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LCSW, CCS
Clinical Social Worker/Therapist

Why We Get Sober

Conventional wisdom in AA and NA dictates that we must get sober for ourselves. I celebrate the spirit of this ideal. When we change our lives for the benefit of others, there’s a chance that we’ll come to resent them for what we may experience as a series of hardships. Yet after a lot of years serving people in recovery, I’ve come to a simple fundamental truth: there is no bad reason to get sober.

The purpose we choose initially can (and generally does) change over time. Perhaps what got us started was wanting to be better for our children or the guilt we feel about what we’ve put our parents through. However, when we earnestly work a program, we find in relatively short order that things do get better, and we are then faced with a rather daunting decision:

  • If the reason we got sober is no longer a problem, do we return to our old ways or do we choose to move ahead?
  • This is too often a choice made subconsciously in which self destruction is assured through self deception (I’m better now. It’s safe for me to return to using/drinking).
  • The healthy conscious choice to continue investing in recovery is too often viewed as an all or nothing proposition (if I do this, I have to do it forever).

In truth, we’re free to consciously choose self investment twenty four hours at a time.

Why We Stay Sober

This is a critical juncture. This is where we find ourselves saying impossibly vague things like, “I need to figure it out.” (Hint: “It” = Self).

  • The addictive mind demands compelling reasons to do healthy things as though the rewards of being healthy are insufficient and the avoidance of destruction is something to be weighed or contemplated.

The deciding factor in nearly all of our choices is our perceived chances of success. Throughout this solitary assessment we overlook the impact that our disease, our culture, and the larger society have on our perception. Involving the input, hopes, and fears of our loved ones in making our choices is best done overtly – in the full light of day.

Purpose & Passion

Recovery offers fellowship and opportunities for spiritual growth. The promises of AA show us the life we can have if we are willing to work for it.

  1. Bit by bit we find that our lives are fully manageable and that we are able to handle things quite well, twenty four hours at a time.
  2. We are then blessed with further opportunities as we find ourselves wanting to have something more in our lives.
  3. We begin reaching out to others in need in the tradition of the 12th step of AA. We do this to assist others who struggle – both with addictions and with many other social problems.

Some of us seek a “calling” or a greater “purpose.” As spiritual people, we are open to receiving inspiration and direction from many people, places, and things. Yet, we struggle at times to know what the “right” choice is. Experience has taught me that there are no wrong choices – only small side streets I ventured down and these too had value.

What it’s really about is connection to others. This is what my Higher Power both wants for me and expects from me. Some are chance meetings that last only minutes and others have been maintained for decades. To me, having a life “second to none” simply means that I am more open to giving and receiving love because I have cast so many of my burdens down.

This approach supports and fortifies my recovery, makes my life more meaningful to me, and frankly is a hell of a lot more fun than anything I’ve ever known.

Making Plowshares out of Swords

Purpose and passion can be unlocked simply by a shift in perception. I have tremendous respect for the skills an active addict has in their ability to manipulate and problem solve. Typically, in the midst of long term sobriety we stop using those skills entirely. My challenge to the person in recovery is: what if you used those same abilities toward a positive end?

  • There are no people who are as tenacious and determined as we. If we choose to be heard, there will be no better advocates than we. If we use the same determination to help others attain sober housing as we did to acquire heroin, what could we accomplish?

We are free to maintain anonymity from our respective programs and yet present ourselves publicly as the power of example. This would allow those who have never known addiction to have their illusions shattered. We can demonstrate further that many of us get better and not only are we productive and sober, we are your neighbors, coworkers, and community leaders!

There is nothing more rewarding than spreading joy and promoting healing. Don’t wait to find a specific path. It’s much easier to find your way when you’re already in motion.

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
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Page last updated Apr 29, 2014

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