When a person is invited to attend 12-step meetings by the law or personal choice there may be some confusion, perhaps questions regarding the goals of attending meetings. 12-step meetings are a group of individuals sharing the experiences, strengths, and hopes of living sober. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics, Anonymous, Gambler’s Anonymous, Over-eaters Anonymous, and many more. There is a 12-step program for nearly every addiction, disorder, or other problems. These also include those for individuals who live with dual disorders, addiction or alcoholism and a mental disorder. Sobriety is used to mean the lack of use of any one of the substances or behavior.
Sobriety is the abstinence from use. It may be an inadvertent choice, as in arrest, hospitalization, or other intervention, perhaps even a conscious decision to stop using. Sobriety may be continued by attending support groups, utilizing a support system and the literature available. The lack of use remains intact perhaps for a month or longer. There are those who may remain sober without attending support groups, treatment programs, incarceration, or utilizing a support system. There is no research to support which avenue of sobriety is better or worse. Statistics are lacking in regards to the benefits, however, there are personal stories which reflect the use of a support system is beneficial to his or her life.
Sobriety can be a rewarding, fun time in an individual’s life. However, it can be miserable or pleasurable. There is a choice to be made when someone takes the path of sobriety, to recover or suffer. Both terms are open to interpretation based upon the person’s own beliefs, but there is a universal definition that will be utilized here.
Suffering is the lack of healing, the continuation of doing the same things expecting different results. A quote credited to Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (http://www.professorstein.com/quotes.htm) (This quote has also been credited to Thomas Edison but phrased differently. The source of the phrase depends on who you ask.) The meaning is clear, continue to behave and think the same as you did when using (drugs, alcohol, etc.) eventually one of two things can happen: use again or be miserable. The second again is dependent on perception, but it will appear as misery to those who listen to you. Complaining, being angry, irritable, unhappy, are each common to the person who does not make changes. Now, the exception is of course acquainting yourself with others who share in your beliefs. This is highly possible.
Recovery is healing, changing everything in your life one step at a time. Facing the fear, guilt, shame, anger, grief, one at a time when possible, and healing. It has yet to be proved that there is no one entering sobriety that does not have baggage of some sort. Those who turn to drugs and alcohol, food, sex, risk taking behavior, gambling, what ever the substance do so because there is something in their life that has become unbearable and he or she wants to fix it, to escape, to feel better. When a choice for recovery occurs it means you have taken the commitment to face the demons and send them packing. Finding a good therapist, support system, developing a safe place, creating a self-contract to recovery, which includes no more escapist behavior, no more harming self, being willing to travel the road less traveled, recovery at all cost.
Suffering means daily misery, as perceived by self and others. Recovery means daily changes, surprises, and healing. With recovery comes so much more joy and happiness, even when you cry and feel the fear. When the storm passes the air is always crisp and clean. Recovery is similar, running the same course.
Recovery or suffering in sobriety is as much a personal choice as sobriety is. How you get to recovery is up to you, but it is suggested that during the first year of sobriety you make no drastic changes, it can be hazardous. Many have fallen back to the substance abuse that brought them to sobriety in the first place. Let the first year happen, share, have fun, learn what sobriety and the 12-steps of your program are, how it works, never mind why. Look at the similarities and forget the differences, shake the hand of the person you are most afraid of and say hello. You never know that person could be your best friend. Take time to get to know the person before you take the plunge to share your most intimate fears. Use the share-check-share method, in other words share something about yourself you could care less if others know, without saying that, then wait, see if it is told to others. Repeat with another intimate detail a bit more personal, but still it will not matter if others find out. Wait a bit, see if it comes back to you. If not this is a person you should be able to trust with the worst and the best of your life. Develop relationships, but do not be disappointed when they disappear. Recovery is about growing up all over again.