By: Marilyn L. Davis
I’ve Been Guilty of Shopping for Answers, Too
I met with Gray Hawk daily. He had 34 years in recovery and was 74 years old, so not wasting time was important to him. I told him that there were conflicting suggestions given at a meeting I attended that day, and wasn’t sure if I should follow the suggestions. Gray Hawk asked me” Are you shopping for answers like you shop for clothes? Only wanting one that fits or is the right color? Then you aren’t willing to change, explore other suggestions, and you may be wasting my time.” ~Marilyn L. Davis from her memoir, Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate
While that may seem like a harsh set of questions, Gray Hawk didn’t mince words with me, nor did he expect less than my best at following his suggestions and not shop for answers. Shopping for Answers is not like looking for the best deal or most accurate information; it is often a manipulative ploy to get out of using an answer or suggestion.
Different Types of Shopping for Answers
People shop for answers in several ways. One is to ask only people who are inexperienced in doing something, hoping that the information will be inaccurate. Clearly, if it’s inaccurate, no one, would hold you accountable for incorrect directions.
For instance, “I asked John, and he wasn’t certain, so I asked Ann, and she didn’t know, 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, but he didn’t sound very confident, so I asked Ann, and she had a different perspective on it, so I was confused and did not do anything.”
It is never in your best interest to ask someone how to do something if they have less than three months in recovery. It is not because they do not necessarily know how to do something. It’s that you have more knowledgeable, experienced resources available to you, and using those individuals with more time in recovery makes better sense.
We’re Shopping Together
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 any way you cut it.”
The first person that responds in the negative then becomes the expert. “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 yesterday deciding what makes sense, all because they looked for the most unhealthy response by shopping for answers.
You may be hoping to find someone else who thinks as you do that the suggestions and directions in recovery are ridiculous. When you do not follow through on a suggestion, you have someone else to validate or support your poor decision.
You start with a self-serving agenda and find others that share it.
Why Should I Try to Help? You Reject my Suggestions
You can alienate people when they find out that you are only appearing interested in solutions and answers but do not intend to use their suggestions or directions. Perhaps you just wanted to manage an impression that they have of you – that you are serious and interested in changing and in the recovery process.
They will not appreciate taking their time to give you a solution you did not intend to use.
Another way to look at Shopping for Answers is to realize how much time, energy, and effort you put into counterproductive actions. You end up squandering time, energy, and effort, and isn’t that what you did in your use? And here you are, doing it again.
Rather than wasting these resources, use the information given to you by peers, sponsor/accountability partner, facilitator, or counselor to decide if the directions, suggestions, or actions have merit. And we should always remember, “Good advice is usually given by someone who was once a bad example.”―
Three Characteristics of all Recovering People
Each of us in recovery can identify with the following characteristics: they are generally present in our early days. Rather than have mixed feelings, use these differences to your advantage when you shop for an answer.
- Encourage the aspect that wants to recover, all you have to do is follow the directions precisely as they are given, being compliant.
- Use your courage for the part of you that is afraid to recover, remind yourself that whoever gave you the directions has experience in the suggestion, and following their recommendations will probably net you the same outcomes that they received.
- Challenge the part of you that is resistant – follow the directions so that if the outcomes are not good, you can show them that you complied but that the results were less than favorable. This approach appeases your addiction with the “I’ll show them it won’t work mindset while still taking the correct actions.
The majority of the time, the outcomes will be favorable. You will improve your life if you follow the suggestions. This encourages the part of you that wants to recover. It also helps overcome the fears of changing.
As with most things in life, we only become proficient with repetition, so ask questions with a genuine interest in hearing a solution, follow directions, repeat – that is a better use of your time than shopping for answers.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at FromAddict2Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She welcomes guest submissions at both sites.