12 Spiritual Principles
Well, we have reached the end of the year and the end of our journey at exploring the principles of recovery. I hope you have enjoyed these articles as much as I have enjoyed typing them. Tune back in next year for an in depth look at other recovery related topics and how treatment can help people develop these tools. Before we sign off for the year, we have one last principle to discuss.
You know that saying, "save the best for last" well, I think that actually applies here. All of the spiritual principles are virtues that we all will want to strive for but this month's principle, the principle of service, may very well be the most important one. Why do I say this? Well, two main reasons. 1. from an addict or alcoholic perspective, selfishness and self-centeredness are amongst our biggest character defects. As a matter of fact, the basic text of the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" tells us they are our biggest defects and the ones most likely to destroy us. I need not tell family and friends of problem drinkers or drug users this, you have seen it for years. Since those defects are so dangerous, the act of service, or of giving selflessly to others, is of utmost importance in the world of recovery. So important that....2. this is the principle that started all of recovery as we know it. When the co-founders of 12 step recovery(Bill W and Dr. Bob)sat down for the first time to talk, the act of service was in place. Since that simple act, millions of people have gotten sober and all of them experienced someone else being of service to them and reaching out to help them. So people cannot recover or get better if they remain selfish and self-seeking and service work has it's place atop the history of recovery. For these reasons, I believe this to be amongst the most important thing a person in recovery can learn.
Service or as you lovingly will hear it referred to, service work or service commitments, take many shapes and sizes. For newer people in recovery, they often first learn the simple acts of helping a person "younger" than them in recovery to a cup of coffee or a cigarette(remember, we want to immediately deal with mind and mood altering substances, health habits are developed later by many). For the veteran of recovery, picking up a new person for a meeting, sponsoring(the act of guiding someone through the 12 steps), or talking to new people at meetings about recovery are all actions that some one can take to be of service. Often, sober people will take meetings into jails and hospitals, homeless shelters, battered woman's homes, you name it. There is always a way to be of service and make amends for years of selfish behavior.
Treatment serves as the ultimate shoe horn if you will into living a life committed to serving others in whatever capacity your life allows. Here at River Source, clients when ready are given opportunity to lead meetings, go with a group to a local homeless shelter/recovery center and feed and befriend those who are less fortunate, and connect with sponsors or mentors who can help them find service commitments at there meeting halls such as being a greeter or helping with clean up. To see such selfish people change and become examples for all of society to emulate(many times, people in recovery take service work outside of the recovery world to places like the Boys and Girls Club or Humane Society)is truly a miracle and makes what we here in the field get to do everyday absolutely worth it. People are fundamentally good and this opportunity to learn to reconnect with being of service to others is a priceless deed. Treatment helps make that happen like no other entity. Please have a happy and prosperous new year wherever you may be.
First and foremost, allow me to wish all readers of this article a warm, safe, and very happy holidays. This time of year can be difficult for families in crisis and hopefully this months article will actually shed some happiness on a dark time. This month we are discussing the principle of Spirituality also known as Awareness. If there is a bit of confusion there it is because in different recovery circles this principle goes by different names. However, everyone agrees the emphasis is on growing in your spiritual relationship. First let's attempt to help define an undefinable thing. What is spirituality? A phrase often uttered nowadays and maybe even especially in the recovery community is "I am spiritual, not religious". Of course this is a bit of a misnomer because if you are truly practicing a religion of course you are spiritual as well but I digress. The best way I know to explain the difference is this: Religion is the practice of following a set doctrine on your path to know God as you understand him/her/it and Spirituality is more of a freelance, "I do it my way with my rules" type of an approach. In my humble opinion, neither is right vs wrong. However a person comes to know their higher power is up to them since that is one of the most personal relationships in the world. Look at it like this. There are millions of people in the world who are self-employed and millions who are employed by others. Both sides have pros and cons. Neither is "better" than the other. I often remind people when I make this analogy, that every millionaire athlete or actor they have heard of is an employee. It all depends on what you prefer as a person.
