5- Recovery Suggestions
This page provides you with information on some key tools of recovery as suggested and practiced in 12 Steps anonymous Fellowships. Knowledge and daily practice of these slogans or suggestions will help you ward off relapse to maintain your recovery.
1. First things first
2. One day at a time
3. Easy does it
5. Keep it simple
6. This too shall pass
7. Let go and let God
8. Live and let live
9. Pass it on
Below are brief descriptions of 9 of the key recovery suggestions in 12 Step anonymous Fellowships and how their practice can aid your recovery process. The practice of these key recovery tips will also help you grow in emotional stability and maturity, which ultimately leads to an effective and successful recovery. Practice of these simple recovery tools will challenge your old ways of thinking and make you aware of the twisted nature of our disease of addiction. If we employ the wisdom embodied in these guidelines to daily living in recovery, we will grow in emotional stability and maturity and find the way to get along with others, while fulfilling our human potential. Many of us have found that the application of these principles in our daily life not only benefits our recovery process but also can be beneficial in all areas of our lives.
By answering the questions at the end of each of the recovery suggestions, you can find out if and how you are applying these principles to your daily recovery.
1- First things first
Our recovery is the most important thing in our life, without exception. Your thinking may tell you that your job, home life, or one of many other things has more priority in your life. But consider: if you lose your recovery, chances are you won’t have a job, a family life, sanity or even life. As addicts suffering from a chronic and primary illness, our priority must always be on our recovery and our health. You will find that once you work the program, all other areas of your life will improve. By practicing the principle of “first things first” we remind ourselves that first and foremost we stay away from that first drug. Nothing else is more important, for if we lose our sobriety most definitely and inevitably we will lose everything else.
In a way “first things first” is common sense. We suffer from a life-threatening illness, so we need to put our energy and focus on recovery. But with the disease of addiction, which is fundamentally rooted in our minds, our thinking will try to trick us to use drugs again. Our thinking, especially in the early days, will tell us we are not addicts or that we have made a big deal out of our condition or that we need to sort out the other issues in our life first. Many of us relapse because of this delusion. We start using drugs again because after a few months in the program suddenly we think we have recovered and our priority becomes finding that ideal job, a lover, that degree. We have not yet learned to walk in recovery, yet we want to run the marathon. To practice “first things first”, keep in mind that you are an addict with a life long condition — and that you need to take care of your recovery above everything else.
- Write down 2 or 3 examples of how you are putting your recovery first?
- Write down 2 or 3 examples when you have not done so — what happened as a result?
2- One day at a time
One of the greatest tools to prevent us from relapsing is the wisdom found in the tip “one day at a time”. In the Fellowship we stress the wisdom of “staying in the now”. We try not to worry about yesterday or tomorrow, and this helps us stay focused on recovery. Many of us have relapsed because the idea of a life without drugs has been overwhelming; we worry that we will never be able to cope without our crutch. But if we keep to “one day at a time” –maybe even at times one hour or one minute at a time — we concentrate on what we can do right now to stay clean. The truth, of course, is that today is all everyone one of us has. No one knows what tomorrow will bring and yesterday we cannot change for it is gone.
This suggestion, as with the others, is not just for newcomers. Practicing “a day at a time” reminds those who have been clean for many years that length of recovery is irrelevant when it comes to the disease of addiction. Even after years in a 12 Step Fellowship we have to work our program on a daily basis. It reminds us to always keep our recovery as a priority in our life and not get complacent or become arrogant about the length of our sobriety.
The principle of living one day at a time enables us to manage life and maintain recovery. When living in the present, we are not bogged down in self-pity or guilt over what happened in the past. Nor do we spend time worrying about what tomorrow may bring. The truth is we don’t have much power over that either. The only thing we have is today, and today is all we are responsible for.
Today, I will do one thing, no matter how small, that can result in my change and growth.
Change happens one step at a time.
My responsibility is to keep taking these steps, however small, each and every day.
Today I will take this small step even if I don’t feel like it. One small step taken every day is progress.
When I manage to accomplish even one small thing that I set out to do each day, I can feel I am making progress in my recovery.
I find that action often precedes motivation. When I go ahead and take a small step each day, my sure and steady foreword movement and growth motivates further my recovery.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of how you have practiced “one day at time” in your daily attitudes/ behavior and actions.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of when and how you have not practiced this principle — what happened as a result?
