By: Marilyn L. Davis
Just Passing the Answers On
In early recovery, it’s hard to know who to trust when we are truly seeking guidance. We may attend recovery support meetings and hear conflicting directions or suggestions and be more confused, and when we’re confused, we’re sometimes embarrassed that we don’t understand, afraid to ask for clarification, or can’t decide which directions to follow.
The good news is that the majority of people are simply trying to help you by giving directions that have worked for them.
And an easy way to get acquainted with people in any recovery support meeting is to ask questions. However, there are people who ask questions, not for answers, but so they seem interested.
Going, Going, Gone: Shopping for Answers
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, hoping that the information will be inaccurate and therefore, no one would hold them accountable for inaccurate 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.”
With these qualifiers, like ‘John seeming uncertain’, or ‘Ann not sounding confident’, you don’t have to follow directions. But John may just be nervous in his presentation, or Ann is shy, and neither of those have anything to do with whether the information is correct or not.
Find Someone With Lots of Answers and Time
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, whatever the subject is. 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.
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 in recovery are ridiculous?
Usually the first person that responds in agreement and validates the opinion can now be labeled an expert, and your opinions coincide. You join forces with this person and fuel the opinion 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 most unhealthy response by shopping for answers. You start out with a self-serving agenda and find others that share 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, or see you asking the same questions of others, 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 in 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. 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 suggestion so much as your reluctance to follow through.
Use the Answers
When my mentor asked me if I was through wasting time in my early recovery, I initially took offense. However, when I reflected on how much time, energy and effort I put into getting and using, I realized that I had squandered those things.
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 simply 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 FromAddict2Advocate@yahoo.com with TIERS work products in the subject line.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.