So, for this discussion, spirituality is the practice of getting to know and learning to live in a harmonious and learning relationship with God as you understand him/her/it. I can't over state the importance of this topic in recovery. Addicts and alcoholics have been linked to lost vagrants or wanderers in a never ending empty wasteland. No place to go and no particular thing to do when they get to that no place. Finding purpose and direction should be amongst the main goal of any addict or alcoholic, not to mention family members. Although everyone's journey is different, a few common points remain. Almost every sober person agrees that their higher power "speaks" to them from the group of recovering people they spend time with, so they learn to take direction and ask for help. The addict/alcoholic soon learns that how they treat others and themselves is directly responsible for how they feel so their actions change. A true desire to find their higher power and higher purpose becomes clear. Now they are on the path to a new and different experience.
How does treatment help this process? Well, an AA old-timer(loosely defined here as someone with ten or more years of sobriety)once said "If you don't want to talk about God, then go get drunk". While that phrase may be a bit harsh for the new person, the reality of the statement is true. We must have a higher power connection to something or someone to grow and change. Treatment provides a safe environment with experienced people to help a newly recovering person explore, question, challenge, discover, etc. a relationship with something greater than themselves that will forever change their lives. The more someone is able to stay clean, the more they grow into that relationship and the more they commit to themselves to live purpose driven lives and to make a difference for others. Not to mention, reconnect with their families and rebuild those relationships. See, I told you there was room for a little hope.
This month's principle of focus is Perseverance. My dictionary tells me that perseverance means(and this is my favorite of several definitions because it really hits what we are driving at here): "to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles and discouragement, to continue steadfastly". Wow. If that doesn't some up what people do in treatment or recovery, I don't know what does. First, lets look at what we know about addicts/alcoholics and this topic. Ready? Here is what we know: Addicts/alcoholics have no natural perseverance at all. They tend to quit everything, with the exception of course, of drugs and alcohol. You may never find a person more likely to just give up than an addict/alcoholic. It is a debilitating truth. They quit on themselves, their families, jobs, payments, hobbies, school, romance, finance, eating, sleeping, yard work, sports, etc, etc, etc. Got it? Addicts/alcoholics may always be know for their inability to complete anything. If there is one thing you can rely on, it is to not rely on an addict/alcoholic.
So, since we are very clear on the above, let's talk about how and why that needs to and does change in recovery. While it may seem to be a complicated issue, it really boils down to just one thing mentioned above. A person who quits on themselves will never complete any other undertaking. Conversely, a person who believes in his or her self through perseverance, can achieve anything. Treatment plays a huge role in this process. It is often in treatment that people learn they can make it through anything if they persevere and have the willingness to do so. In no small part, having a group of supportive peers encouraging you to face yourself and your challenges can do wonders for the psyche of those in need of the self worth that you gain when you practice perseverance. In treatment, clients are naturally put in positions of needing to complete tasks(from step work to chores to yoga and exercise). With each task completed daily, clients learn that they are capable of facing, completing, and growing in all areas of their life. No matter how small the task, the lesson learned is huge when a person famous for not completing anything can change and grow.
Most addicts/alcoholics are brilliant people with potential to do much good for themselves and the world as a whole. They only need to find that fire within to accomplish and achieve. This is created through repetition, growth, challenges , successes, and of course some failures. In the end, if someone completes a 12 step process, they would have achieved a level of perseverance not know to many. They will have looked at themselves and devoured truths about themselves in ways that few on the planet can relate to. The self worth that is created and the knowledge that is gained from these achievements cannot be measured. It is no wonder that most who stay sober go on to create successful lives for themselves as a result of this experience. It makes sense. Once you have persevered and conquered your inner issues, nothing on the outside world seems like a task. You can achieve anything you want and you know it. All thanks to a big principle taught in simple steps in treatment.
This month's principle is unique in the sense that if you were to "google" The 12 Spiritual Principles, which of course has been our basis of study for this series of articles, you would find several different definitions of the 9th step principle. Since there is no official body attached to the 12 Principles, we are left to be our own judge on this one. The definition I like best, as each principle matches with a step, is Justice. The 9th step of the recovery process deals with restitution and amends and therefore I think justice sums up exactly what we are going for. Many people associate the term justice with the old west or some type of repercussion being served on some evil soul who wronged an innocent person. While this would be a certain type of justice, thankfully what we are discussing here is a more internally motivated desire to right wrongs.