3- Easy does it
Recovery is about much more than remaining abstinent; it’s about changing our addictive nature and our whole attitude towards life. This does not happen overnight, and it requires patience. Though we do it a day at a time, the journey in recovery is a long one – and we don’t demand perfection or punish ourselves for making mistakes along the way. We need to give ourselves credit for working the program and doing what we can to maintain our recovery. When we practice “easy does it”, we are challenging our addictive nature. As addicts, we tend to be compulsive. We have a tendency to go to extremes — always wanting perfection, always wanting more, always demanding things RIGHT now and my way. We tend to overwork, to overplay, to over study, to over plan. We lack the normal, rhythmic pace that non-addicts have in their lives, and the result is we set ourselves up for failure. Think about the extreme measures you took to find drugs and the tragedy your experienced as a result of your compulsive search for bigger and better highs.
When we practise “easy does it”, we become realistic about our expectations of recovery – and what we should do to maintain recovery. We challenge our usual way of being over-ambitious, anxiety ridden, and suffering from a never-ending sense of urgency – all traits common to compulsives like us. “Easy does it” means taking into consideration that we are in recovery from the disease of addiction, a condition that needs our daily and measured care and attention.
“Easy does it” is a good guideline for everyone in recovery but may be especially valuable for those in the early days of recovery, when we are suffering withdrawals and are overwhelmed at the prospect of a life without drugs. It reminds us to be considerate of our condition and not have too high expectations of ourselves. It reminds us that all we need to do today is to be free of drugs and to avoid anything that may jeopardize our recovery. We accept that we are responsible for is our recovery, and that everything else can wait.
Some suggestions that may help you practice “easy does it” in recovery are:
a) Don’t compare your recovery with others
Don’t attempt to accomplish too much too soon. Instead, have a realistic attitude about what to expect in your recovery. There are bound to be others in the Fellowship doing better or worse than you, so comparing or judging the progress of your recovery against them is pointless. Also, you may set yourself up for disappointment and a relapse if you start imagining that others are doing better than you. Recovery is not a race. Do your part to stay clean, and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Progress in the Fellowship is not about proving to others how well you are doing in recovery. Do your best – and give yourself credit.
b) Don’t carry a cause to the extreme
We compulsive people tend to be touchy, sensitive, rebellious and suspicious. We can be overbearing and controlling. We insist we are right and want things our way, and the result is we upset those around us. When we carry these attitudes into the Fellowship, we want to tell others how to run their program. Or we become a source of discord at meetings because we want things run our way. All these are ignorant and arrogant attitudes that are rooted in our disease of addiction. They hurt others, and they hurt themselves.
c) Don’t let excitement or fear carry you to the extreme
As addicts we have difficulty managing our feelings and may allow our excitement or fears to lead us astray. We may suddenly get excited about a new venture and — without respecting our recovery needs first — will act on it, then get overwhelmed, disappointed and head for a relapse.
e) Hand over the situation to your Higher Power
In recovery in 12 Step programs we have a God of our understanding to help with any problems or dilemmas. Our belief in our God and our trust in Him will guide us to take steps that will bring about a solution.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of how you have practiced “easy does it” in your daily attitudes/ behavior and actions.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of when and how you have not practiced this principle — what happened as a result?
4- Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired – H.A.L.T.
Being too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired are conditions that leave us vulnerable to a relapse. Our thinking is not straight and our defences are down. Part of recovery is learning to pay attention to these signals and practice healthy ways to meet our needs and resolve issues. When we were active in our addiction, we had no needs except to find and use drugs; this was our only concern. Drugs dulled most of our senses and we felt nothing except the high – and even that diminished as we abused more and more drugs. But now that we are in recovery and slowly becoming “normal’ in our functions and senses, we need to pay attention to our human needs. This is part of the recovery principle of self-care and self-responsibility — that is, to eat when we are hungry; feel our anger and process it through working a Step 4 or talking with our sponsor; going to a meeting or calling a recovery friend when lonely; and sleeping or resting when tired. By doing so, not only are we coping with life in a healthy fashion but are also celebrating our comeback to humanity!
- Write 2 or 3 examples of how you have practiced “H.A.L.T.” – taken care of your needs in recovery.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of when and how you have not practiced this — what happened as a result?
