“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.” – The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
The above quote comes from the 'Promises' of AA and I’ll vouch for it. I’ve seen it occur countless times. One of the joys of being an addictions counselor is watching somebody 'get it.' Desperation is a powerful motivator. When at last someone experiences significant sober time and “unthaws” they start to feel better physically and emotionally. Their lives improve, their brain functioning improves and in a sense it’s a very natural kind of high. In AA that 'high' is often referred to as a 'Pink Cloud.'
It’s inspiring. It’s delightful. It doesn’t last.
Addicts and alcoholics live at extremes. In the course of recovery that tendency remains. I advise my clients that almost nothing in this world is 'once and for all.' Early recovery is a rollercoaster of emotions and hard work. Through step work, fellowship, and spiritual growth; the lows become less low and plateaus of greater stability are achieved.
Becoming a Prophet and Recruiting
Everyone walks their own path.
I met with a woman recently who asked me if AA was a cult. I assured her it was anything but that and asked her why she would think this? She told me a story about her brother who had been an active alcoholic for over 30 years. Today he has three months sober. “Now he’s trying to recruit everyone in the family. He’s telling us that we’re all alcoholics and when I explain that the one or two drinks I enjoy per month are not a problem; he tells me I’m fooling myself.”
I explained that her brother was coming from a good place in his heart. He’s found a new freedom and wants to share it with others. He wants to be close to the family he’s been estranged from. He’s just going about it in all the wrong ways. I encouraged her to think of it the same way as religious folks who knock at our doors. They’re annoying but generally mean well and are sincere in what they believe.
We talked about setting boundaries with which she can support her brother without tolerating his overly enthusiastic recruitment. His intentions are good – he wants to have loved ones accompany him on the journey. He simply needs to accept that they’re on a different path with different needs.
Making Up for Lost Time
'It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.” – Fight Club
It’s true that through the course of recovery things become possible in our lives that previously were not. People in early recovery remain impatient. They see that they could have made changes much sooner. Now they’re in a hurry and this too is a major pitfall.
My friends in AA offer a gentle reminder that, “Time takes time.” I am less gentle in asking my clients, “Just how many dragons are you going to slay at the same time?”
I say this in response to plans like this:
“Well, I’ve decided that I’m going to work out an hour a day and start taking a yoga class three times a week. I’ve joined a meditation group on Mondays and I’m going to be taking two classes at the community college on Thursdays. I’m working full time and seeing the kids on the weekends, but I think if I manage my time very carefully it’ll be great!”
This is not only a set-up; it’s a plan that lacks common sense. I ask my clients to write it out in a schedule book or calendar. Then I ask them to factor in all the real world responsibilities that everyone has (laundry, grocery shopping, commuting). Finally, I’ll ask how many meetings they’ve scheduled? They’re crestfallen. I applaud their enthusiasm but encourage prioritizing. Finally, I urge them to include folks in their support system who will give them 'reality checks' – challenging them to maintain balance in every part of their lives.
Look, Ma No Hands!
There’s a fine line between building confidence and becoming arrogant. While there are few absolutes in recovery, there are guiding principles and lines we don’t recommend crossing. The pitfalls we overlook place us in harm’s way and relapse becomes increasingly likely.
There’s an old expression that dictates, “If you go to the barbershop enough times; you’re gonna get a haircut.” There’s a time in a person’s recovery in which being around alcohol is safe. That time is not in the first couple years. Bars, parties, even restaurants that serve alcohol are not to be rushed into.
The biggest risk of all in is becoming complacent. It’s common that meeting attendance drops, contact with sponsors and other supports declines. We get comfortable for a time, but find that we’re anxious and unsure why. Getting back to basics is always the best way to restart our recovery programs.
The emerging maturity of recovery hinges on acceptance that we are (and forever will be) works in progress. The promises of AA are completely attainable if we are willing to work hard and be attentive. Fellowship, spiritual growth, and step work ensure our continued growth
- About the author Jim LaPierre:
- My story is I'm forever a work in progress and I love connecting with REAL people who are doing great things. I'm blessed to be making a living doing something I love. I'm a proud dad and the luckiest husband ever. I'm an aspiring author - check out my recovery blog at: recoveryrocks.bangordailynews.com Thanks! Jim
Page last updated Jul 16, 2013