What It Means To Be Recovered
When we think of recovery generally, the idea of getting over an illness might come to mind, as may a return to health. With respect to drugs and alcohol, similar thinking about recovery has prevailed until relatively recent times. In fact, there is confusion today about what even constitutes recovery. Some providers unfortunately are redefining recovery to include dependency on narcotic substances, or even planned intervals of intoxication. The reasons for this unfortunate development are many but, as a result, the sufferer’s prospects for quality of life are inevitably compromised. Clients and families are left wondering whether they can ever be made whole again, and for good reason.
At CORE we won’t water down recovery. We advocate the 12 Steps. Our clients do find recovery, and we expect the same results for everyone who works our program. We are happy to tell potential clients about the quality of recovery that they can and should expect.
Recovery means nothing less than finding new life apart from drugs and alcohol. An entire emotional rearrangement happens inside where old ideas, emotions, and attitudes are replaced with a new set of healthy conceptions and motives. In recovery we become imbued with a profound sense of freedom, hope, and happiness. We find release from care, boredom, and worry, and begin to live with meaning and purpose. As the Big Book figuratively puts it, we find “much of heaven” and are propelled into a “fourth dimension of existence.” The essential condition, of course, is that we work the program. We must trust God and clean house in our lives. Although our substance abuse problem is beyond human aid, with God’s help we can and do fix it.
Once we recover, we also begin moving toward becoming the best version of ourselves. We find (a) honesty, (b) abstinence, (c) a spiritual life, (d) emotional health, and (e) gratitude.
Working the 12 Steps demands rigorous honesty. It extends to every aspect of life, but it begins by getting honest with ourselves. We may have been rational and well-balanced with respect to other problems, but when it came to drugs and alcohol we were powerless. Our personal experience amply proved this, certainly to our friends and families, and this admission to ourselves was crucial if we were to live at all. Moreover, our inability to control our use essentially left our recovery to one alternative, complete abstinence.
Recovery must include freedom from all drugs and alcohol. In our illness we pined for these substances like lovesick adolescents. It was a genuine obsession – we couldn’t imagine life without them. This obsession is lifted through working the 12 Steps and committing to live a spiritual life. Once recovered, we can safely go anywhere business calls or to social functions without any temptation to use. The Big Book variously calls this process of release a “psychic change” or spiritual “awakening” or “experience.” Regardless of nomenclature, it solves the drink and drug problem.
We also commit to living by spiritual principles because we begin to understand that our problem runs deeper than simply alcohol and drugs. Our selfishness, manifested in various ways, had defeated us in other aspects of life too. We had to free ourselves of pride, self-pity, dishonesty, and self-seeking motives if our health was to be restored. Accordingly, we relied (and continue to rely) upon God to remove from us all things that are objectionable. We make progress here, not perfection, yet the results are nothing short of miraculous. The release from our obsession thankfully happens, but obviously not on our own power. We had a common experience with the original Big Book authors. We realized “that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” This is a great mystery of the 12 Step program to outsiders. To us who are recovered, however, it is a great fact, and nothing less.
Living by spiritual principles promotes emotional health. We invariably find ourselves living in a new and wonderful world. It may seem incredible that we are able to rise out of such misery and bad repute, but we live happily, respected, and feel useful once more. More often than not we mend broken or damaged relationships with family, friends and employers. We return to the stream of life and find productivity again. We are able to dream of the future with hopes for tomorrow. Indeed, we feel reborn.
A deep sense of gratitude emerges in our hearts, too. “Love your neighbor as yourself” takes on genuine meaning. For us it is a pointed call to carry a message of hope to suffering alcoholics and addicts. It takes effort, of course, and may mean the loss of many a night’s sleep, or even interference with our personal lives and businesses. We are happy to do it, knowing that a Good Samaritan once reached out and helped us. Frequent contact with newcomers and our group also becomes a bright spot in our lives.
In sum, we think the foregoing better outlines recovery, where our attitude and outlook upon life changes, and we live with contentment and purpose apart from alcohol and drugs. This isn’t an extravagant promise. We see it every day. It happens for everyone who works the 12 Steps.