5- Keep it simple
As addicts, we tend to complicate things. We exaggerate trivial matters and then obsess about them, or we take on many tasks and then wonder why we have lost our focus. We go to extremes and demand perfection in all areas of our lives, including from those around us. And when things don’t go according to plan, we use it as an excuse to pick up drugs. The principle of “keep it simple” helps remind us that our energy and effort should be focused on recovery.
We can practice the principle of “keep it simple” to avoid getting overwhelmed with life’s demands — and we learn to resist piling demands on ourselves. For example, we can avoid unrealistically high expectations for our mind and body being healed right away, or expect that the damages from our past will be cleared away overnight. Instead we can take comfort in the fact that we have found something that is keeping us drug-free and trust the program will heal us in time. We also avoid setting impossibly high expectations for ourselves. Aiming for over-ambitious goals – whether a great job or perfect romance or round-the-clock serenity – is a prescription for disappointment, or worse. Instead, we keep our life simple, accept our limitations and humanity, and enjoy our life in recovery. Keeping it simple is the essence of growth in recovery for it reminds us who we are, where we are, and what we can and cannot do at this moment in time.
Our 12 Step program is simple. It’s based on a few spiritual principles that we need to accept and apply on a daily basis. Yet we complicate it, make all sorts of excuses as to why we can’t do it or cant do it “right”, thereby denying ourselves the comfort and release that is there for the taking in 12 Step programs. If we “keep it simple” by focusing on one thing or one part of a step at a time, the impossible is transformed into the possible by a series of small, manageable tasks. There is a saying in the Fellowships: “recovery is about progress, not perfection” — a great antidote to our grandiose and perfectionist minds.
- Write 2 or 3 examples how you have kept your life in recovery simple.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of the times you have not kept it simple — what happened as a result?
6- This too shall pass
The practice of the principle “this too shall pass” helps keep our addictive ways of thinking at bay and brings some sense of reality and proportion to our new life. Most of the things we feel, especially in the early days, are temporary – though it may not seem so at the time. You may be suffering from mental and physical withdrawal symptoms. The pain may be so intense that you think it will last forever and your thinking will try to convince you drugs are the only things that will bring relief. But as hard as it may be at the time, a simple reminder that “this too shall pass” can relieve your panic and help you tolerate these terribly uncomfortable feelings. At times like this you can be extra compassionate with yourself. You can remind yourself these symptoms are the things you need to endure to become free from addiction. At times your obsession and cravings to use drugs will overwhelm you, and you will think you have no choice but to use drugs. You’ll wonder if you’ll ever be free of these urges. But remember that today you have the solution, you are among a Fellowship of people who have gone through these same trials and are now drug-free for years. Just tell yourself that “this too shall pass.” Chances are if you share at a meeting, or talk to your sponsor or Fellowship friend, your obsession will be lifted and the cravings will pass.
Sometimes you may get bombarded with life’s problems: financial difficulties, economic unrest, a divorce or fight with our spouse — all of which can overwhelm us. You may think you cannot handle them and want to deal with them in your usual way of escape via drugs. The fact is that now that you are free from the chemical effects of drugs, you will have feelings, both good and bad. You may have forgotten how it is to have feelings or how to process them. But a reminder that the 12 Steps offer us tools for dealing with our feelings and coping with life’s problems can help you feel at ease. Or you may think that just because you are now in recovery, life will not have its natural ups and downs. But life happens and at times even more so for us in early days because finally we are face to face with the consequences of our addict lives. At times like this, a simple reminder that “this too shall pass” will give you a wider perspective. The most important thing is that you have not picked up drugs in the face of life’s difficulties, which is a great achievement and a miracle in itself. Finally, ask yourself in all honesty: how significant are your problems in recovery compared with your problems when you were active in your addiction? And wouldn’t they just get worse if you did use drugs to deal with them?
- Write 2 or 3 examples of how you have practiced “this too shall pass” when feeling overwhelmed in recovery.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of when and how you have not practiced this principle — what happened as a result?
7- Let go and let God
The practice of this principle in your daily life helps release some of the burden you may be carrying towards your recovery and life in general. By realizing you do not have the answers to all life’s problems, and that sometimes you need to be humble and admit powerlessness in the face of any number of difficulties. The answer, if it is to come, must be through a God of your understanding. Some of us misunderstand the principle of “let go and let God” in recovery. This does not mean that we should sit around and wait for God to take away all our worries and troubles. Rather we do what we can to deal with problems. We take the necessary actions, usually by working one of the Steps — and then we allow our God to show us the results in His time. In this way we feel relief in the knowledge that we have taken the necessary actions and have done the best we can. We can then let go of fear, worry, and toxic anticipation and trust our God’s plan for our lives.
