Certain newcomers show up at meetings with no real intention of staying sober. They go through the motions for a little while, but their hearts are not in it. They fail to see themselves as addicts. They refuse to admit that the only cure is sobriety. They will indeed drink or use again.
There are other members, however, who do realize that alcohol or drugs is their problem and who do deeply desire to never again drink or use. Lifetime sobriety is not impossible, but it is also something that cannot be taken for granted. Above all, it requires intentionality and a willingness to be honest with yourself.
These are simple directives and tips for avoiding a slip. Often we are searching for some secret miracle cure or a magic fail-safe method. This is indeed a miracle, but there is no secret or magic to it. Relapse-free living and recovery from addiction come through consistent, daily activity over time.
1. Get a sponsor. Once you’ve admitted that you are an alcoholic or addict and acknowledged your desire to get well, it is time to seek out a sponsor. Don’t prolong this. The Twelve Step program is simple, but it is not easy. You need someone to guide and support you and help you to get the most that you can out of your recovery. There is no need to obsess over finding the “perfect” sponsor. Simply find someone who looks like they have what you want and ask them to be your sponsor. You can always change sponsors later if the one you choose turns out to be a less-than-perfect match. The important thing is to just get started.
2. Attend meetings regularly. Meetings enhance your recovery and keep you plugged in to the group. Whether you’ve got a few days, years, or even a few decades under you belt, your meeting is your home base. In the beginning you attend meetings because you need the information, the accountability, and the support. Years later you attend so that you can keep paying it forward and supporting new members. Seeing the faces of newly sober members is also a powerful reminder of where we will end up if we decide to drink again.
If you feel you need to recommit to sobriety and the program, consider a 90/90. Members that take on this challenge set out to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. The immersion approach helps to reset your focus, foster new friendships among fellows, and provide the support and stability needed to continue in recovery.
3. Speak with other program members every day. The non-addict world doesn’t always understand what we go through or where we’re coming from, but our AA/NA fellows—even if we barely know them—get it in a way that others do not. Sobriety is about living life in a new way. As we walk through day-to-day issues, we need support and camaraderie. Your life doesn’t need to be falling apart in order for you to pick up the phone and connect with another member. Speaking with other members puts down a foundation of friendship so that when life does come crashing down, you are trained to go to your tribe rather than the bottle.
4. Avoid temptation. We go a long way toward fighting temptation by simply avoiding it. You don’t have to prove that you can spend an evening in a bar if being there makes you feel shaky. Rather than be ashamed of your vulnerability, embrace it and take the necessary precautions. When we place sobriety above our pride and what others think of us, we protect and preserve it.
5. Be intentional about developing your spiritual life. It is God who has given us the gift of sobriety and thus it is of greatest importance that we get to know this God and develop a relationship of trust that will sustain us – not just in the early months and years, but for the rest of our lives. When we think we’ve got this recovery thing covered and that we don’t need to be dependent upon anyone but ourselves, we set the stage for a fall.
There are no rules for the process of getting to know God and developing a spiritual life. Begin by simply talking to God. Use the prayers found in the AA literature. Ask God to reveal Himself to you in ways that will allow you to understand Him. Ask Him to direct you as you seek to live a sober life that honors Him.