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The Toughest Part of Continuous Recovery ISN’T the “Staying Sober” Part…

The toughest part of recovery isn’t the staying sober part.  Staying sober actually becomes pretty easy once a few simple things are embraced.

  • I drank to escape.
  • Sobering up means limiting by rectifying the things I want to escape from.
  • Trust God (Higher Power), clean house, and work with others.

There’s a little more to it than that, but that covers the nuts and bolts of it.

I follow several recovery blogs because, as one could imagine, recovery is important to me and nothing is more enjoyable than watching someone grow in their recovery, to watch as their eyes open and eventually go wide at the awesomeness of life without being chained to their addiction.

I also unfollow quite a few after I get a chance to read several posts.

The toughest part is watching newcomers relapse because they refuse to grasp the simplicity of continued sobriety:  “I am the problem.  I can’t.  God can, and think I will let God.”

I unfollowed a blogger a while back who is, as we all are when we walk through our first meeting door, intensely stuck on himself.  We call it “self-will run riot”.  Well, this fella has self-will run riot in spades, and refuses to look at that.  He comes in, goes out, comes back in, goes back out…. only to change one small thing on the periphery of the program, something small and insignificant, hoping that this will indeed be the end of his drinking…  Only to find himself sitting in a barber’s chair, waiting for his next haircut.  That’s a metaphor, if you missed it.  [If you sit in a barbershop long enough, eventually you’re going to get a haircut…  If you dabble around alcohol long enough, eventually you’re going to drink it.]

I do my best, of course, to try to steer someone like that in the best direction I know, but in the end recovery is very personal.  You either choose to “get it” or you don’t, and there’s no way one person can make that happen for another.  In certain places, it actually recommends one attempt some “controlled drinking” if the person thinks there might be a better option.  The idea is that it’s better one remove all doubt first.

On the other hand, and this is where it gets dicey, it’s not easy to look someone in the eye who is obviously in anguish and tell them to go back to what put them in that state in the first place… only to try to sober up at a later date.

I was told to go try a little controlled drinking when I was new as well.  I called up my sponsor and told him I was feeling like I wanted to drink.  He said, “Well go ahead!”  I was more than a little shocked at first.  In that case, my problem was a lack of good communication skills.  I didn’t want to drink, I was fighting an urge.  After I explained myself a little better, he came over and we went out for a burger and a talk – and worked through the urge.  I never had the miscommunication problem again…  My friends, one of the toughest parts of continuous sobriety is remembering that you’re all out of options.

I’ve stayed sober (and happy) as long as I have because I embrace the simple truth that to drink is to die.  There are no “what if’s”, no ways to finagle, there is no wiggle room.  When I was finally done, the rest came down to “how does one quit booze and live happy”.

Now here’s where this little ditty gets fun; I did whatever I was told by my trusted sober friends and sponsor to work toward living happy.  In some cases I questioned why, but not many.  My first sponsor asked whether I pull into a parking spot nose first or back in.  When I told him nose first, he recommended that I back in for one month, then get back with him.  He said he’d tell me why after a month.

I did as I was told.

At the end of the month, I asked him what the deal was.  His explanation went something like this, “Getting sober is pretty tough.  If you’re not willing to do something simple, like backing into a parking spot, it’s unlikely that you’ll be willing to do what you’re told when it’s something important.  That was more than 25 years ago.

I still use that with new people today.

The vast majority of people don’t like “doing as they’re told”.  At the very least, they want an explanation because their ego gets in the way of their desire to stop drinking.  In fact, in the few instances I questioned “why?”, that’s exactly what I was doing – I let my ego get in the way, just a little bit.  I wanted to know why my sponsor asked me to stand on my head for five minutes rather than just standing on my head.  Letting go of the ego isn’t easy.

This little post is getting a little long, so I’ll wrap it up with this; it’s often stated that the first year of recovery is a gift.  After that, the real work starts.

Anyone who has lived through that first year is usually incredulous because that first year is freakin’ hard.  Sadly, most learn, between ten and fourteen months sober, that working a recovery program isn’t just for the drinking or drugging part of addition.  The program is meant to be worked through one’s whole entire life and being.  The first year is spent focusing on ridding oneself of the drugs and alcohol.  Approaching that one year, people who are really working at their recovery discover that somehow this just isn’t enough, there’s a huge gaping hole in the works that needs to be filled with something and they can’t quite put their finger on it…

And that’s where the real work begins – and why the first year is a gift.