I believe that if we are truly to recover from the disease of addiction, we must grow up—emotionally.
True recovery is the product of humility that emerges from living and practicing a conscious and spiritual life. In order to attain humility, we must be honest with ourselves. This necessarily includes looking at the stupid things we do, today, in our recovery. I use the term stupid to indicate the things we do that are self-destructive and not in our best interest.
Before we move on to a discussion about how to identify the underlying causes of self-destructive behavior, I want to share how I selected the twelve issues that I discuss here. There must be at least a million stupid things that we can do to mess up recovery— all of them self-destructive. A book cataloging all of these would be unwieldy. I wanted to narrow down the list to a more manageable size so I used the following criteria for my selection.
In 12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery, my book published by Hazelden in 2008, I chose what I considered to be the most commonly confronted and critical issues during the early stages of recovery. I define early recovery as the first two years of recovery. The main issues that we confront during this time include breaking the bonds of addiction, establishing a spiritual foundation for our recovery, learning effective tools to deal with ourselves and our relationships, and dealing with the wreckage of our past.
Few of us will relate to all of these issues, but the general themes should be familiar. So without further ado, here are my top twelve nominations for stupid things we do to mess up our recovery:
- Believing addiction to one substance is the only problem
- Believing sobriety will fix everything
- Pursuing recovery with less energy than pursuing addiction
- Being selectively honest
- Feeling special and unique
- Not making amends
- Using the program to try to become perfect
- Confusing self-concern with selfishness
- Playing futile self-improvement games
- Not getting help for relationship troubles
- Believing that life should be easy
- Using the program to handle everything
These twelve things are tried-and-true ways of messing up recovery. In the book, I elaborate on each of them. It has been my experience that those who do best in recovery are those who are honest with themselves, open to new ideas and experiences, and willing to take direction.
I later published 3 more books in this series – 12 More Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery, 12 Hidden Rewards of Making Amends, and 12 Smart Things to Do When The Booze and Drugs are Gone – because Emotional Sobriety is a lifelong pursuit in tandem with sustained recovery.
I will be co-hosting a workshop, 12 Core Concepts of Emotional Sobriety, on September 22, 2018 at Northbound Treatment Center in Newport Beach. Along with Herb Kaighan, we will talk about how critical emotional sobriety is to sustained recovery. We’ve learned a lot about what interferes with our emotional maturation and what we need to do to grow ourselves into what we can be. Emotional sobriety is about self-realization and the discovery of new possibilities.
This day long workshop brings together the spiritual wisdom of Herb K. and the psychological wisdom of Dr. Allen Berger in an exploration of the core concepts of emotional sobriety. This is a new workshop for these two pioneers and is their attempt to synthesize what they have been learning about optimal recovery and optimal living.