Stategic Recovery – The Benefit of Simplicity
By Chuck S.
Can you summarize your overall recovery strategy in 30 seconds? If not, it may be a little too complex. I took some time recently to map my ideas for establishing and maintaining a healthy recovery. Spending time to simplify its big picture helped significantly.
In my journey, I researched multiple approaches for dealing with the issues we face. I found all paths have one thing in common: the goal of no longer drinking. While many ways can achieve this, most programs have three common focuses, all resting on a common foundation. I’ll expand on those thoughts, but first, here’s why I made this effort.
A good strategy uses minimal words and usually only one picture to portray a vision. In that spirit, I drew a simple diagram of a columned house using only five words to show the vision of my strategy. They represent the goal, the lines of efforts, and the foundation.
Why do this? It helps me focus when I share in a meeting. My ideas should tie into the lines of effort. Also, it prioritizes my activities. If I am venturing into ideas that don’t tie into those lines, I may need to closely consider if what I’m doing will help the overall effort. Finally, the picture helps explain my goals when I discuss my recovery with others. The picture is, of course, worth a thousand words.
Secular approaches to the twelve steps often wordsmith the bulky list to fit original ideas without a deity, but they still are cumbersome. Using twelve principles representing the twelve steps is a version of that effort, which is easier and on the right track. In that spirit, I sought to simplify and harmonize the ideas even further. My picture cannot stand alone in explanation, but it serves as a simple map to reference while sharing. Here are those thoughts I said I’ll expand on earlier with reference to my columned house picture.
‘Freedom’ is the paramount outcome that resides on top. Freedom means to live a full life through your own choices. All efforts support this overarching priority. Given the condition of my brain from what I have done to it in the past, in order to live that full life, one of my choices must be to not drink. Others use the word abstinence for this goal, but to me that word sounds more like the concept of restriction [from sex]. Freedom, on the other hand, is not repressive but liberating. It is a positive feeling. Freedom represents the ability to maneuver openly in order to explore and grow.
‘Congregate’ simply represents groups. It’s not necessarily a meeting but rather it’s the connection with others. We sometimes refer to it as the heard or the tribe, or traditionally it is the home group. Multitudes of goodness come from congregating: mutual support, idea sharing, and most importantly, reminding each other that when we feel good and are tempted to drink again, it should be avoided at all costs. Congregation gives me belonging, security, and safety.
‘Communicate’ is just that: transferring thoughts and asking questions to stimulate our minds and keep them nimble. It’s when we share, listen, and learn. Communication obviously works in concert with congregation, strengthening time spent together beyond just being in good company. It allows our friends to raise a flag when we say something squirrely, and it helps us catch our occasional absurdity as words of insanity unconsciously spill out of our mouths. Most importantly, it energizes, inspires, and motivates us. Communication fuels me going forward.
‘Consolidate’ targets the concept of reducing stress. Everyone knows excessive stress can be harmful to all humans. To the recovering, as well as the recovered, it can be far more detrimental. It can be a trigger. Consolidation represents reducing the weight and drag in my life that causes stress. It is organizing and streamlining. It can be simple, easy periodic efforts that didn’t have to be draconian or herculean. Make your bed. Brush your teeth. Clean your sink. Wash the windows. All are easy ways to stay clean and polished. This effort can take on bigger challenges with confronting past problems. These are harder, but they are manageable when addressed. Both ways, the benefits are apparent. Consolidation reduces the energy required to live happily through reduced stress.
‘Readiness’ is a foundation we already have, though what we normally acquire in life is not completely suited for recovery alone. We all have experiences to build upon. I fortify my foundation through exploration and research of life at every opportunity, finding new things to understand every day, even when they are not directly related to recovery. Reflection and critical thought are part of this process; taking time to develop and correlate ideas. Mastering my thoughts create efficiency to take on both unresolved and new issues. Readiness prepares me for challenges through broadening and maintenance.
So, there it is. The entire structure is dynamic and simultaneous. Each part is valuable in itself, but in concert, the entirety is worth more than the sum of its parts. Fusing these ideas benefited me greatly by developing the linkage between my foundation, through lines of effort, to achieve my overarching goal of solid sobriety. Categorizing and mapping the effort was extremely helpful to show what I try to accomplish.
My five-word picture is a suggestion to help others think about how they help themselves. I hope it inspires others to come up with their own strategy, but everyone is welcome to adopt mine and use as they see fit. No matter how we do it, this journey is simply about finding freedom together. A simple approach works for me.