As a newcomer to a 12-step fellowship, I recall looking around and thinking – with utter despair – “is this my life now?”
From that grungy church basement, it didn’t look too promising. Little did I know that years later, rooms like that would become a safe haven, and a welcome home for me where I laughed, cried, and formed lifelong connections.
In the early days, however, life in a 12-step program seemed more like a death sentence than a doorway. I anticipated a depressing routine, day after day, of washed up, withered old men recounting stories of their glory days while my eyes rolled back in my head from boredom. It simply did not feel like a promising place.
The good news is that once I found recovery – meaning stopped drinking and using, got a sponsor, worked the steps, and helped others – everything about those rooms changed. They became alive and charged with hope and friendship. I found a common ground and kinship I imagine most people don’t feel outside of war zones.
Nevertheless, there is a kind of monotony around the recovery routine, especially if we do it year after year. So how can we keep it fresh, and charged with that sense of intimacy and immediacy many of us recall from the early days?
We’ve thought about it, and come up with the following:
Staying “active” in recovery might look different for different people. For me, it means getting to regular meetings and making sure the people there get to know me and I know them. It also means taking jobs, doing my part, and doing the work. When I sit in the proverbial “back row” – I get back row recovery. To keep it fresh, getting and staying involved is a game-changer. It adds a vitality to the whole endeavor that just isn’t there when you casually duck in and out.
Make it Meaningful
Pausing to consider why we are doing recovery in the first place can be huge. For most of us, it’s life and death. We have all heard desperately sad stories of people dying or enduring the tragic loss of families, jobs, and everything they hold dear. In the end, this is why we show up week after week. Even if the hounds of hell are no longer at our heels, a different fate never seems too far off. What’s more, knowing that we can be there to prevent death and misery for others gives the work a fresh urgency and deeper meaning to carry us through less inspired times.
Remain on the Front Lines
Ask anyone with strong recovery – working with the newcomer is straight-up invigorating. Being available to the person who has just walked through the door helps connect us to our own beginnings and reminds us that we too had once been new. Even better, taking time to truly be present to someone else has a way of magically shrinking our problems. It puts our own struggles into perspective and gives us some breathing room. Countless times, I have driven away from coffee with a newcomer feeling grateful, saner, and grounded in my own recovery.
This is a big one. Often, recovery seems to get stagnant when we make it routine. We can tick things off the list each day – meditation, meetings, sponsorship, but after a while even those activities lose their vitality if we approach them as mere “to-dos.” Going deeper often means stretching ourselves and exploring how we can expand our spiritual lives. It also includes taking an honest look into the stuff that drove us to drink and use in the first place. This can be painful but transformational, and often what’s most needed when the sober living routine loses its luster.
Bored in recovery? Keeping it fresh year after year is possible. It might push you past your comfort zone, but isn’t that better than the alternative? When the alternative is potentially lethal, we think so.
Get out there and reconnect with the beating heart of your recovery! We bet it will add some shine and sparkle to every other area of your life, too. It definitely couldn’t hurt to try!