Terminally Unique

On more than one occasion, I've heard remarks like, “Since everyone is different, is it possible that there are some recovery rules that may not be helpful — or even harmful — to some addicts?”

When I got into the program, I was told that there were no rules, only suggestions, but that they had worked for a lot of people and the chances were good that they would work for me, so maybe I needed to set aside my reservations and listen to other people for a change.

One of the defining characteristics of human beings seems to be the conviction that we are all different, and thus certain rules of living, behavior and society in general don’t apply to us. It is true that we are all unique in some ways, but it is also true that we humans have the vast majority of our behavior in common.

All creatures need certain things: air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, reproductive behavior and the other things necessary for the biological survival of their species. Humans need security, family, employment, friendship and intimacy. Finally, we all need self-esteem, confidence, the respect of others, a sense of achievement, morals, rules to keep society running, and related things.

Hierarchy Of Needs

So, what does nearly every addict lack out of the above list, at one time or another? Would it be fair to say nearly all of them? Aren’t these the very things that we often ignore in our search for better living through chemistry? Aren’t these the things we need to repair, or finally progress to having, in order to remain “happy, joyous and free?” Isn’t achieving those things or getting them back the whole point of sobriety?

Recovery isn’t about quitting. We quit lots of times. Recovery is about learning how to live after we quit — without using again. And in recovery, “terminally unique” is not a joke. It’s a diagnosis — and a curse.

Home Groups, Sponsors, Reservations, and Families That Use

This time we’re combining four questions that don’t require long answers into one post.

How soon should I find a home group?

You need to find a group where you feel reasonably at home.  This may change over time, but you need to look for one where you aren't totally uncomfortable.  Don't look for perfection, because it doesn't exist.  Groups are made up of people — all kinds of people.  Again, reasonable comfort is the key.

There’s no set limit.  Generally, it is suggested that we spend a few meetings in each of several groups, then stick with the one that feels best for a while.  When we’ve made that much of a commitment, making a home group decision shouldn’t be difficult.

How long should I wait to get a sponsor?

Generally speaking, the same rule applies to sponsors.  Listen to what people say.  Look for people who are happy in sobriety, and sound like it — consistently.  Look for people who sound honest.  Avoid people who quote the literature constantly, and look for people who make sense when they’re thinking for themselves.  Don’t wait too long, but try to choose based on those ideas.

There is no set rule, but since a sponsor is your guide through the program and the steps, it’s not good to wait too long.  If you’re doing a meeting a day, you should have a pretty good list of candidates in a couple of weeks.  Then ask them to go for a cup of coffee, and spend some time one-one-one.  If that feels good, then ask.  You're not getting married, but you don't want a one-night stand, either.

What is a reservation?

A reservation is an excuse to use that we make in advance.  Here are some examples:

  • I’m an alcoholic and can’t drink, but a little pot can’t hurt.
  • I’m a painkiller addict, but it’s OK to have an occasional drink.
  • I’ll go to meetings and do as I’m told, but it’s hard for me to trust people so I’m not getting a sponsor.
  • I’ll go to meetings, work the steps, and do as I’m told, but I’m sure that after I’ve been clean and sober for a while it will be OK for me to have a drink now and then.
  • I’ll go to meetings and work the steps, but to heck with that one-year thing.  I’m going to have a relationship if one comes along.

To put it another way, a reservation is a recipe for failure.

How often should I see my family members that still use drugs?

How often do you want to be tempted to use drugs yourself?

Talk about pushing buttons!  Our families hard-wired our buttons for us.  They can push them without even meaning to.  In any case, people who are using around you clearly don’t have your best interests on their mind.  Add to that the fact that seeing you clean and sober may make them uncomfortable enough to actively encourage you to use, and the answer is simple: very seldom, and always in the company of a sober companion. (See “reservations.”)

That's it for this time.  Keep on keepin' on!