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Want What They Have? Do What They Do

Posted in Alcoholism Treatment

“I saw them enjoying themselves, and they all agreed on one thing: If I wanted to change my life as they had changed theirs, I could, as long as I became willing to do what they did. I became fascinated. Here I was, the scum of the earth, yet they came to me and invited me to join them. I started to feel that if I was ever going to try something different, I’d better do it now. It might be my last chance.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 508) 

Perhaps you are new to recovery or coming back after a slip or relapse. You wonder if this is really for you; if you really have what it takes to be one of the 12-step champions you encounter at your meetings. It seems like nothing fazes them. No matter what life throws at them, they simply keep on “practicing these principles in all of their affairs.” Their lives have a clear sense of purpose and serenity.

It’s appealing and you want that, too. You’re finding you’d like to live free of alcohol and the cravings and the feeling like you’re on a roller coaster that just won’t stop. How does one actually get there?

Perhaps the program itself overwhelms you. You look at the steps and the work involved and you aren’t sure you’re up to the challenge. How does one take everything in this Big Book and apply it to life? All the other members seem to have everything so together. “I’m a mess,” you think, “I can never accomplish what they have.”

There is no real secret to lasting sobriety and “success” in the 12-step recovery. Largely, recovery is learning the right things to do and then doing them over and over again. But we don’t make up our own plan for recovery. We learn from those who have gone before us.

One of the most winning qualities for 12-step work and sobriety is the willingness and ability to be teachable. Though you may know many things about many areas of life, your run with alcohol has shown that in this particular sphere, you have much to learn. Realizing you don’t have it all figured out, you must look to those who at least have a bit more experience than you.

After you have attended a few meetings and found one where you feel welcomed and relatively comfortable, look around at the other members and listen to their stories. Find someone who has what you want. Then ask how it was achieved.

Perhaps this person would become your sponsor or would at least be willing to talk to you about how he works the program. Listen to him. How can you emulate his practices? The recovery journey isn’t a quest to break new ground. We have the most success when we follow the program as it is set down and keep on doing the tried and true.

Your fellow members aren’t out to make your life difficult or unpleasant—they are telling you what you need to do it order to live. What they are asking you to do is nothing they haven’t done or wouldn’t do themselves.

Follow instructions and keep going even when it gets rough. You won’t be able to sit through an entire meeting without hearing someone say: ‘It works if you work it.” It may sound trite, but it’s true. In the same way that a car won’t drive if you don’t turn the ignition and step on the gas, your recovery will have no movement if you don’t follow the instructions.

Many people come to recovery with their own ideas of how things should be done.  While this is a decent plan in theory, we have to ask ourselves, are we really qualified to start giving ourselves advice on how to get over the drinking problem? If we are so capable of solving the issue and curing our disease, what are we doing in an AA meeting?

You are there because you needed something outside of yourself. The program has its own wisdom—paradoxical at times—and those fellow members have a little or a lot more experience than you. If they are maintaining sobriety and beginning to show themselves as functioning members of society, you probably have something to learn from them.

Set aside your own notions for right now. Listen to others. Ask how they got where they are and then be ready to listen and to even get a little input on your own program practices. In humility, ask for suggestions and feedback. Be willing to give new ideas a try even if they aren’t something you might have come up with (especially if they aren’t something you would have come up with).

If you want what they have, just do what they do. Keep it simple.