What is The Difference Between Someone Who Stays Sober and Those That Don’t?
By ShareGood Contributor Tom Messplay
A friend of mine asked me what the difference is between a person who maintains sobriety and someone who does not. I thought long and hard on the question. It is not an easy question to answer as there are so many variables in play. I find it best to share this LINK from a recovery website that comes closest to my beliefs. After the link is what I refer to as my Recovery Guiding Principles that I have developed along the way. These are what I follow to maintain my sobriety.
Recovery Guiding Principles
1. Do Whatever it Takes: There is a saying in the recovery community that says, “Put as much effort into your recovery as you did drinking.” Someone who is not an alcoholic may not think drinking took much effort. That is a misconception, especially for someone as me who kept it a secret for a very long.
2. Positive Attitude: The person in recovery must believe that they can be successful, even when it is most difficult. If I didn’t believe it was possible and worth it I would have gone back to drinking, especially early on.
3. Find an Alcohol Replacement: This is an absolute must! The person in recovery needs another outlet or something to keep the mind occupied. The idle mind is the recovering person’s greatest challenge. If the mind is not busy it automatically goes back to thoughts of drinking, how hard recovery is, wishing they had never gone into recovery, etc. Find new hobbies, meet new people, exercise, get involved with a cause, volunteer, etc.
4. Take Personal Responsibility: The recovering alcoholic/addict has avoided taking personal responsibility for their actions while actively using. That pattern can continue into recovery. People in recovery find lots of excuses for bad decisions and bad behavior. Ultimately a person’s recovery is totally up to the individual.
5. Self-Motivation: A person has to really want recovery. Too many throw in the towel when it gets too hard to keep fighting. Drinking seems so much easier than being sober at times. I don’t know how many times I see posts on the recovery websites/Facebook pages, etc. that say they just can’t do it anymore and go back to drinking. Some come back and try again and others are not heard from again. It’s not easy but it can and must be done.
6. Ask For Help: If a person needs help they must ask for it. Others don’t know what’s going on in their head if they don’t speak up. Asking for help is not easy but it is necessary.
7. Strong Support Team: I can’t say enough about the need for support. I am blessed beyond belief with the support I have had since the beginning. My primary support is my family and has been since the beginning. My friends, co-workers, the recovery center, and online groups have made a huge difference to me. So many I have come in contact with have much less. Some are in co-dependent relationships where both people are alcoholics/addicts. Some come from families with addicted parents, siblings, abusive relationships, etc. Some have had to make the choice of living in their cars, on the street; in shelters (when available) just to remove themselves from others who will drag them back. Some are set up for failure before they even start. These are the saddest cases.
8. Relapse: I have disagreed from the beginning the thought that relapse is a part of recovery. It almost seems, and in some circles it is expected. I adamantly disagree and argued such in group therapy sessions. There is a saying in the recovery world that says “Relapse is not a part of recovery it is the lack of recovery.” The acceptance of relapse as oaky allows people in recovery as an excuse to drink or do drugs again. When a person expresses regret for a relapse online I always challenge them, on why, what did they think would happen, and what did they learn from the experience and what will they do next time? If it is someone who has repeated relapse I ask the same but also challenge them on their commitment to recovery. I then build them up and try to instill confidence in their ability to move forward and achieve success.
9. Failure is Not an Option: This is simple. I refuse to relapse, which to me is failure. I was told in early recovery that my position on relapse as a failure and to consider any part of recovery a failure is setting myself up for a hard fall. Well, that just strengthens my will. I will not fail!
10. God Has a Role: The role of God or a “higher power” as used in AA is all over the board in recovery. Everyone has to do and believe what works for them. For me I believe it was God that woke me up and showed me the way to a better life. I relied heavily on God and my faith especially in early recovery. I believe that God helps those who help themselves. If a person in recovery puts out little effort than that’s what they will receive back. I have no idea how God is leading me, or if He is there guiding me, I just have to have faith. God can show people the way but then it is up to the person to do what needs to be done. At this point my prayers are prayers of gratitude and not asking for something.
Living by my guiding principles has allowed me to maintain my sobriety. Recovery is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and is also the most rewarding. My life is so much better now, and that provides a great source of motivation to continue the fight. I think about my sobriety every day. I work on my sobriety every day writing a blog, participating on recovery sites giving advice, support, and encouragement to those at the beginning of their journey, as well as those who are struggling in life.
Helping others is part of recovery. At the beginning of this journey there were times I felt like I was dying. I felt like I wanted to walk away from my life as it was to who knows what destination. Through all the group therapy and work on my own I found hope that recovery was possible. I thank God every day for where I am right now. I look forward to my continued journey with optimism, determination, and hope.
For more from Tom Messplay click HERE.