I will never forget the little speech that Sara gave at St. Joseph Institute during an evening discussion on relapse prevention. With strong emotions, she argued that the best people she knew were in recovery. The group chucked when she concluded by stating that everyone in the world should be required to go to rehab and have an aftercare program.
The point that Sara was making highlights how easy it is to go through life complaining about problems, exhibiting bad behavior, and never striving for self-improvement. However, a successful recovery from addiction demands that problems be addressed, bad attitudes reconsidered, and that a never-ending struggle to become a better person be passionately embraced. If the ultimate goal of recovery is to create “a life where it is easier not to use,” then a constant effort to become a different person, and have a richer life, must be a top priority. Sara claims that “lots of folks sleep-walk through life,” while a successful recovery demands an active response.
It’s not uncommon to hear the addict or alcoholic in recovery describe a glass that is half empty. They look at their life in terms of things they can no longer do, people they can no longer see, and places that should be avoided. It is so important that they begin to see life for what it can now become. Dreams can be realized, relationships gain richness and stability, physical health be restored and joy rediscovered. In contrast, addiction encourages people to see what they are giving up rather than what they can now attain.
Science has been telling us that happiness is in large part a state of mind that must be sought. The thoughts we place at the center of our mind affect our moods and our sense of joy. The addict that focuses on “gratitude” will have a better day that the one who grumbles about the challenges in life that must be faced in recovery – rather than escaped through addiction.
At the end of the evening, many of the other residents in treatment came to agree with Sara. Recovery could – no must – lead them to be better people. They needed to learn to manage stress, practice self-care, stop lying and manipulating others, and see their new life as one filled with opportunity. The best friends and companions might be found among those people in recovery who were determined to examine and overcome what AA refers to as “defects of character.”
That thought put a smile on many faces.