In my recovery journey, I’ve researched and read multitudes of approaches for dealing with the issues we face with our addictions. I noticed through this that all of the approaches certainly have one thing in common: the ultimate goal of no longer drinking. While there are many ways to achieve this, mostly programs have three similar lines of effort, all of them resting on a similar, common foundation.
In a past life, one of the trades I learned was strategic planning. The key to being good at strategy is to let others design the details of their plans on their own, keeping the objective in mind. It is tempting to tell others how to do what you think best, but once you give your recipe, you turn off their creativity. Strategy must let others find the way to achieve the effect. A good leader can do it with minimal words and use only one picture to portray the vision. In that spirit, I drew a diagram of a columned house using only five words.
The paramount outcome of not drinking anymore is labeled ‘freedom’ at the top. Everyone else uses the word ‘abstinence’ for this idea, but that word is too matched concept of refraining from sex. Freedom, on the other hand, represents my ability to maneuver through life and its dangers in order to explore and grow. Freedom is not hiding nor holding back, but that which lets me sail places far from the safe shores near home. Protected with the armor of a sound mind through my lines of effort, I know both I can travel safely and that I have backup ready to step in.
One thing seen in secular approaches to twelve steps is wordsmithing the steps to fit the original ideas without deity. Twelve principles representing steps is closer to what I’m trying to achieve. However, looking for a way to simplify and harmonize the ideas into three simultaneous efforts, I came up with the words congregate, communicate, and consolidate to describe what I’m trying to achieve.
‘Congregate’ simply represents meeting in groups. It doesn’t have to be a ‘meeting’ but rather connection with others. There are multitudes of goodness in congregating for those of us in recovery: mutual support, idea sharing, and most importantly, to remind each other that as much as we feel good and are tempted to return to drinking, it is not a good idea and it should be avoided.
‘Communicate’ is just that: transferring thoughts and asking questions to stimulate our minds and keep them nimble. More importantly, it means to listen. Communication obviously works in concert with congregation, and communicating strengthens time spent together beyond just keeping each other in good company. It allows our soundboard friends to raise a flag when we say something squirrely, even though most of us catch it on our own as the words of insanity unconsciously spill out of our mouths. It’s good to have a friend to catch us when we are about to fall.
‘Consolidate’ targets the concept of reducing stress. Medical research points to stress being an enemy to all for many common reasons, but to the recovering as well as the recovered, it can be far more harmful: it can serve as a trigger. Reducing the weight and drag in our life, plus organizing and streamlining, are easy, achievable goals that don’t have to be draconian or herculean. Make your bed. Brush your teeth. Clean your sink. Wash the windows. Detail your car. These are all minimal efforts that can quickly polish your life and keep you clean.
The foundation of ‘readiness’ is something we already have, even if it is small. We all have life experiences to build upon. Some of those lessons came easy, but it I certainly have more things to research and understand every day. Reflection and critical thought are part of this process for me. Every moment of life does not need to be profound. It’s important to take time to develop and correlate ideas. The more I understand methods and purpose, the more efficient I can take on old and new challenges.
We all need to build and maintain our foundations and execute our lines of efforts to achieve our ultimate goal of maintained sobriety. How each of us accomplish that really is up to us. No one has a bigger interest in our individual successes than ourselves.
My favorite concept of the responsibility of recovery matches a question asked of us in a readiness class: Who is responsible for the safety and security of one’s house in Texas?
The answer is the owner. Yes, the owner can’t handle everything that may come, but certainly he or she must take care of the day to day chores and threats, and be ready to ask for help when a threat becomes too much to handle alone. Hopefully, my five word picture can help others think about protecting their house. Hopefully, I am fortunate enough one day to have them share their thoughts and knowledge with me, so I can in turn hone my efforts to achieve freedom.
by Chuck S.