By: Marilyn L. Davis
“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”― Oscar Wilde
In early recovery, it’s hard to know who to trust when we are genuinely seeking guidance. We’ve lived in a world where drugs and alcohol made people untrustworthy. Now we’re in recovery. We may attend recovery support meetings and hear different directions or suggestions and be more confused. For most of us, when we’re confused, we’re sometimes embarrassed that we don’t understand. Because we’re embarrassed, we’re afraid to ask for clarification, or can’t decide which directions to follow.
Going, Going, Gone: Shopping for Answers
An easy way to get acquainted with people in any recovery support meeting is to ask questions. However, some people ask questions, not for answers, but so they seem interested. I’ll refer to that type of activity as “Shopping for Answers,” and it is not like looking for the best deal or most accurate information. In fact, it can be manipulative; a ploy to get out of using all those directions and suggestions that others are giving you.
People shop for answers in several ways. One is to ask only people who lack experience in doing something. We sometimes hope that the information will be inaccurate and therefore, no one would hold us accountable for incorrect directions.
For instance, “I asked John, and he seemed uncertain in his response, so I asked Ann, and she didn’t seem confident in her answer, either, so I didn’t do anything.”
On the other hand, you can take their different opinions and get out of doing anything as well. “I asked John, and when he told me what to do, he sounded hesitant, so I asked Ann, and her perspective was different, so I didn’t do anything.”
Find Someone With Lots of Answers and Time
With these qualifiers, like ‘John seeming uncertain,’ or ‘Ann didn’t seem confident,’ you don’t have to follow directions. But John may just be nervous in his presentation. Ann is shy, and neither of those has anything to do with whether the information is correct or not.
The reality is that it is never in your best interest to ask someone how to do something if he or she has less than three months experience about the subject, and that applies to recovery, too. Click To Tweet
Not because they do not know how to do something, but you have more knowledgeable, qualified resources that are available to you.
Taking directions from people with more experience about a subject just makes more sense.
I’ll Look for an Answer I Like
Sometimes people shop for an answer because they know they can get someone else in on their negativity about recovery. “What do you think about the people trying to tell us what to do? Sure, they say it is a suggestion, but its directions and telling us what to do.”
Were you hoping to find someone else who thinks as you do, that the suggestions and directions for recovery are ridiculous?
Usually, the first person that responds in agreement and validates the opinion can now be labeled as an expert. You join forces with this person and fuel the impression with statements like, “You know, you’re right, it is wrong for people to tell us what to do, after all, we are grown-ups.”
So we now have two people who have most recently relapsed and only got out of jail last month and not asking others with more experience or time.
They are deciding what makes sense; all because they looked for the answers they wanted.
They started out with a self-serving agenda and found others to confirm it.
Why Should Anyone Give You Answers?
The other aspect of Shopping for Answers is that people see you going from one source to the next, but rarely following through with anybody’s suggestions or directions. When people find out, you can alienate people when they find out that you only seem interested in solutions and answers but do not intend to use their suggestions or directions.
In asking multiple people for suggestions for your recovery, you can manage their impression of you – for a while. You can posture as someone who is serious and interested in changing and in the recovery process. However, when you do not follow through with the suggestions and directions, your actions give you away. You only wanted to seem interested.
These types of discrepancies in what you say and what you do will cause people to distance themselves from you. They will not appreciate taking their time to give you a solution that you did not intend to use.
When an Answer is Rejected
For some people, they may question their suggestions and directions, judging them as inadequate because you didn’t follow through when they hear you asking the same question that you asked them just yesterday.
Whether it is justified that they internalize this rejection of their suggestions, it happens. And it had nothing to do with their advice so much as your reluctance to follow through.
Use the Answers!
My mentor wanted to know if I’d wasted enough time in my addiction. I took offense. However, when I realized how much time, energy, and effort I put into using, I knew he was right. I did waste time.
So, another way to look at Shopping for Answers is to realize how much time, energy, and effort you are putting into counterproductive actions when you merely Shop for Answers instead of using the resources.
Rather than wasting these resources and continuing with self-defeating behaviors, use the information given to you. Evaluate the suggestions and directions given you by peers, your support people, sponsor/accountability partner, facilitator, or counselor to decide if the directions, suggestions, or actions recommended have merit.
And don’t necessarily spend a lot of time judging the messenger by whether you like them or dislike them, but listen to the message.
After all, recovery suggestions and directions have been around for more than 70 years, so the information on how to recover is proven.
~ Originally published as a Personal Discovery Guide from Therapeutic Integrated Educational Recovery System (TIERS) by Marilyn Davis.
To learn more about TIERS and how it would help your facility or recovery clients, contact me at FromAddict2Advocatesubmissions@yahoo.com with TIERS work products in the subject line.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.
What answers do you have that will help people in their recovery? Consider a guest post, so people know that recovery works.