As addicts or alcoholics, we sometimes fall prey to the belief that some human power (either internal or external) will keep us sober. We think that because we have x, y, or z reasons (often good reasons, at that), that we will be able to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, with this belief usually comes with the neglect of our program of recovery- we think we can do it on our own, because we have good reason to. However, in most cases, this reasoning is false, and leads many addicts right into a relapse. Below are 6 things that will NOT keep us sober, no matter how much we believe they will:
- Our Families
We would like to believe that the love of our families (parents, children, spouses, etc) could keep us from picking up again. Knowing how much we have hurt them, and how much they depend on us, would likely be enough, if it wasn’t for the insidious nature of alcoholism and addiction. No matter how much we want to believe that we can stay sober for our families, we cannot do so if we are not working a program of recovery. Most of us have damaged these relationships, and we need to re-learn how to show up for them. Further, without spiritual growth, we leave ourselves dangerously unprotected from a relapse.
- A Job
When we get sober, and begin learning how to show up for a job and be gainfully employed, we earn back a measure of stability in our lives. This is a good thing- it is by showing up for our employer and earning a paycheck that we are able to be self-supporting, and can begin paying back financial amends. However, this can also be something to watch out for. Many of us can take our careers or jobs to the extremes (as with most other things in life!). Before we know it, the long hours we are keeping at work are beginning to keep us from working a program. Meetings fall to the wayside, and we stop reaching our hands out to be of service to others, with the justification of increased responsibility and hours at our job. While it is great to earn promotions and work hard (particularly when most of us have been less than stellar employees in the past), it is also critical to keep working on ourselves. Which means attending meetings, working the steps, and trying to help others. If we fail to maintain our program, we will likely relapse, which means any progress made at work will likely go just as quickly.
- A Relationship
Whether you came into recovery in a relationship, or found someone in sobriety, you cannot stay sober for the sake of another person alone. While it is tempting to put off your step work, or start skipping meetings, in order to be able to spend more time with the person, this is a dangerous trap that many newly sober addicts and alcoholics fall into. While it is new and exciting, a relationship simply will not keep you sober. You may get by for a while, but if you fail to continue working a program, relapse (and relationship problems) will likely be inevitable.
- Material Things
A lot of people have certain aims when they come into recovery. One of their main goals is usually “get a car/make more money/get a place to live/fill in the blank”. Further, it is very easy to fill the spiritual void with shopping when newly sober rather than doing the work required for recovery. This is yet another dangerous habit, that can not only set you back financially (or have a negative effect on your credit score), but will only postpone the inevitable crash and burn. Trust me, while buying new clothes/cars/electronics/etc may feel good in the moment, neglecting your program will only make you feel worse in the long run.
So this one is a bit tricky. Because when we get sober, the fellowship of 12-step programs is critical to beginning our new lives. Making friends in recovery, learning to trust people, and having people to share a spiritual path with, are very important in sobriety. Not only does it hold us accountable, but it gives us resources we can reach out to who have similar experiences, and teaches us that we can have fun and enjoy life without the use of drugs and alcohol. However, doing ONLY fellowship and neglecting step work and service to others is very unsteady ground. True alcoholics and addicts, when we have been removed from drugs and alcohol for a period of time, HAVE to put in the work outlined in the Big Book in order to stay sober. Simply leaning on the fellowship will not suffice, though it may for a period of time. Eventually, you will need to begin to grow spiritually, or you will likely return to using.
Knowing you are an alcoholic or addict will absolutely not suffice to keep you sober. Many people will hit a wall, go to detox or treatment, but believe that once they know they have a problem, they can stay away from the drink or drugs on the basis of this knowledge alone. This reason is no better than any of the many good reasons we previously had to stay sober. Alcoholics and addicts suffer from an allergy to drugs and alcohol, and a spiritual malady which makes it impossible for us to live without a solution, whether that solution is working a program of recovery, or returning to active drug use or drinking.
Ultimately, if we stay sober and work a program, we will get to live an incredible, happy, purpose-driven life. But as our lives get better, and as the relationships/things/jobs build, it is important to not neglect our disease, and continue to do the things that allowed us all those gifts.