“The greatest ideas are the simplest.” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies
When many of us come into recovery, early on we seem to carry around a head full of what we feel certain we need to have or do in order to succeed. Then, usually quite quickly, we come face-to-face with the truth (oftentimes spoken to us by a sponsor or staff member): “If you knew how to recover, you wouldn’t be here.”
In other words, those who’ve successfully recovered and those who’re trained and practiced in helping others recover have a time-tested map to guide “newcomers” forward into living a new way of life, free of the ravages, chaos, compulsions and heartache of our former lives.
And while that “map of recovery” may seem complicated or complex to us at first glance, the fact is: Recovery is simple, but not always easy.
Let’s break that statement down into its two essential parts.
First, recovery is simple means there are just a handful of basics required to “get clean and stay clean”:
- Don’t use, no matter what.
- Ask for help and follow suggestions. No one can read your mind, so when you’re upset, anxious, hurting or feeling compelled to act out in any way, tell someone on staff, your sponsor or someone who’s clearly working a good program of recovery… and be open-minded about taking and applying their recommendation(s).
- “Meeting-makers make it” – Commit to attend recovery meetings every day, whether in a rehab center or a 12 Steps meeting place.
- “Work the Steps” – Get a sponsor, call your sponsor and use your sponsor to guide you in learning and living the 12 Steps in your daily life.
- Be of service to others – Each day, replace the self-centeredness of the past with a willingness to help others, whenever you’re called upon and able to do so.
Pretty simple, right? There’s nothing really complicated in any of the points listed above. And yet they comprise the essence of developing a strong recovery foundation and establishing a new way of life.
What about that second part of the statement above? Recovery is not always easy.
It’s true, because “Life shows up” is a fact we all must face. That means, along everyone’s journey in recovery, challenges will inevitably arise—relationship issues, financial hardships, legal matters, death of a loved one, loss of a job, past emotional wounds that need attention or healing (and the list goes on)—and each one can make it hard for us to “stay on the path” we’ve committed ourselves to.
However, we can choose to “keep it simple” by ensuring we’re putting our recovery first – that means, we continue doing the five bullet-points listed above, no matter what, so we’re remaining steadfast in our desire to move forward in recovery, no matter what we’re facing.
Certainly, it may not be painless or undemanding to address the challenges life presents to us, especially those situations that pull at our hearts or stir up fear in us. But we can choose to continue placing our recovery squarely in front of us, “doing what we know to be right” (the “basics of recovery” listed above), and then determine the best course of action to take, given the set of circumstances we’re dealing with.
Inevitably we’ll find, recovery is indeed simple and we can follow its simple requirements, even though our lives in recovery are not always easy.