Recovery: Common but Different

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“Fifty years from now, I will not be remembered for how much money I earned, the type of home I lived in or the car I drove, but on whether I made a difference to someone’s life.” ― Karon Waddell


 From Addict 2 Advocate differencesPersonal Recovery Problems: Group Solutions

When we find ourselves at a crossroads, where we are trying to decide if we can put down drugs and alcohol, we know that we either have to stop our use, face our fears, make changes, and create a better life, or succumb to the temptations of addiction.

In this decision, we are all alike.

However, what got us to this point differs as much as someone who has blue eyes compared to someone who has hazel eyes. What are some of the differences that influence our recovery paths?

  1. A “criminal mentality” doesn’t apply to all people  
  2. Comprehension is personal
  3. Gender, race, morals, and beliefs may differ 
  4. Motivations aren’t always the same
  5. Not everyone is a quick learner
  6. People have diverse goals
  7. Specific drugs may have altered understanding, and the ability to grasp concepts
  8. There is no one recovery path for everyone

When we are new in recovery, it’s imperative that we find people who respect and can work with our differences. Whether this is a sponsor, accountability partner, or therapist doesn’t matter. Too often people have good intentions when they share their experience, strength, and hope. Unfortunately, they may also have unrealistic expectations of the how well or quickly another person “gets it”. What was easy for one person, is difficult for another.

What the Heck Do You Mean by That?

For instance, I don’t do math. Oh, sure, I can add and subtract, but much beyond that and I’m clueless. Algebra, trigonometry, and calculus – shoot I had to look up how to spell calculus – ’nuff said. I only remember the word, PI because I can think blueberry or cherry.

from addict 2 advocate differencesHowever, there will be others who relate to the math, and actually understand it. I’m not one of them.

So when we’re sharing about our character defects, self-defeating behaviors, or adopting spiritual principles, it may make sense to us, but it could just sound as daunting as the numbers or PI to someone else. That doesn’t mean that the sharing wasn’t beneficial, it just means that someone may not comprehend the meaning with our choice of words.

What Do You Need, Not What Do I Have to Offer

So how do we share, help, and encourage people? I think it is important that what we share is what the other person needs help with; not simply because we want to share information. So, I always start with some basic questions, but realize that there won’t always be common ground in their answers and my experiences, and it’s necessary to respect those differences.  

  1. What motivates you to change?  
    1. Consider: If someone hasn’t been to jail, there is no incentive for them even if you’ve been there 27 times.
  2. Why do you want to change?  
    1. Consider: If someone doesn’t have a family, why  would “getting my family back” be a reason for them to change?
  3. What consequences or outcomes scare you the most?  
    1. Consider: Whatever losses you’ve faced aren’t the same as someone else. If you were born with a silver spoon, or had great enablers, losing your Porsche was a significant loss for you; losing a bed at the homeless shelter is more than likely, a greater loss for someone else. 

We’re all Fragile in Different Ways in the Beginning

We all present somewhat differently in the beginning. Our individual personalities, beliefs, and values play a role in how we present our problem. Some people come into recovery support meetings and immediately talk about what’s going on with them. For the others, it’s a struggle to simply sit still. What are some of the ways that people are fragile, embarrassed, or reluctant to share their problems?

  1. Afraid of appearing vulnerable to others
  2. Posturing that they are okay
  3. Presenting themselves as a victim
  4. Acting disinterested in solutions and suggestions
  5. Appearing hostile and aggressive

Then there are some people who are genuinely grateful for any help. Yet, even with these differences, everyone feels scared in the beginning.  

I sometimes wish that we would remember more about how we felt, what we thought, and what behaviors we operated from on day one. Because that’s when we’re meeting someone else where they are, not where we are, or where we think they should be in their recovery. 

Determining Where They Are

Ask questions from a place of sincere interest in the other person.

  1. How are you feeling today?
  2. What thoughts have bothered you today?
  3. Do you have any needs today?

But just as importantly, ask them what they have done well.

Don’t take away a person’s sense of importance when they carry out something that is old for you, but new for them. Don’t dismiss it as trivial – oh, I’m sure you do not consciously dismiss it, but are you giving them enough credit for maybe reading the meditation book and getting the message.

Yes, you can say, “Good job”, but to show genuine interest in their accomplishment, why not ask them to explain to you what the message meant. Not in a challenging way, but from genuine interest.

Who knows, there might be a nugget of universal truth in it that you forgot when you read it 1, 5, 10 years ago. Could happen, you know.

Solutions Provide Different Gifts

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been comforted by someone with 15 days. They noticed that I was frowning, and asked me if I was okay. Before I belabor my workload, or writing deadlines, I’ll ask if they want an honest answer. Usually, they do, so I might then say, “It’s a day of pressures, and I’m not dealing with all of them well.”

Sometimes, I’m thanked for the honesty, and we can talk about sharing even the crappy days. I think it’s okay to let people know that recovery isn’t all grins and giggles, but when we share the burdens, whatever they are, with another person, they get lightened.

Then, I thank them for taking a minute to listen and then ask them how their day is going. I tell them that they have practiced the principles of service and brotherly love when they listened and I hope I was considerate and caring when they shared their day.from addict 2 advocate marilyn l davis

And a hug at this point helps us both. If we’re fortunate, someone else walks by the men’s recovery home where I work, and we get a group hug – you should foster this each chance you get.

Working Together, We All Improve

Working with people is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Watching them change, become their best selves, and seeing them reap the rewards of their hard work is gratifying. And it’s their hard work, all I ever did was cheer them on and offer some suggestions.

My sponsor has less time than me. She’s my second in 28 years. My first sponsor moved away. While we stay in touch, I appreciate the time spent over coffee with a sponsor.

So, we can learn from those with more time, or even less, if the relationship is about mutual respect, care, understanding, and helping the other grow emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.

So are you sponsoring, being an accountability partner, and are you trying to learn from others? 


Writing, and recovery heals the heart

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