Many people walk around feeling quite sorry for themselves. They honestly believe that they have few choices in this life. Perhaps they blame their parents who never gave them the love they deserve. Or they might say they are now too old to try out new ideas or approaches. Then again they might claim they are not old enough when it comes to certain decisions. Bosses often get blamed for lack of promotions or increases in salary. The list of excuses is endless.
We in the fellowship also used to complain about our lot. We felt stuck due to our compulsive use of alcohol, drugs and food.
Once we achieved sobriety, perhaps we mechanically referenced those old complaints as well. Within short order, someone in the program probably questioned us on this. They pointed out that we ultimately determine our destiny through the choices we make. Parents didn’t love you? Choose to love yourself and others. Think you’re to old or young to take a new path? Find the courage to take the first step. Unhappy at work? Change jobs or get retrained. For almost every challenge we face in life, there are choices we can make which will impact the outcome. The choice is ours.
Personal Reflection: Have I been avoiding making an important choice?
Recovery is a process. Each person needs to engage in their program at their own pace. Some people will go through all the steps within their first year. Others will not get beyond the first three steps during the same time period. There is no set prescription as to how quickly you need to progress. We are all different. That being said, a qualification needs to be added. If you are stalled on a particular step, a conversation with your sponsor is in order. You need to examine why you are not progressing. If you can honestly say that your pace is appropriate for where you are emotionally and spiritually; then keep doing what you’re doing. However, if you are stuck due to procrastination, laziness, confusion, shame or fear, then that is something which needs to be examined more carefully. It might actually be the starting point for your fourth step analysis of character defects.
Our recovery can also be impacted by other choices we make. When you start missing meetings, there is often a decline in your recovery. The same holds true when you fail to call your sponsor regularly or hold back information from him or her. Each of the daily choices we make will impact our future sobriety.
Personal Reflection: Do I need to jumpstart my recovery?
Medical school these days is a rigorous program. Part of the reason for this is that every year the body of medical information increases. In fact sometimes this is due to the discovery of yet another disease which heretofore had not been properly identified.
To this vast sea of technical information we can add another disease which has plagued people for centuries. We can term it the “trying” disease. Many people are afflicted with it. It manifests itself every time a person says, “I’ll try”. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. “I’ll try to meet you next Tuesday”; “I’ll try to put in an application for the job”, “I’ll try to start an exercise program”. We could go on infinitum. The problem with using the word “try” is that you are not committing to anything. Implicit in “try” is that you might not be able to fulfill what you’re committing to. It leaves a back door open to flake out. This is especially applicable to an active alcoholic or addict. How many times have we heard a person say, “this is my last drink, drug or food binge. Tomorrow I will try to stop”. Alcoholics and addicts can’t be given any possibility of a back door. We need full throttle commitment and action. Anything else becomes a “try”.
Personal Reflection: Do I sometimes suffer from the disease of try?
There are many ways to categorize people in this world. There are a entire class of people who will discourage you from moving forward with your life. These are the people who find what appear to be strong arguments against whatever it is you are attempting to accomplish. It makes no difference what it is you want to do. If you want to buy a house, they will tell you all of the reasons you should stay in your apartment. If you want to return to college, they will tell you about how many people who have graduated from college and are looking for jobs. In fact, celebrated author Wayne Dyer came up with 18 things people will say to you to discourage you from personal growth. Of particular note for people in recovery are the statements, “I’m not strong enough”; “I don’t deserve it” and “no one will help me”. The best thing you can do when they attempt to squash your aspirations is to tell them to not disturb you as you leave them in the dust. Our fellowship helps us tap into strength from our higher power; have an awesome life and know we can call upon our brothers and sisters for help as needed.
Personal Reflection: Do I believe the discouragers?
A lot of excuses surround people when they come into the program. Of course the most common is that, “I will never be able to stop drinking or drugging”, along with “I’m too old to begin this program”. There is also a tremendous amount of shame around our past and fear of the future. We are constantly dogged by the inner voices which attempt to discourage us from sobriety. The flow of 12 step is in the opposite direction. Our attention is focused on the here and now. This is why during the first year of sobriety we place such emphasis on day count. At a meeting you will hear someone say, “I have 57 days”, or “4 months since I took my last drink”. Upon hearing this, people will often burst into spontaneous applause. We do so because we are celebrating where you are in this moment. It’s not about the past or future, but your recovery right here, right now. As we grow in our recovery, the same principle also applies. When a person says, “I never qualified before at a meeting”, they are still encouraged to share their experience, strength and hope. After doing so, they will often find that someone deeply identified with their story. Wherever you are along the road to recovery, you can always begin a new chapter of growth.
Personal Reflection: Where is my recovery at this moment?
Over and over in the rooms you hear people speak about their lives before they entered the program. A common theme were the plans they made to make changes in their lives. Starting tomorrow, or next week or next month big changes would be put into place. Some of us were going to start a new job, others were going to go back to school, a third was finally going to settle down. Sometimes the plans were of a humbler nature like getting up on time in the morning. Somehow, all of these goals and plans never seemed to get off the ground. In each case we procrastinated, often for months and years. Behind all,of these delays lurked fear. There was fear of making a mistake; there was fear of taking a risk. For some, there was fear of change or fear of trying something new. In every case, procrastination and fear prevented us from moving forward with our lives. Of course, we always had plausible or semi-plausible excuses to explain away our failings. As we emotionally evolved we began to shed our excuses, push through our fears and honor our aspirations.
Personal Reflection: In what ways do I still give in to procrastination?