(Once again…taking it a little off-topic, but I can do that from time to time…today I am thinking of a friend who was lost to her disease just last night…)
For years, I have thought that it was complacency that was the biggest danger to my sobriety…what has been referred to as the Fourteen Step (of the Twelve Steps – the Thirteenth being when a ‘newcomer’ is taken advantage of by someone with more time…a very damaging situation). This Fourteenth Step is “Came to believe I could handle it”; meaning that we came to believe that we were cured and could ‘handle’ our drug of choice without any serious consequences. This complacency has put many recovering people on the streets, in institutions and in the graveyard.
As someone with long-term sobriety, complacency is something I have struggled with, and have to watch out for…reminding myself how important it is to continue to practice my recovery one day at a time; but it is the danger I know…recently however, I have encountered another issue to watch for, I have been calling it the Fifteen Step: “Came to believe that I deserve it!”
The past few years have been rough, as I have seen the loss of a few jobs, dealt with the impact of addictions in my own family, suffered financial reverses, and have had things generally NOT go my way! There have even been times when I questioned my faith, and my sobriety, as it feels like despite having done everything that I am supposed to be doing to take care of myself and to do the next right thing, very little has gone the way I want it to….this has left me feeling very sorry myself, which can lead me to the Fifteenth Step…a very dangerous step indeed
Feeling sorry for ourselves can lead us to justifying the next drink or drug…or as the old timers have put it: “Poor me, poor me, POUR me another drink!”
And this feeling that we deserve our next drink because of the tough times we are going through is natural, it is what we are hard-wired to do as addicts, it is part of our coping mechanism and part of our brain chemistry; however, this does not mean we are doomed to succumb to our addictions!
We do have a defense against the Fifteenth Step, and that is why I am writing this essay: it is not a sign that I am thinking picking up my drug of choice (whiskey of some sort) but I am writing this as I grieve for another friend lost to this disease…as a reminder that like our faith, sobriety needs to be stirred up every now and then, it needs to be questioned and examined, and at times we need to “keep coming back” to basics and start over again!
Renewing our sobriety can keep it strong, and vital, can help to prevent us from growing complacent, or from coming to believe that we deserve the ‘relief’ that a drink or drug will bring us; keeping our sobriety ‘green’ can help us to remember all the damage that a drink or drug can do to us and to our loved ones, and that it offers no real relief, only more turmoil and pain!
While this may seem like a lot of work, the good news is that we do not do it alone, but with the help of others who struggle, and face life head-on every single day; as sobriety, like our faith, grows stronger when it is shared!
And as our sobriety grows stronger, we can see the truth: that we DO deserve it! We deserve all the gifts of sobriety, all the joy of living that we can find in staying clean, and all the love and support we get from those around us (both inside and outside of the recovery community), which can help us to get through these rough times without falling into the arms of our addictions once again!
It is when we come together and practices these principles: of faith, recovery, compassion and support that we can find our way to what we truly deserve: to live happy, joyous and free!