Growth Before Happiness in the 12-Step Program

Recovery Reflections: October 25, 2017

Hello there, my name is Leah and I would like to welcome you once more to Detox to Rehab’s Recovery Reflections. Please join us and listen to the experience, strength and hope shared by Brandon, Jen, Patrick and Joey.

We pre-record one of our reflections every week for you to watch. In the sessions, these individuals will express how the reading of the week relates to their own experiences in recovery and how it has helped them along their paths.

Alcoholics Anonymous

October 18, 2017: Growth in the Program

There are only two sins; the first is to interfere with the growth of another human being, and the second is to interfere with one’s own growth.

Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 542 (third edition)

Happiness is such an elusive state. How often do my “prayers” for others involve “hidden” prayers for my own agenda? How often is my search for happiness a boulder in the path of growth for another, or even myself? Seeking growth through humility and acceptance brings things that appear to be anything but good, wholesome and vital. Yet in looking back, I can see that pain, struggles and setbacks have all contributed eventually to serenity through growth in the program. I ask my higher power to help me not cause another’s lack of growth today—or my own.

Avoiding Selfish Wishes and Prayers

In recovery from addiction, the focus should pull away from what you want as an individual. In the beginning of a person’s recovery, the other people in the community help her through those early and challenging days. As that person becomes more stable and established in sobriety, she hopefully accepts service into her life and begins to help others who are new to the game. In this way, she is growing because her concern includes others.

Addiction can consume you into selfishness and life becomes a pleasure quest for your drug of choice. In active addiction, nothing can stand in the way of getting that next fix. Not the law. Not your concept of right and wrong. Not even the people you love.

Recovery from addiction then must move away from selfishness and integrate service to others into a sober life. Many argue that their service commitments are the only reason they have gained the things they have now.

Patrick said, for example, “Things that I’m grateful for only come because I use them to help others.”

Growth in Addiction Recovery

The efforts to help others and to do good in the world bring more personal growth than any effort to fix yourself or better your own situation via control could. The direct pursuit of happiness can sometimes get in the way of the actual work, the work of improving yourself as a person, the work of growth.

Joey suggested: “Get out of the way and trust the process.”

Recovery can’t be accomplished alone; it too takes a village, as the saying goes. If you try to take up your own growth as something you can control, it won’t work. The growth most needed by someone who has struggled with addiction requires a bigger effort. It requires a contribution to something bigger than yourself.

The process of the 12-step, and other programs designed for addiction recovery, work. You have to get your own ego out of it and allow the experiences you have in the process to do the work.

“[Sometimes] I try to run the show and essentially control my life… in my experience, thinking that way has really robbed me of opportunities,” said Jen.

For many, addiction and substance abuse are related to control. If I take this drug, or drink this, it will make me feel good, or relaxed, or excited, or it will alleviate the bad feelings and so on. This kind of instant gratification becomes a behavioral pattern.

A goal of recovery is to change this behavioral pattern overall. If you simply remove drugs as the source of instant gratification, the pattern will continue. This could lead to relapse. Even if it doesn’t, though, this isn’t a healthy way to live and it probably won’t bring true happiness.

Happiness Comes by Working the Program

Brandon said, “When I came in here, I wasn’t necessarily seeking happiness. I was just seeking to be okay.”

Even though Brandon wasn’t seeking happiness, he found it in the process of working the program. Happiness is a complex and vague notion. Sometimes we think we know what will make us happy, but real happiness comes with fulfillment and wellbeing. First, we must grow into healthier people.

That growth happens through working the program. It happens through service and consideration of others. As you build a bigger community of people who care about you and who you in turn care about, happiness grows. It grows as you learn to be honest with yourself and as you hold yourself accountable to embody the values you claim to have.

If you are struggling to overcome substance abuse and want to try a new approach to finding happiness, there are people who want to help. Call 866-578-7471 to speak with an addiction specialist who is in recovery and can relate to your experience.

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