When we practice “let go and let God”, we are restraining our self-will — that core addict impulse in us that wants things his way, all the time. We know what the result has been in the past; we know what life was like when we were using drugs. The miserable state it got us into is our prime example of how our life was chaotic when run on self-will. But when we hand the results over to our God, we are trusting His will and having faith He has our best interest at heart, even though we may be unable to see or understand it just now. When we work the principle of “let go and let God”, we are practising our belief in our God, a belief that leads to growth of faith and ultimately a deeper relationship with Him. If our God could come and talk to us directly, He’d tell us that He loves us and has our best interest at heart. All we need to do is to let go of self-will and let Him do his job!
“Accept guidance, stop struggling with God.”
- Write 2 or 3 examples of how you have practiced the principle of “let go and let God” in your recovery.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of when your self-will has prevented you from letting go and letting God — what has been the result?
8- Live and let live
“Live and let live” is the principle that is the key to our freedom and justice for all. It is the attitude we should adopt towards others, both in our Fellowship and outside life if we hope to live a peaceful life. It reminds us that we are not God and don’t know what’s best for everybody – an attitude we lacked in our using days and one which always led us to disagreements and fights. But when we enter recovery and begin to accept ourselves for who we are, we can extend the same respect and courtesy to others despite their shortcomings and faults. For example, we can accept that others in the Fellowship have a right to choose their own journey in recovery, that each one of us is entitled to their own mistakes and experiences. After all, who are we to decide how they should live their recovery or their life?
Often referred to as the Golden Rule in the Fellowships, when we “live and let live”, we are practicing our humanity and humility by not criticizing, judging, or condemning others. Being fully aware of our own shortcomings, we feel no need to control or try to make others conform to our way of thinking. We don’t get enmeshed in people’s problems or try to solve or fix them – and then get resentful when they reject our advice. We respect how others are living and value the way we are living our own recovery. When we practice tolerance towards others, we are free to concentrate on own recovery and building a better life. The practise of this principle can help end many of the conflicts in our lives and head off new ones, because we are minding our own business and allowing others to live, as they want.
The practice of “live and let live” in the early days helps us stay focused on our own recovery. We can better accept we are suffering from a disease over which we have no power, and live our life based on what we need to do to recover. By virtue of allowing others “to live”, we can extend the same understanding towards our Fellowship members and not only accept their journey into recovery but learn and take heed from their experiences.
Some ways you can practice the principle of “live and let live” in your recovery are:
1. Don’t gossip 2. Don’t criticize or judge others 3. Don’t try to change others 4. Don’t justify any resentment
- Write 2 or 3 examples how you have practiced “live and let live” in your recovery.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of when and how you have not practiced “live and let live” — what happened as a result?
9- Pass it on
The practice of “pass it on” is the spiritual essence of 12 Step Fellowships, which is rooted in love and service. When we help others — be it through doing 12th Step work or doing a simple thing like stacking the chairs at the end of the meeting — we are not only helping ourselves stay clean, but also expressing gratitude towards a program that was freely given to us. By virtue of helping others, we begin to value ourselves; we feel comradeship, and we start to feel we belong to a society that cares for us.
The irony is the more we help others the stronger our own recovery gets. By focusing on passing it on to others, we get out of self-pity. We are not lost in the past or future. We live more in the present, and we feel grateful for what we have. We get a sense of balance about our problems and feel grounded and rooted in our recovery process.
As someone in the early days of recovery, you may think the extent to which you can “pass it on” or help others is limited, but this is not so. Many of us in longer recovery have benefited greatly by hearing the experience of newcomers, because they remind us of the state we were in when we got here and how easily we could go back out again. Sometimes when we hear newcomers share honestly about the hardship and dilemmas they face, we are reminded of the hardship that we too had to suffer. We become grateful for the program and the free and serene life we are living today. As newcomers to the Fellowship, we can be the best source of support to another member in similar circumstances. Often we may think that people in longer recovery are “too well recovered” or won’t understand the things we are going through. But sharing our dilemmas and experiences with a fellow newcomer can be the best way we can help them and ourselves to get identification and support.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of how you have “passed it on”.
- Write 2 or 3 examples of how and why you have not practiced “pass it on” — what happened as a result?