If you have read some of our other articles in this series, you will remember we touched on both ownership/responsibility and humility in previous articles. We will want to remember those here. A great deal of both is required to reach the justice point we are striving to achieve. Imagine looking back over your life and making a written log of everyone you had ever wronged? Seems like a tall order does it not? Yet that is exactly what is required of those in recovery. Not required as in forced by a person or an entity but required as in necessary to stay clean and sober. Not only a written log but then seeking the person out, amending the wrong and gleefully agreeing to restitution. This is the day in a life of someone in recovery. Obviously it takes a considerable amount of work for someone to get to this point, that is why it is principle 9. Yet, it does not stop at just making amends. The pursuit of justice means striving to do what is right, fair, and proper at every step of the way. People in recovery learn that there is nothing more important than treating all people with utmost respect. From family to friends to complete strangers, everyone is worth the same fair treatment. The amazing things we see in the change in this attitude from addicts is staggering. I have seen people in treatment give back a few cents in change they were over paid at a gas station. The same people who used to steal from their own mothers. Recovery is in fact an amazing thing.
Treatment helps the justice process by helping people realize how selfish and destructive their behavior has been. Most addicts/alcoholics are good people with a strong built in sense of justice, the problem has been their willingness to ignore that sense. Treatment helps them identify within themselves how important it is for them to go back to their roots and connect with that sense of justice. This process not only allows them to treat others well, but is critical in helping someone love themselves once again. The age old adage "justice will prevail" is alive and well in treatment and recovery. See you next month!
Of all the principles we have reviewed thus far, this one may be the best representation of what the 12 steps can do for a person's life. For many, Brotherly Love seems a fairy tale or the direction of a well intentioned spiritual leader, throwing it out there to fall upon mostly deaf ears. But not so for addicts and alcoholics in recovery. Take one step inside a 12 step hall, an AA dance, or any recovery event and you will find about as mixed a group of people in there as you would at a United Nations meeting. You will see people of all races, colors, sexualities, age, gender, good looking, ugly, old, young, fat, thin, tattoos, no tattoos, men in suits, men in pajama pants, women dressed to the nines, women in shorts and tank tops, you get the point? The amazing thing is not that these people are all in the same place as you could lump the above mentioned in a movie theater, a ball game or a concert. No, the amazing this is that all these people are in the same place caring, loving, and supporting one another. It is not a rare scene in 12 step recovery to see a skinhead, nazi tattooed, white supremacist holding hands and hugging a homosexual, black man. Think I am exaggerating? Head to your next local 12 step convention. You will be amazed at what you see. Brotherly Love is indeed alive and well in recovery.
But why? Are most addicts not intolerant, critical, dare I say racist or homophobic? Many are before achieving sobriety. But again, why? The answer is far more simple than you might imagine. You see addiction is a welcoming foe. It takes all comers. It does not care what you look like, who you sleep with, how old you are, or what is in your bank account. The disease of addiction will welcome you with open arms and its promise of happiness and inner peace. No matter that it will spit you out later with no inner peace but instead in pieces. I think of the great Metallica song about addiction "Master of Puppets". Maybe no truer lines have been sung about addiction than when James Hetfield asked "Master, Master, where the dreams that I've been after, Master, Master promised only lies". That is addiction in a nutshell. But it sure is accepting of all people. Because of that, recovery HAS, I repeat, HAS to be the same way. If 12 step recovery is not as open and accepting as the disease is, it will cease to exist. FACT! We must overcome our differences, because as another philosopher(or I think an 18 year old stoner with a few months sober)once said "Together we stand, divided were stoned".
So how does this happen? Simple. It is not as if once someone hits the door of treatment they instantly drop all bias and love their fellow man. It is only when in treatment, the addict begins to 1. Work the 12 steps. When we get to steps 2 and 3, the God steps, we are taught by the staff and our sponsors that God loves all people and things and if we are to succeed in recovery we must follow suit. Our willingness to get better trumps our old hatred and intolerance and we are free. 2. When in treatment we sit for hours in group crying, laughing, getting real, and sharing with other people who come from all different backgrounds. We are surprised to learn how much in common we have with all people. Years of misguided judgment falls away in days as we open ourselves up to people we may have hated for no good reason. 3. Finally, we learn in treatment how important it is to help and to love and support all others along the journey. Since we adapt this in treatment, it becomes easy to take this knew way of thinking outside the treatment walls. Proving once again, Brotherly Love is alive and well in the warm halls of treatment and recovery.
