So, in a sense, sobriety or being sober, is simply just not using your drug of choice, which includes food, drugs, pornography, alcohol, gambling, overworking and many other things. Recovery on the other hand is something completely different. Recovery means that we gain and retain hope. We gain the understanding of our abilities and disabilities. We engage in an active life, develop personal autonomy, a social identity, meaning and purpose in life, and a positive sense of self. We recover the person God intended us to be. What is important to know is that our addictions are only a symptom of a much deeper underling issue. On the top of page 64 in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says – “Our liquor was but a symptom. So, we had to get down to causes and conditions,” which means we had to get into action. I believe that in many of the rooms of A.A., as well as treatment facilities and yes even church’s, this critical step is overlooked. We must take action. Recovery doesn’t just happen. Nothing just happens. There is much work to be done.
I often hear these words from others, “Randy I want what you have. I want a relationship with my spouse and children like you have with yours.” My answer is always the same; “Then you have to do what I have done and continue doing - work for it.” I used to say the same thing to those I looked up to and their answer was the same one I give to others today. Far too often I see people walk into the rooms of A.A. or into church thinking that all they have to do is attend meetings or go to church every Sunday and their life will magically get better. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have years of behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, and actions that are ingrained in the fiber of our being. Romans 12:2 says in part ...but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Notice it says “renewing” not renewed. Renewing our mind doesn’t just happen, it takes action and work.
Taking action and doing the work to change involves stretching yourself in ways that at times will be extremely uncomfortable and painful. It is walking through this pain and uncomfortableness where growth takes place. My wife and I tell the people we work with that they are going to have to walk through their pain and shame of their past to truly heal from it. We have been going over it, around it or numbing ourselves for years in order not to feel it. It is time we start stretching ourselves. Stretching ourselves takes three things. 1.) Putting God at the center of our life and fully surrender to him and trust him. 2.) Have an open mind. 3.) Be willing to do whatever it takes to make the changes necessary to renew our mind. In a sense this includes, at least for a brief period of time, forgetting everything you have learned in the past about your beliefs in order to renew your mind. For myself my old beliefs and ways of thinking is what got me into the rooms of recovery. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for my old ways of thinking and beliefs, I might not have survived many of the situations I put myself in. Thus, as we journey down the road of recovery, we are stretching ourselves by adopting new attitudes while at the same time modifying our old beliefs so as to enhance our new attitudes in a positive manner. In order to truly stretch ourselves, we must become willing to learn a new way of thinking.
Until we become willing to let go of our past beliefs and surrender them to God, our minds will be closed to any new ways of thinking or believing. We must clear our mind of the old in order to allow room for the new. Everything we have learned and believed in the past has served us well, until it didn’t. In order to change, the first thing we must learn is which of our past beliefs or behaviors are no longer working for us. In order to do this, a thorough inventory must be done on our life. This is what is considered a 4th Step in the world of recovery. The reality is that a 4th step is something that every person should do at least once in their life. Once you have done an inventory on yourself, the next step is to sit down with a trusted mentor or clergy person and go over your inventory. James 5:16 tells us to: Confess your trespasses to one another, that you be healed…. Now that we have discovered where and how we have developed our character defects, behaviors and actions, it is time begin developing the knowledge to learn new and healthy beliefs and behaviors. This is where the work really begins. This was the hardest part of my journey. However, it was also the most rewarding.
While we are developing new beliefs and behaviors, it is really easy to become distracted and fall back into our old behavior patterns. In fact, I would have to say that almost everyone falls back into their old behavior patterns at some point in their journey of recovery, at least for a brief amount of time. I know I have. When we become distracted, we lose our focus on what we are supposed to be working on – ourselves. One way this often happens is when we jump into an intimate relationship to early. Our focus can shift from our recovery to pleasing our new partner. I have seen more people lose their sobriety/recovery in this manner. Generally, these types of falls happen when we are trying to walk this new path of life on our own. The changes that we will experience on this new journey will be difficult and painful at times. These difficult and painful times are the times we are most likely to fall back into our old ways of thinking. Many of us have become use to walking through life alone, trusting in no one. I would remind those with that frame of mind, that is exactly why you ended up in this precarious position.
Life is not meant not meant to do alone. This is why it is important to surround yourself with a community of like-minded and healthy people. People that will hold you accountable.
When I started my journey of recovery, the hardest thing to do was to trust someone with my darkest secrets, feelings, and emotions. As much as it was the hardest thing I had to do, it was also the best thing I did for myself. I had two mentors that loved me back to life. They loved me until I could love myself. I told them things I was going to take to my grave. Whatever I told them, never went any further than the time we met. They didn’t cosign my any of my nonsense. They didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear. Instead they told me the truth and at times it was painful. They held me accountable for my actions and words. They helped me look at my past in way that taught me lifelong lessons. Most importantly they taught me the importance of gratitude. Being grateful not just for the good things in life, being grateful for my past struggles as they helped me become the man I am today. Being grateful for the future struggles that lay ahead of me as those struggles help form me into the man, husband, father, and contributing member of society God intended me to be.
We all have choices in life that sometimes are laid in front of us to force us to turn to God. Before recovery I knew of only one choice; turn to my mistress alcohol, puff up and act like nothing bothered me, and put myself above and ahead of everyone else in my life. My wife, my children, and yes even God. Today I have a second choice. When things get hard and become confused and frustrated, I reach out to God and to one of my trusted mentors or accountability partners. I let down my guard and admit my confusion and frustration. Then and only then am I able to get the guidance I truly need. When I stopped drinking and using, it was easy for me. God lifted the obsession from me the day I got on my knees and asked him to take it from me. But not drinking and using was not enough for me. I wanted a better life. I wanted to be a better husband, father and contributing member of society. I wanted recovery and recovery is a lifelong practice and difficult at best. I wish all the best to you on your journey and will leave you with these eight keys to a successful recovery.
- Labor – You must do the work
- Stretching –You must stretch your mind and thought life
- Learning – Knowledge is the key to growth
- Focus – You must stay focused on your recovery
- Accountability – you must be held accountable for your words and actions
- Build on the past – What man meant for harm – God meant for good – learn from your past
- Application – Apply your new beliefs and put them into action
- Gratitude – Remain grateful for everything. Everything you go through and experience is a lesson. Learn from it.