Being in recovery is about working and living the principles found in the 12 steps. While it is certainly important to attend meetings, stay in regular contact with a sponsor and fellowship with other recovering people, these activities will not keep you clean. They will certainly provide some relief from the debilitating symptoms of alcoholism and drug addiction. They might even make you feel good about yourself and keep you energized about the recovery lifestyle, but this kind of relief is only temporary.
In order for an addict or alcoholic to experience the many gifts and promises that accompany a 12-step program, he or she must work the 12 steps. All too often, men and women complete an in or out-patient treatment program and then attend 12-step meetings as a part of their aftercare program. The problem is, they merely attend the meetings and never get around to working the steps. True, lasting, change must come from within. In order for someone to stay sober and experience that kind of change, they must work all 12 steps –there is simply no way around it.
The reality is that the nature of your recovery, much like life, is ever-changing and evolving.
Sometimes, meetings provide great insights and offer profound words of wisdom. Other times, they can feel redundant and stagnant. There will be extensive periods of time during which we will think our sponsor can do no wrong, yet there will be times when we become angry or disappointed at him or her. The recovery friends we count on will relapse or move away and even further still, they will annoy us from time to time.
The 12 steps are constant
If you stay in recovery long enough, you will begin to understand that the 12 steps of recovery serve as your moral compass. They are, quite literally, written in stone. They are eternal and everlasting, unaffected by the whims and woes of the addicted people they serve. No matter what is happening in our lives, no matter what takes place in our recovery walk and no matter how badly people may let us down along the way, we can always turn to the steps for guidance. They will always point us in the right direction.
Not only does the 12-step program teach an individual how to live and enjoy a life without the use of drugs, they also operate as a sort of “how-to manual” for doing the next right thing. The 12 steps teach honesty, open-mindedness and willingness, but they also teach about sacrifice, spiritual surrender and alignment with a Higher Power. They provide a remedy to obsessive thinking and impulsive action.
The 12 steps show even the most spiritually and morally bankrupt person how to live a virtuous and honorable life.
The dishonesty, dereliction and degradation we experienced when we were drinking and drugging was not simply a manifestation of behaviors that are associated with addiction. We acted out in self-destructive ways because there is a problem with the way we think, the way we see ourselves and the way we see the world. These perspectives will never change unless we become diligent in working the 12 steps.
Only when we walk through the entire 12 step process, and make a continued, daily commitment to living the principles behind each step, will we live a life that is happy, joyous and free –one that is free from the compulsion to abuse mind-altering substances.
If you’ve centered all your hope in staying clean and sober on meetings, sponsorship or recovery fellowship, it’s time to realign your focus. Just for today, recognize that the solution to your ultimate dilemma –yourself –is found in the 12 steps of recovery.