This month's principle is: Humility
Almost every religion, spiritual practice, workplace, athletic field, school room, etc, etc, etc, preaches the value of humility. But just what does this elusive principle really mean? In the fabulous book "12 Steps and 12 Traditions" it is revealed that humility as a principle has a hard time of it in our world. The basic summary of their point is that much of what we see, hear, or read is about man's creation or progress. This is seen further in most of our pastimes and amongst our peers. Who doesn't like to show off their new boat, brag of their Harvard graduate or stand and stare and the long home run they just hit? As a matter of fact, you can make a point that humility is one of mankind's most talked about yet regularly ignored principles. This may be because in general, people don't really know what it means to be humble. Yet we must learn, because as the saying goes "eventually you will either be humble or get humbled, the choice is up to you". What a profound statement.
Before we define humility, let's look at humility's biggest foe, the addict and explore that relationship. Don't confuse arrogance or ego(the opposite of humble)with self-worth. Most addicts don not love themselves, yet portray themselves as God's gift to mankind. It has often been thought that this is due to an addict's low self worth, a charade of sorts that the addict/alcoholic eventually believes, just like the rest of their destructive lies. The number one thing that blocks us and by us I mean all people, from growth is our own ego and refusing to ask for help. Addicts especially seem to shy away from asking for help as if it was a hot stove. Part of the disease of addiction is to build up lies, delusions, and false truths leaving the addict to believe they are better than or have all the answers. This will destroy us if we do not learn how to embrace help.
Humility. Humble. Humbleness. Right sized. Whatever you may call it, it means the same thing. Remaining teachable at all times. Recovery is a constant teacher ready to reward it's willing students with many great blessings. However, we must be willing to ask and receive the lessons before we can reap those rewards. Humility is often displayed in how we treat others. I heard once that humility means "above all I treat everyone with respect be they a king or a street sweeper" Very cool. And a little Shakesperean so I doubly like it. Everyone also means ourselves and that is where an addicts problem lies. Another wise person once told me that humility means picturing a fine working company. Everyone knows what their role is and is willing to live in that role until it changes. The CEO must take on the responsibility of being in charge, while the custodian must work their hardest to make the place the cleanest and if everyone does it with joy, and gratitude you will have a great company. Makes sense to me.
Treatment can help the humility process by teaching previously un-teachable people how to ask and look for help. It is only after taking an honest look at our innermost selves, can addicts begin to take a look at how we handle the world and the need for humility. Only when lovingly confronted can addicts begin to go inside and do the work necessary to let go of crippling ego. We learn in treatment that the happiest people are the one's that are always learning and growing. For in treatment and recovery as in life, it really is the journey and not the destination.
This month we look at the spiritual principle of willingness. Willingness is the path to freedom, new experiences, new relationships, new awareness and all that is positive in life. Most, if not all, of the things we enjoy in life, we had to be willing to try or to experience before we fell in love with that person, place, thing, or experience. The fact that many people(especially addicts)don't spend time thinking about that very truth, does not make in any less true. See, most people in addiction are not participating in life. They are spectating. Spectators, do not make any decisions on the field, that is for participants only. So when someone is using, they lose sight of their ability to make a decision to be willing to have a new experience. Only when pushed, by their own addiction, to the breaking point do many addicts finally get willing to ask for help. For those who are able to grasp and achieve this concept, many doors open in life. We realize that willingness is the key to a whole bunch of unknown locks.
What is willingness? At first glance, most people would tell you that they know what willingness is. But do they really? Here's what I mean. If someone approached you with a check in your name for one million dollars and asked if you were willing to accept it and you said yes, does that make you willing? NO. Why you ask? Because you already want a million dollars! You see, willingness is not doing or accepting things that you would gleefully want anyway, willingness is doing and accepting things you don't want to do or accept. People ask me all the time "don't you have to want to enter treatment for it to work"? The answer is no. You have to be WILLING to enter treatment. Very few people(myself included)wanted to enter treatment. But we were willing to enter treatment. See the difference? Willingness only applies if you never wanted to in the first place.
How does one become willing? Ready for this complex answer.....They decide to become willing. See, you can't teach willingness. That makes this one of the more rare principles in this study. You can teach people how to be humble, you can teach people how to grow closer to their higher power, you can teach people how to be or service, but you cannot teach willingness. You can only point things out and, if you are a parent or a spouse of an addict, you can help raise their bottom by not enabling their behavior and by setting up boundaries. Yet still, you cannot make someone willing. If you say, "go to treatment or get out" and the person says "c-ya" that is their choice. You can do anything you want and a loved one may still not be willing. It is the nature of the disease of addiction.
