Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Getting to Recovery: Statement Eight

Doing the Right Things

It is sometimes surprising how the fortunes we get inside those cookies at the Chinese restaurant can apply to our lives. I got one such slip of paper a few days ago. It read, "Instead of asking, 'Am I doing things right?', you should ask instead, 'Am I doing the right things?'" I was struck with how deep such a simple statement could be. Our choice of words so often dictates how we view things, and these two questions show how important it is that we choose the right words when thinking about our recovery.

There often comes a time in sobriety when we feel stuck, as though our forward progress has slowed and we have become mired in a sort of existential muck from which we can't seem to extricate ourselves. This is often a period during which we have been distracted by the minutiae of our everyday lives; children, work projects, car maintenance, yard work, perhaps a flare-up of our allergies or a winter cold. We find ourselves feeling like we are spinning our wheels, and invariably we look at our recovery and ask, "Am I doing things right?"

Statement Eight tells us that the fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth. This growth never ends; we are constantly changing, learning and broadening our horizons. When we find ourselves with that feeling of being stuck, of the walls closing in on us, we must realize that this is a symptom of having outgrown our current recovery routine. We have taken a turn on the path which leads us outside our protective zone.

Perhaps we find ourselves having drinking thoughts, wondering if being sober is "worth it", or telling ourselves that after the day/week/month we have had, we "deserve" a drink. We recognize that these thoughts are dangerous, and we follow them with the question, "Am I doing things right?" If we were, we tell ourselves, we wouldn't be having these difficulties.

Getting caught up in worrying about doing things "right" can lead us further down the path we have set ourselves on. We are already in a danger zone, we are already beginning to justify drinking, and telling ourselves that we are doing things wrong only serves to reinforce the idea that we will fail in the end.

Emotional and spiritual growth do not end at a particular point. It isn't a matter of reaching a destination and being done with it; we must continue to grow or risk stagnating and becoming overwhelmed. It is when we are stuck, spinning our wheels in recovery that we are most at risk for relapse.

Statement Eight goes on to say: Daily, I put my life into a proper order, knowing which are the priorities. This means being aware of the ebb and flow of our lives and adjusting our recovery plan to ensure we are not caught off guard by situations which can threaten our sobriety. When we ask only if we are doing things right, we close ourselves to possible solutions outside our current realm of choices.

Instead of wondering whether we are doing things right, we should instead be asking ourselves, "Am I doing the right things?" Does our daily recovery routine include the things that are important in our current situation, or have we gotten into a rut where we do the same things over and over because that's how we've done it before? Recovery is an ever-evolving, ever-changing state of being. The things we did at two weeks, or three months, or a year sober are not necessarily the things which we should be doing now.

As we gain time in recovery, we discover different things about ourselves that we want to work on; not taking into account our current strengths and weaknesses can hold us back and even sabotage the work we have already done. Complacency is a dangerous thing. The moment we think, "I've got this," we invite disaster onto our doorstep. If we are more worried about doing things right than in doing the right things, by the time we realize we are in trouble, it is in our living room chewing up the furniture.

A relapse can be prevented or interrupted at any time, but the earlier you recognize the signs of danger the easier it will be to bring your recovery back to an even keel. By asking the right questions, you arm yourself with a powerful tool that will aid you in keeping your recovery a healthy one.

Spring is a time of renewal, a traditional period of cleaning house. I encourage you to do some recovery cleaning as well. Review your toolkit and your sobriety plan, spend some time examining where you are and where you would like to be. Are you doing the right things to get where you want to go?

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