There are a lot of tricky parts to recovery. For some people, figuring out the Higher Power angle is tough. For others, simply going to meetings is a big deal. For all of us, putting the plug in the jug is hard (or putting the cap on the bottle, throwing away the syringe, putting the pipe down, take your pick).
It’s hard, yes. No doubt about it, but that’s not the hardest part.
Usually, when a newcomer is approaching their first anniversary, they get a little antsy. Most often, this happens because they are coming to realize that “just” being clean or sober isn’t enough. Something is missing. It’s hard to put your finger on it, something just feels… off. This is you coming to grips with the fact that this isn’t just about quitting drinking or drugs. We have to apply the principles (and steps) of recovery to our whole way of life. And that’s why they say the first year is a gift. Because the real work starts in the second.
That realization sucks, because that’s A LOT of work you see ahead.
There’s another aspect that’s even more difficult to grasp, though, and it ties into the “whole way of life” concept. That tiny aspect is the topic of this post. Here’s a quote:
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he or she generally doesn’t think so. Above everything we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must or it kills us.
I’ve been practicing a program of recovery for decades and I can still forget that simple concept, and it can happen in an instant. As an example, just yesterday I got into it with a very good friend of mine and it devolved into a discussion about perceptions and double-standards. The “stigma” around recovery is a new hot button topic that fits nicely for this discussion. Many nowadays seek to change perceptions about addicts so the rest of the world views us as sick people (we are, and the gesture is noble).
However, as it pertains to my recovery, I can’t have anything to do with that debate (well, I can at my peril). In fact, to believe that society should do something about letting that stigma go is almost as dangerous to my sobriety as sitting in a bar every night “to soak in the life, to live vicariously through others”. It won’t be long before I’m drunk again doing something so foolish. My troubles are of my own making. I must concentrate on the trouble I made; or the part I played in creating that stigma in the first place. That stigma society has is my fault.
And that leads to the next important quote:
Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some point in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in the position to be hurt.
That second paragraph actually precedes the one above on page 62 of the Big Book. The point is, I have to be keenly aware that fear, selfishness, self-centeredness, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity will kill just as quick as a drink – because they all lead to the first drink.
As I’m concerned, dwelling on double-standards and why life isn’t fair is self-pity. It’s also a form of self-delusion based in fear. The stigma may be very real, but I can’t afford to tap dance in that puddle. I can only look at what I’ve done and fix that – we invariably find that at some point in the past we have made decisions based on self that put us in the position to be hurt.
I can only sweep my side of the street. Once that’s clean, let them have their stigma along with their cake. It doesn’t apply to me, anyway. And that’s a power that can’t be taken away, because it’s not false.
And that, my friends, is why recovery is never boring; there’s always something to work on, and for that, I am grateful.
Recover hard. You may not get another chance.