Then what does treatment do to help someone with willingness? It would be easy at this point to say "nothing. You either have it or you don't" but that is not quite true. Just because you can't make someone willing does not mean that you cannot help teach them how to find their own place of willingness within. It is the job of treatment to help teach people how to find their inner willingness, how to take risks, how to step outside of themselves to build relationships with other people. It is also the job of treatment to honestly lay out the potential consequences of someone's continued use. As a wise man once said "you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink, but you can salt his food though". Treatment helps salt the food of an unwilling addict, with the goal being for that person to find their inner willingness to make a change. Once that willingness is uncovered, the world literally opens up for people and they have the most important tool/principle they will ever need to succeed. Once willing, all things are possible. Once willing, all things are within reach.
Words have an interesting ability to play tricks on people. Here's what I mean. Most everyone has heard the word honesty. Many of us practice it in all of our affairs, and the one's who don't are generally aware they are making a decision not to practice this important principle(in 12 step recovery, honesty is generally listed as the first principle someone in recovery is to gain on their road to sobriety and success). However, if you stopped someone on the street and asked them to define honesty, you would be surprised at how few people can give you a real definition outside of "to tell the truth" which would then need a definition of it's own. Honesty simple means: strict adherence to the facts! The definition is brutally honest in it's self.
Most addicts or problem drug users/drinkers abhor honesty. They shy away from it like a plague or an allergy. The reason is often more simple than what people think. When a person begins drug or problem alcohol use, they begin a new lifestyle. A lifestyle that many of them, when younger, swore they would avoid. Such people have no choice but to lie and manipulate themselves into convincing themselves the lifestyle they are choosing is okay. Here is where the problem lies, because once you begin lying to yourself, it becomes easy to be dishonest with other people. How detrimental to the recovery process is this? You cannot recover until you grasp and practice this principle on a regular basis.
But how, you ask? This is one of the many reasons treatment is so important. In treatment, a person learns through compassion, confrontation, and self-reflection the depth of their dishonesty. Since a person in treatment is surrounded by safe people in a safe environment, they are above to come clean with actions, fears, and ways of thinking that in the past they swore they would take to the grave. A person in treatment learns that without an ability to be true with themselves and learn who they are, they can never overcome the disease of addiction or make progress in what they want their lives to be. Most importantly, however, a person who gets sober and preferably treatment, learns or I should say re-learns that honesty is the best policy. Not because of some moral goodness(a thought wasted on a addicted mind)but because of how good it feels to not keep secrets and to be open and honest with everyone in your life.
Freedom in itself may be the greatest principle any of us have, however, there is one type of freedom that reigns supreme and that is freedom from self-deception. In recovery we learn the beautiful truth that the world is a good place and people are always willing to help and love us if we are willing to be honest about what we need. There is a great saying in recovery that goes like this "how can I give you right directions if you give me the wrong address?" People in treatment learn this and quickly realize the importance of being honest. Their reward is the ability to know and love themselves as few others do. It truly is the start of a new and wonderful life.
The second of the unofficial spiritual principles(by unofficial I mean no one or no organization has officially put there name on the list. There is no uncertainty that these principles work and are revered by those in recovery) is the principle of Hope. Hope may be about the most important of all principles or ideals known to man. In order to understand how important hope is, we need to begin by examining our outlook on life if we knew no hope. Our entire existence would be bleak with no excitement. Try seeing some basic, normal parts of human life if there were no hope. Imagine, if you will, attending a movie knowing that it would be bad, every time, every movie. What if you went to ask someone on a date, but you knew the answer was no every time, before you asked. What about a job interview, going to a game, reading a book, I could go on, but you get the point. You could easily convince me that hope is what makes all things with even minimal risk fun and exciting. You could say without hope, there would be not much point to life. Which, of course, brings us to addicts and problem drinkers.
By nature, the life path of an addict or alcoholic or the like, destroys hope. There is a happy saying in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" that discusses promises in the program coming true "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly". The book then promises "they(the promises of happy living, honesty, etc)will always materialize". Well, we can use the same premise in a negative here. Whether quickly or whether slowly, a problem drinker or user will always lose hope at some point. A person at this point, basically all addicts or alcoholics as we discussed, is at a very dangerous point. As illustrated above, most people without hope would cease to have much drive to live. Action must be taken as soon as possible. Someone's life may depend on it. For an article on hope, this must seem a bit depressing, but sometimes we must look at what something isn't before we can embrace what it is.
