Alcoholics and addicts seem to have a number of characteristics in common. One of them is what we can call the procrastination syndrome. For example walk into any bar and you will overhear conversations about future plans. One person is talking about the business he plans to to open up soon. Another is speaking about the cruise she and her husband will be taking in the near future. A third is is anticipating the promotion he will receive at work any day. Now fast forward a year or two. Walk into the same bar and you probably encounter the same cast of characters. Eavesdrop again on their conversations and chances are they will still be talking about the same thing. The business venture, the cruise and the promotion are still just hopeful dreaming.
That’s the way it is with alcoholics and addicts. Somehow all of those plans and aspirations never seem to actualize. The good news is that change is possible. Once we put down the drink or the drug and begin to work our program, we start to initially notice small changes. We make commitments to ourselves and others and begin to honor them. It could be as simple as a chair or coffee commitment at a meeting. The important thing is that we show up. Over time some of those big dreams and plans begin to come true as well.
Personal Reflection: What dream do I still need to actualize?
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?
Many of us make daily lists of things we need to do. Upon examination, we often find an interesting phenomenon. There are some items on the list which by day’s end we have accomplished. No matter how busy we are, we seem to be able to pick up the dry cleaning, and pay the phone bill. There are other items which might appear repeatedly on the list for a few days or even a week before they are attended to. Finally, there is the third group. These are items which appear on our list which never seem to be able to be crossed off because we never reach them. Within this category, there are also items which never even make it to the list.
Before program we might have said we never reached these items because our lives were just too busy. When we examined the issue more deeply; we found that fear was at the bottom of our procrastination. Many of us had concerns that trying something new would end in failure. The thought of this was too painful. What would others think of us when they saw how we had screwed things up or were less than perfect. As we grew, we saw that we were missing out on some amazing activities and people. We could experience life full throttle and still make mistakes and be less than perfect.
Personal Reflection: Do I use busy work as a buffer to growth?
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?