Recovery is, on the one hand, learning how to live life fully without the use of alcohol and drugs. Yet, on the other hand, it’s learning how to live fully without the use of manipulation, denial, and resistance. Sober living is a path of personal growth. It’s treatment for the condition of addiction.
And addiction is a condition. It’s a dis-ease. It’s a loss of oneself. Recovery, then, is the path of returning home through the use of honesty, openness, and willingness, also known as the HOW of sober living.
The reason honesty is so important in recovery is because denial is such a big force in addiction. Denial could be described as a mental trick, a blind spot. It prevents us from seeing what we are doing to ourselves and to others. Denial exacerbates the cycle of addiction and keeps an individual imprisoned despite the many warning signs that recovering addicts later admit to. Denial creates the need to justify our behavior and leads to hiding the truth from ourselves and from others. It distracts us from the compulsion of addiction and the illness that is only getting worse.
For these reasons, rigorous honesty is essential to achieve sober living. Honesty can counter the tendency to deny that there is a problem, to ignore the illnesses of the mind, and to avoid the truth. Honesty is the treatment for denial, which leads to the healing experience of acceptance – acceptance that there is a problem, acceptance that we need help, and acceptance of the truth. One primary way that honesty is healing is that it reconnects us to ourselves. It builds a bridge between the parts of ourselves as well as a bridge between others and ourselves. In addition to countering denial, the connections that honesty creates are also healing.
Addiction can create a sort of tunnel vision experience. We have preoccupations, fantasies, and obsessions having to do with using drugs or drinking. Often, there is an overwhelming amount of thinking, worrying, and dreaming about drinking or getting high. Addiction doesn’t only include using; it also includes thinking about getting high and planning the day around getting high. Fantasizing and daydreaming about the drug of choice frequently accompanies addiction.
However, openness encourages listening, a kind of listening that addiction might have closed off. In fact, the degree to which you listen is a skill that strengthens over time. Most people listen long enough in order to say what they want to say. Yet, hearing others and listening to them are very different tasks. Listening requires the use of all the senses, including intuition. Listening includes listening to the experiences of others, relating to others, and most importantly, listening to ourselves. Listening asks that we touch what is being communicated underneath the words. This sort of listening strengthens trust and respect, and it is the openness that heals addiction. It too leads to connection – with ourselves and with others.
Willingness could be defined as knowing what you need to do and doing it. It can be a hard choice to finally do what you need to do. There are old habits, familiar circumstances, and the inner struggle that get in the way. Yet, it’s not the things that we intend to do that brings healing, but the things that we actually do. For instance, although we might want to get sober and although there’s a pull inside to call a sober living facility, if we do not actually call, healing will never take place. Willingness is participation, action, and commitment. Willingness is showing up to recovery, including all the activities that recovery entails – 12-step meetings, therapy, support groups, and events within the recovery community. Willingness is showing up for ourselves.
Following the HOW of sober living alone can be the one path that leads to long-term sobriety and a new life.