Thankfully, hope like all other principles, can be regained and enjoyed at levels never yet known to an addict. When someone enters treatment and/or sobriety, they are immediately(whether they admit it or not)struck by the joy and life passion exhibited by the other members of recovery they witness. Most problem users have lived far to long without joyful, happy people in their lives. Within a few days, and some time spent getting to know these other people, our struggling man or woman, starts to feel a bit different. There is pep in their step. They smile more. They begin to understand what Bono meant when he sang " I've conquered my past the future is here at last, I stand at the entrance to a new world, I can see"(I highly recommend the U2 song "Love Rescue Me" for anyone in recovery and their families). This brings a new feeling to these lost souls. The feeling is.......HOPE.
Hope that there is a future, hope that they to can change, hope that all is not lost. Hope that there family will be reunited, hope that they can still achieve all their old dreams, hope that it is not to late for love, for a family, for meaningful work and for life. This is why people get sober and people change. Just to taste that sweet hope again, or maybe for the first time. There is hope and it can be found in sobriety. It may take you, the person reading this article to see hope for yourself and then believe your loved one can have it as well. For as long as we have hope, anything really is possible.
This month's principle is faith. Faith is many things. Faith is wisdom without knowledge, faith is believing without knowing, faith is hope with a track record, and most importantly faith is what causes us to do things we never thought we had the strength to do. Faith is important to all people in all walks of life, but addiction causes us to use faith in a way many never thought possible. When an addict or alcoholic makes a decision to get sober, their personal life is general not in a good way. They generally have little to no personal success skills(not to be confused with success financially or in business, although as a rule of thumb most in new recovery did not fair to well in those categories either)to draw experience from. They are scared, lonely even amongst new positive peers, and desperate. The task of recovery ahead seems very daunting. One might wonder how anyone could stay sober through such a time. Thankfully, it does not take long in recovery for one to be exposed to the concept of faith and therefore, the concept of a higher power.
To put into words exactly how one is to find a higher power or what that means in recovery would take at least one book, but to keep it simple, everyone is taught how to find and create a relationship with a higher power of their own understanding. Many people choose to believe in what they were taught as a child and many people choose to develop a new understanding. The beauty of 12 step recovery is, there is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to your spiritual life. All that is asked is that strive to learn to put a period instead of a question mark when asked "do you believe in a higher power". Please refer to the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" for more detailed information on this process. Once a person is willing to believe in a power greater than themselves, they are instantly open to a new found faith. A faith that shows them they can trust their lives will get better, even if they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet.
Treatment plays a huge part in the developing of faith because a newly sober person has the opportunity to actually witness the miracles of recovery in front of their very eyes. When a person is able to see change in others, they begin to believe it can happen for them. To think that someone who once stood in their very shoes has now adopted a way of life that really works! Add in a staff that helps develop spiritual awakenings, and every person in treatment has a chance for a new experience, and therefore, faith. With faith all things are possible and to see the light turn on in the eyes of an addict is to truly experience a gift. When people have the faith to take on their drug/alcohol problem they discover there is, in fact, a new way to live. Many newcomers into treatment, often claim to experience a faith and a connection with a higher power that they have never had before. It is well noted that addicts/alcoholics are more apt to listen to their fellow sufferer, so it is of no accident that many awaken to the power of faith while learning to get sober.
Faith effects the families of addicts and alcoholics much the same way. We muster faith to take action to help our loved one's get the help they need. We pick up that 10,000lb phone or send that email(is the saying "10,000lb email in existence yet? It will be soon, I bet)and ask for help. We pray and rely on the experience of others. This faith allows us to do things we did not think ourselves capable of doing. Finally, we are all gripped with fear at different times and for different reasons. Faith is the ultimate weapon to fight fear, for when we rely on faith, we know everything will be okay even if it does not seem so at first. To quote the famous saying "fear knocked on the door, faith answered, and lo no one was there". Finding a faith that works may just be the key to recovery and happy living no matter what.
