Some people don’t stay sober because things don’t happen fast enough. The consequences of their addiction have cost them money, jobs, respect from the community, and even family losses. Addiction is a disease of instant gratification. Staying sober means learning how to delay gratification and properly understand entitlements.
Recovery is about making internal changes and (if it’s meant to be), the external will come about in its own way and time. And whether you believe it or not, things arrive at the perfect time, not upon demand. I can push hard, but that always means stepping on toes, and we all know how well that works.
There are promises in 12-Step meetings, but they have to do with the result of changing ourselves, not someone or something else. If you want to avoid frustration and other triggers to relapse, it’s best to be realistic about entitlements.
No more hangovers – If you remain sober, you won’t get a hangover. This might seem like a ridiculous statement, but it is a guaranteed reward for maintaining abstinence.
Hangovers aren’t just physical. Emotional hangovers can be more painful than headaches and vomiting. Emotional hangovers make you sick with regret, shame, and being defeated once again. Emotional hangovers are guaranteed to keep you stuck in the relapse cycle.
Addiction has a miraculous way of erasing all the consequences of the last relapse and going for the next high. It’s like crawling out of the toilet and repeatedly flushing the lever, pretending it’s fun. Eventually, you’re forced live in the sewers of hell.
Help – If you stay sober and want help, it’s readily available. There’s much support; recovery meetings, sponsors, therapy, lawyers, credit counselors, free treatment, etc. Some people think they’re entitled to help because they’re trying to stay sober and have no regard for the effects of relapse on others.
Just because you’re trying doesn’t mean you’re entitled. There’s a recipe for staying sober, and if you alter the ingredients to your liking, you can’t blame the recipe. Chronic relapse is not only self-defeating; it’s a drain on the support system. To others, you attest that the tools you’re being provided don’t work. Tools always work if you use them. Don’t blame the tools if you want to do things your way and fail. You won’t get very far if you use the nail as a hammer. You’ll surely get discouraged, and so will those around you.
If you decide you don’t like the meetings or the help offered, that’s on you. Before my relapse, I decided I didn’t care for the recovery meetings. When I returned, I stopped judging and worked on being a part of the recovery community instead of a detached observer. Suddenly, I was in the raft, paddling with the others instead of holding onto a piece of wood, drifting further away.
Eventually, people get burnt out on trying to help someone who won’t stop their addictive behavior. Then, instead of getting flushed down the toilet with you, they depart.
A Psychic Change – All addictions are a substitute for love. If you stop addiction and replace it with love, you will experience a psychic change. This means that you will no longer be self-seeking and will attempt to think of the needs of others as much as your own. Instead of being compelled to get what you want at all costs, you follow “good orderly direction.”
Also, you humbly ask a higher power (of your own understanding) to remove your shortcomings. You do this every day. If you are close-minded about this, you are choosing to use a nail (self-will) instead of a hammer (a higher power) to get things done.
Instead of trying to get, focus on helping others. As St. Francis said, it’s by giving that we truly receive. But this type of giving isn’t about work. It’s caring about someone and wanting to help them. It’s by loving others and forgetting ourselves that we learn self-love.
Staying sober means we put all our effort into staying that way and expecting nothing else. We can strive for what we want, and sometimes, we can earn back what we’ve lost. But we’re never entitled to money, cars, houses, relationships, forgiveness, or trust – those things must be earned, not expected. When we’ve thrown those things away, we can’t expect them to be instantly returned.
When we keep doing the next right thing, good things happen. But they occur naturally, not because we demand them. We must do the footwork, receive the necessary assistance, and patiently await the outcome.
Recovery isn’t just about staying sober; it’s about building character and maturity. We will be provided ample opportunities to develop these skills. We learn to go through the open doors and refuse to push against the closed ones. Eventually, we will find ourselves on an effortless journey through life, where good things happen and flow to us with ease.
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Dr. Donna Marks has been an author, consultant, public speaker, and psychotherapist for over thirty years. She was licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987 and then certified in Addiction, Gestalt Therapy, Hypnosis, Sex Therapy, and Psychoanalysis. She currently has a concierge psychotherapy practice in Palm Beach, Florida.
She has appeared on numerous podcasts and local television. She is the author of two books, Learn Grow Forgive – A Path to Spiritual Success, and Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Solution (revised), and winner of multiple book awards. Her next book, The Healing Moment: Seven Keys to Turn Messes into Miracles, will be released in 2023.
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