One of the most common questions we hear from people in early recovery is, “How long before I can have a relationship.” Answers in the rooms of recovery tend to vary, but the most common suggestion is to wait a year.
Put simply, I disagree. There is, in my opinion, no set length of time, but a year is likely way too short.
Willpower, the idea that we can do things just because we want to, is magical thinking and has no place in recovery. No one is in a better position to understand that than an addict in early sobriety, and yet most of us were highly resistant to the idea. We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of having power over other people, places and things (even though it hasn’t been working for us) that it’s unnerving to be told that it isn’t true.
I tried to control my various addictions with “willpower” for years. It didn’t work. My will was singularly unsuccessful in its half-hearted efforts to affect my body chemistry and my unconscious mind. That’s hardly surprising, since the part of the brain concerned with will can’t even communicate with the other sections that are involved in addiction. The interesting thing is that one can know even that, and still fall into the trap of “self-will run riot.”
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially in recovery. Blank slates have more room for useful information.
Turning our will over to a higher power doesn’t mean becoming some kind of religious nut. What it does mean is that we at least accept (if not really believe) that our inability to get and remain sober is directly connected with our obsession for doing things our way, even in the face of massive consequences. It’s thinking, not in terms of God Will Fix Me, but in terms of I Can’t Fix Me. Whether or not we believe there is a metaphysical God, we must come to terms with the fact that we aren’t he, she or it.
We need to learn to lean on others, learn from others who have been successful at remaining sober, and stop thinking that the principles that have worked for millions of people don’t apply to us. THAT is self-will run riot, and it will get us killed!
Recovery can be really scary when we suddenly discover that we’re becoming someone else. We know how to be addicts. We know how to weasel, lie, beg, borrow, steal and employ massive denial to avoid knowing who we really are and protect our addictions, but we don’t know how to be sober. The “Old Me” is being consumed by this new thing that we don’t know how to do yet. Who will we be, anyway? Continue reading →
Sometimes, I admit, I wish I could just turn my face to the wall, fall asleep for three months and wake up to learn how everything turned out. Just let the scene change. This leg of the journey has gone on for far too long already.
Although we’re not usually aware of it, the world runs on social agreements. Red lights don’t stop cars. They stop because our society agrees that (a.) intersections are dangerous places and traffic needs to be regulated, and (b.) when we see a red light facing us, we need to stop in order to avoid possible death or serious injury.
I use that as an example because, in order for social agreements to work out, there also needs to be a degree of enlightened self-interest involved.
Sometimes we make recovery more complicated than it needs to be. As addicts, we’re accustomed to instant gratification from our acting out. We aren’t used to the concept of “time takes time.” We want to find the magic bullet, the philosopher’s stone, the secret incantation that will magically turn us into sober people without doing all that work. So we work harder at finding the secret to sobriety than we do with the everyday tools that will ultimately be what keeps us sober.
The ultimate idea of recovery is to develop the capacity to be happy while sober. Making it too much of a job can obscure not only the
progress we’re making, but take away a lot of the fun we get from looking at the world without our drug-colored glasses. While we don’t want to slack off on our work, getting sober is only a full-time job in the sense that we need to try to “practice these principles in all our affairs.” If we slip up, we learn from it and move on. Hairshirts are optional, and not really all that good an idea.
As today’s reading in one of my meditation books goes,
We’re on our path, and we get all the time we need. All we have to do today is be willing and make the best choices we can.
I was at a meeting last night where the subject was defiance. I don’t recall ever having heard that suggested as a topic before, but it’s certainly a good one! Defiance is the earmark of many a newcomer’s early program, and I have exhibited a bit myself from time to time
It’s perfectly natural when you think about it. Addicts don’t like to be told what to do, especially when it threatens the deep-seated need to use that we have in early recovery. We haven’t yet replaced the “comfort” of our addiction with the relief of recovery, and while our conscious mind is telling us that we want to quit, the rest of it is saying “Help! We need our drug!” Put the two together and you’re likely to find a certain…ah…resistance in the average newcomer when a bunch of relative strangers start making suggestions. Continue reading →
Hi! I’m Ashley and I am just your average everyday addict! Recovery is a new adventure that is hard, but it CAN also be fun and exciting! I created this blog to share my experience with addiction, my perspective as a youth in recovery, and the joys of my recovery. Clean & sober since 10/27/2008!