Living a life of recovery is not always easy – this is especially true when you first start out on your personal recovery journey. They say that the first year tends to be the hardest, and many individuals who have made it through the first year unscathed can vouch for this fact. This is around the time when you are attempting to find your footing; navigating an entirely new way of life and learning how to sit with yourself without the assistance of chemical substances. It can be uncomfortable. It can even be quite brutal. But as time goes on and you continuously stay sober, you learn more about yourself and what makes you tick. You embark on a beautiful journey of self-discovery, and by the time the second year of your recovery rolls around you feel a little more confident in who you are and what you are capable of – and things only get better from there.
But here’s the tricky part. Many of us enter into addiction recovery truly believing that we already have it all figured out (despite the fact that our best thinking landed us in rehab). I remember when I first got sober and I heard all of the crusty old suggestions the AA “old timers” were slinging in my direction. Some examples of these suggestions included:
Make at least on 12 step meeting every single day
Get a Big Book and read through that thing
Begin working through the steps with a sponsor as soon as possible
Develop a structured, recovery-friendly schedule
Stay out of romantic relationships during your first year of sobriety
Men stick with the men, women stick with the women
If you feel triggered or unstable in your sobriety, call a sober support
Pray and meditate on a daily basis
Prioritize your recovery above literally everything else
Some of those suggestions were acceptable by my standards. I could probably make a 12 step meeting every day – unless I had something significantly more important to do, of course. I could probably shoot someone a text if I was feeling off of my game (actually calling someone seemed a little bit extra). I could meditate on a daily basis if I found the time, but praying every morning and every night? That was a little excessive for someone of my agnostic persuasion. Women with the women? I was going to pass on that one. Stay out of romantic relationships for a full year? No thanks. After all – these were only suggestions, right? They certainly weren’t rules, so I could pick and choose what sounded appealing. Not so much. After countless returns to drinking, I finally decided to listen to what others had to say. Once I succumbed to taking suggestions, I was actually (finally) able to stay sober.
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Why Taking Suggestions is Important
Why are they called suggestions if they’re so important to take? Shouldn’t they be called something else, like “The AA Guidelines” or “The Sober Dogma?” Well, here’s a little secret – you don’t HAVE to take any of these suggestions in order to stay sober long-term. All you really HAVE to do is remain completely abstinent. However, taking these suggestions makes doing that a whole heck of a lot easier. There are people who get romantically involved within the first six months of their sobriety but successfully prioritize recovery and still make a 12 step meeting every day. There are people who befriend a member of the opposite sex who serves as a good role model, and there are people who have a difficult time remembering to meditate every day but still manage to make it beyond their first year. Everything is relative. These suggestions have been developed over time because they generally make staying sober easier, and because that’s the whole goal. Remember that if someone who has decades of sobriety offers you a suggestion, they are not trying to put you in a corner or dictate the way you live your life. They are simply encouraging you to make choices that are conducive to your overall quality of life.
Is taking suggestions important? Yes, it’s very important. What happens if you fail to take suggestions? Well, you sure as heck won’t wake up drunk (not unless you decidedly picked up a drink, that is). But you might make the road to recovery far more difficult than it needs to be.
What it Means to Turn Over Your Will
Turning over your will might seem like a super involved, complicated and terrifying process. But really, all you need to do in order to turn over your will is admit to yourself that help has become necessary, and that your life has become unmanageable as a result of your substance use. Simply saying, “Okay, I can’t do this without help” is enough to get started. There is this whole thing in AA (somewhere around Step 3) that goes something like, “Turn over our will and our lives to the care of God as we understand Him.” The religious component of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous scares many people away. Just try to remember that the book itself was written in the 1930s, and that most things are open to some level of interpretation. A higher power of your understanding means just that – it could be the ocean, it could be your homegroup, it could be – as they say – a doorknob. Just so long as you believe that you are not the end all be all, you’re in good shape. Turning over your will doesn’t have to involve some big sacrificial ceremony, complete with linen robes, ancient chants and goats. Turning over your will is just saying, “I’m addicted to drugs and I can’t recover without help.” It really isn’t all that scary.
Once you turn over your will (and stop being so gosh darn stubborn), you open yourself up to take suggestions. You start listening to and heeding the advice of others – men and women who have stayed sober long-term and who generally know what’s up.
Intrepid Detox Residential – Begin Your Journey of Healing
At Intrepid Detox Residential we understand just how tough getting started on your personal recovery journey can be. Not only is addiction a disease of denial, but it is a disease of completely skewed thinking. Most of us believe that we can handle things on our own – that help isn’t necessary, and that with a little dedication we can get and stay sober all on our own. Of course, we eventually come to understand that this is far from the case, and that we need other people – and their suggestions. If you or someone you love has been suffering at the hands of a substance abuse disorder of any severity, we are available to help. Simply give our dedicated team of professionals a call and they will set to work developing a thorough intake plan – which includes transportation whenever necessary. The first suggestion you will need to take – and one of the most important suggestions of them all – is admitting to yourself and to others that you cannot overcome substance abuse without help. It can be a scary and extremely difficult thing to admit, but we are available to help every single step of the way. You can do this.