since the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous, the granddaddy of all twelve step programs, a lot has changed.  There is generally a better understanding of what addiction is and how one recovers. There are movies as well as series on regular and cable channels in which twelve step groups are depicted, sometimes fairly accurately. One thing however, that seems to remain the same is the idea of what Recovery looks like.  We (including the general public and those who are going in for the first time) think that one goes into a rehab or recovery centre for a month or two and they are cured!  To many people, recovery looks like the illustration below.

recovery arrow

And, it doesn’t.  A far truer representation of recovery is this:

real recovery arrow

Recovery is messy.  It doesn’t last for a month, or two, or a year.  It’s a lifetime commitment to staying clean and sober.  Sometimes we fall off the page and find our way back on, and sometimes, we just drop off and are never heard from again.  It’s a constant struggle to learn new skills, a new design for living that is as strange and foreign to us as using chopsticks for the first time: we understand the concept but we just can’t get our fingers, our minds and the sticks to work together.  Food drops off before we get it to our mouth, we splash our new white shirt, and we just want to go back to what we know.  We drugged and drank because that was what we knew how to do; that is how we had learned to cope with everything. And now we just want to scream out like a newbie in a Chinese restaurant: “Give me a bloody fork now!”  

It takes time.  I recall my first year.  I can see now that I was still certifiably insane.  I owned a business, but didn’t want to answer the phone or open the mail.  It was all I could do to attend to clients, get through the day, make it to a meeting and head to bed early. Once a day I would listen to the phone messages.  And it took a real effort to make myself open an envelope or go to the bank. Just doing regular, normal things that running a business entailed were monumental feats. Oh, and I felt I deserved a medal every day for doing what little I did do, because I was finally acting like a normal human being doing what normal human beings do.  Yup, the elevator wasn’t making it all the way to the top floor.

Like everyone else, I thought that when I went clean everything would be fine, would go back to normal, life would be beautiful and there would be rainbows, and unicorns, and butterflies, with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing in the background. Only, I had been out of it for so long that I had no idea what normal life was supposed to be like. I had badly twisted and damaged my mind and that of those around me as well. I still had all of my faults and character flaws and now that I was sober, I was acutely aware of them. Some days weren’t pretty at all.  Early recovery wasn’t what I had expected to it to be.

I am fortunate that I was ready to give myself to the program.  I didn’t want to go back to the irrepressible demoralization that was my life.  But I complained about it. I remember one member asking me at a meeting, “Do you have a sponsor?”  When I said I did, he responded, “I suggest you use him!”  Our program has so many tools that help in early sobriety when everything is so new.  The meetings, home groups, steps, slogans, sponsors, phone lists and just not drinking the first drink were the first tools that I was given.  Gradually I learned to use these tools.

One of the things I learned was that in order to get a year in sobriety I had to go through a whole year in sobriety.  It takes time.  There are plenty of firsts in that first year: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, festivals, outdoor patios, beaches, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the list goes on. Making it through each one of these firsts added to my resolve to continue. My sponsor guided me through the steps, listened to my B.S. and gave me advice from his own experience. When I made it through that first year, I did it all over again, this time knowing that if I could do it once, I can do it again.

There are still plenty of dips and dives in sobriety. But with time, there is more of a balance in my life. I suggest that new members to give themselves time.  It took years reach my bottom and I didn’t climb out of it in a few weeks. Remember the rooms are full of people who will help you to grow and understand and show you how they worked the steps. If recovery were easy everyone would do it.  It takes a decision and dedication to make it through that tangled mess of a life, sober.


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At the suggestion of a reader I have added a new page to the blog:  Recovery Resources. There’s a Google Translate link to the site on the right sidebar if you prefer to read this or share this in another language.   Let me know of your thoughts and possible additions that might be helpful.  Please share your ideas for future posts.

Once again, please like and share, not to stroke my ego, but for those who need the courage, strength and hope to start and continue their journey down Recovery River.