Category Archives: alcoholism

When Will I Be Ready For A Relationship?

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.

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Willpower

by Bill

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 Scare The Bejeezus Out Of You!

by Bill

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?
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Social Agreements In Recovery

by Bill

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.

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K.I.S.S. (Relax a little, too)

by Bill

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

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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.

Keep it simple.  Relax.

Defiance

by Bill

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.
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The Now

by Bill

It’s amazing how easily we addicts fall into a bad case of the “if onlys.”  Especially around the first of the year, when all those resolutions and good intentions come to the fore, we’re inclined to look at our past and measure it against some (usually imaginary) standard.  Sometimes it’s a standard that we believe someone else held us to, and sometimes it’s one that exists only in our own minds.  In any case, if we don’t get our heads back on straight, it can lead to problems.

In one of our books, we are promised that “We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”  There is no question that things could have been different, but think about this: if we hadn’t been where we were, done what we did, and experienced what we needed to experience, we wouldn’t be where we are, and there is no guarantee that things would have been better.  

I have two beautiful daughters whom I love beyond description, two beautiful grandchildren (ditto) and a wife who is far more than I ever realized when I married her nearly 34 years ago.  I treated my first wife, the girls’ mother, badly.  She should never have married me, and I feel badly that, as a result, her life turned out less wonderfully than she deserves.  One thing leads to another, whether fortunately or otherwise.  But that’s just the point.  If we hadn’t married, we wouldn’t have the girls, the grandkids, and all the good things that come along with them.  If we hadn’t married, I wouldn’t have met my present wife, the love of my life.

See, when we say “What if,” we change everything.  It took every single decision I ever made, both good and bad, to get me where I am, and where I am is pretty darned good.  Could it be better?  Sure.  But would I change things?  Hell no!  The risk would be far too great.  Change one thing, mistake or otherwise, and you change everything that follows.

Each of us, addicts or Earth People, has a history.  But, as it reads in a meditation book that I consult daily, “We don’t have to obsessively fill our present with the past to acknowledge our history.  We aren’t there; we’re here.  It’s not then, it’s now, and always will be.”  (Answers in the Heart, Hazelden)  That’s not to say that we should forget the past, and certainly we need to plan for the present, but we don’t have to obsess about either.  Enough is enough.  By learning to live “in the now,” mindful of what is happening this moment and not worrying about the past or the future, we enrich our lives, our relationships and, ultimately, become much happier people.

Isn’t that what recovery is supposed to be about?