This month's recovery priniciple is courage. Courage is an oft misunderstood word in our world. Or to be more specific, the word itself which means "the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation", is not so misunderstood as much as the examples people come up with are somewhat limiting. Here's what I mean. Think about the places or people you hear about referenced with courage. Soldiers, citizens who risk there own well being to help others, people battling illness or coping with loss, and so on. Without a doubt these examples are all very worthy of being called courageous. Athletes are often called courageous but you had better be able to use the context properly if you but athletes in with those other groups. So as you see, it is not so much that individuals or groups that are labeled courageous are done so inappropriately, it's that there is a glowing omission from the list. YOU!
That's right, you. Everyone has opportunities and maybe even necessities to use this principle daily. The person who puts in 10 hard hours of work, the boss who is responsible for dozens or hundreds of employees, the stay at home parent, the doctor or lawyer. How about teenagers who have to face high school pressures every day? And certainly, the addict in recovery. Every person has within them the ability to face fear, risk or danger, etc. What we sometimes lack and this is almost always the case with addicts, is the confidence to do so or the awareness that courage for the most part is necessary for the battles within as opposed to the battles without so to speak. The courage addicts in recovery(and their families)need to learn to muster is not used to battle physical enemies or escape a burning building. It is used to face the ultimate foe, our own low self-worth.
Getting honest about the past, admitting our mistakes, amending our wrongs, striving to be the best people we can be, summoning a higher power for help, and the other necessary means by which we achieve recovery takes a level of courage that many thought they did not have. Seeing others make leaps and bounds in this area and taking it one step at a time are some of the steps that we take in early recovery to begin to feel like, as the big book says, "we too, can have this thing". You often hear people who work in treatment centers and/or the alumni of treatment centers comment on how amazed they are to see new people who on a daily basis prove still that courage is a principle that lives strong in addicts. What we ask people to do in recovery is not easy. Anyone who can complete treatment and get that 30-90 days sober is as courageous as they come in my book. They are then able to take the self worth gained and use it to better themselves and others in all their affairs.
In closing this month, remember that wherever you are and whatever you do, you have the courage within you to achieve and conquer anything. All you need do is see it in yourself. If you can't do that, look for it in others. Need a place to look? Try a treatment center where you will see dozens of people everyday using courage none of them thought possible!
This month's principle is integrity. Integrity holds it's place amongst the giants in the world of right living and happiness. It is no surprise then, when I discuss that most addicts and alcoholics have zero integrity before we get clean and sober. The most basic definition of integrity would decree that a person does what he or she claims they are going to do. While this is true, and while most addicts/alcoholics do nothing to disprove this theory when we are using, the depth of our lack of integrity runs much deeper. See, addicts/alcoholics often wish that the world viewed them based on their intention and meaning as opposed to their actions and words. Most addicts/alcoholics want to be good, right living people and in fact may believe that their actions represent this want. An addict/alcoholic actually believes that what they are showing the world is what is in their head and heart, when in reality they say one thing, do another and generally have no idea which is which.
Integrity teaches us how to be people who can be trusted and valued. Integrity as a whole is what everyone is striving for when they think of being honorable and reliable people. To be considered reliable, trustworthy and honest is to be truly appreciated and respected. These are cornerstones in the lives of anyone who is a leader or who has a happy life. Most of us are born and raised with a level of integrity passed on by our family and community leaders. As drugs and alcohol enter and slowly block our growth as people, we lose are integrity bit by bit because we no longer strive for the same cornerstones. In recovery, we learn how to re-grow our integrity and to be people of honor once again. The sign "Return With Honor" can be seen on the doors of meeting halls and churches where recovery meetings are held. Honor and integrity may not mean the exact same thing, but man, you would be hard pressed to find someone who has one but lacks the other.
In treatment, addicts/alcoholics in early recovery start from the very beginning to learn the importance of this principle. Often times, this comes from watching other people, generally the staff of the treatment center or the 12 step sponsors seen in the halls of recovery. These examples of sobriety follow what they say and live lives that are obviously in line with the 12 steps of recovery and therefore great examples for new people to emulate. Many newcomers push the boundaries of this theory by rebelling against rules or suggestions given at first. When they see that the staff respond lovingly but firmly, the new person begins to understand that people in recovery will hold each other accountable to the very principles that give us hope in the first place. Once we can get a grasp on the reality that a person of recovery is in fact, a person of integrity, it gives all of us an opportunity to experience that change in ourselves. We too, learn that we can have integrity and honor and to do so is amongst life's greatest non-material rewards.
If you or a loved one is looking for treatment for any type of substance abuse, please call NOW: 1-888-687-7332 or 480-827-0322 (your call is confidential)