Change Is A Process Not An Event

Quite frequently a person from program runs into someone from the old days who says, “Wow, you look great! You look so healthy and happy. Boy the last time I saw you, you were a mess. Tell me what’s your secret? How did you change your life”?

When we are asked that question we realize that we have indeed changed a great deal. Upon contemplation however, we also note that whatever changes have taken place, for almost all of us, there was one common starting point. The giving up of our drug of choice was the doorway we all had to pass thru. Passing over that threshold, the overarching framework for continuing change were the 12 steps. By going thru the steps we learned over time about concepts like unmanageability, powerlessness, Higher Power, character defects, making amends, prayer, meditation and service. It then became our job to take what we had learned and apply it to life on a daily basis. Part of that work included spreading the message to others who were still sick and suffering. So we turned to our friend from the old days and said, “if you want what I have, then you just need to do what I do”.

Personal Reflection: How did you engage in change today?

The Only Thing That Changed When I Moved Was That I Took A Different Subway Line

As long as we are in the throes of our addiction, surface level changes will have little or no effect. People in the program often talk about “doing a geographic”. We have the mistaken belief that by changing where we live, our lives will suddenly change for the better. What we discovered was that all the problems we had in our previous location, seem to miraculously follow us wherever we went. We still got into arguments at work and end up getting let go. Our relationships with our spouses, children and friends continue to deteriorate. Although we were in a new place, our friends and family continued to find fault with our behavior. We had hoped that the usage of our drug of choice would decline, and often found moving had exactly the opposite effect. We had never felt comfortable in our own skins, often feeling that we were like a square peg in a round hole. Being in a new location only made these feelings worse. In recovery we now understand that change needs to emanate from the inside out, and not the other way around. 

Personal Reflection: Do I still make surface changes and hope for deep results?

If You Want What You Never Had, You Have To Do What You’ve Never Done

Sometimes we see a person at a meeting and how they look and what they have to say just blows us away. They appear to be really living a sober life. Listening to them you can hear that they are truly happy. Their lives are immersed in the program. A higher power is turned to during the day. A 10th step review is done before they go to bed. They do service both in and outside of the rooms. You say to yourself, “I want what they have”. That is certainly an admirable sentiment. To accomplish your wish you need to take a careful look at exactly what they do. More to the point, you need to be willing to drop some of your old habits which no longer serve you. Initially you might find this to be uncomfortable or even painful. You also might experience fear about taking on new and unfamiliar behaviors. Change is often very challenging. Realize that if you want what they have, “you have to do what you never done”. To do anything less is cheating yourself from growth.

Personal Reflection: What’s one thing I’ve never done which could enrich my life?