Step two of the 12 step recovery program talks about believing that we can be “restored to sanity." Part of the insanity of the disease of addiction comes from the physical compulsion to take that first pill, drink or fix associated with cravings and urges to use. Yet another part of our insanity deals with the mental obsession we experience where we continue to think about drinking or drugging and romancing a high. Another part of the obsession that we experience mentally deals with all of our delusions and faulty beliefs that somehow this time will be different.
Within the 12 step program itself you will hear insanity described as continuing to do the same thing over and over and over again expecting a different result. This definition of the insanity is originally attributed to Albert Einstein. The truth is that simple abstinence for mood altering substances does not alone bring us back to a state of sanity. It is impossible to obtain sanity without first achieving and maintaining abstinence. Then during a period of abstinence we must begin to learn to utilize the tools of the recovery program to make healthy choices and rational decisions in order to begin the process of being restored to sanity.
Two of the most common solutions that we attempted to utilize in our active addiction to alcohol or drugs included denial and avoidance. Not only did we deny that we had a problem called addiction to alcohol or drugs but we denied that many of the problems and consequences we experienced related to our addiction even existed. We seem to believe that if we simply ignored the problem long enough it will simply go away. Our other common solution was to run from our problems and avoid any personal responsibility for them. Neither of these solutions worked effectively in the long run and we were forced to deal with reality of the disease of addiction in our lives.
Unfortunately, for many of us in early recovery we continue to fall back into old behaviors and ways of thinking that historically were ineffective. We continue to use denial and avoidance as ways to attempt to cope with life on life's terms. Here again we quickly find that neither denial nor avoidance will provide rational solutions or sane thinking regarding our life problems. We discover in early recovery that we must begin to rely on powers outside of ourselves. These powers outside of ourselves may take many forms-the 12 step program, our support system, our family and friends, our therapists and treatment providers, and for many there is but one ultimate authority, "God, as we understand him.”
In early recovery we discover that we have many things that we need to change. We learned that we have to not only stopped drinking or using drugs, but we also must also make significant changes in our thinking, emotional responses, and behavior. A return to our old addictive behaviors is certainly insanity for anyone with the diagnosis of addiction. We also learn that a return to her old ways of thinking, emotional reactions and behaviors is also irrational and lack of sanity. If we are to find sanity in our recovery we must learn to rely on a source of strength outside of ourselves to help hold us accountable, to check our thinking and behaviors as well is our emotional reactions. The biggest problem for many is having to wait for these solutions and new answers to unfold in our lives. For many of us we continue to struggle with impatience and wanting for everything to be fixed quickly.
Therefore it becomes important for us to understand the use of a support group, sponsor, friends and family, therapists and treatment providers, and a new relationship with a Higher Power. In acquiring the tools that we need in our battle for sanity, we will use many of these tools awkwardly at first. Over time we develop a stronger understanding of how we can use these tools effectively and how they work and in which situations they work best. We will even begin to understand which tools to use at any given time. As we get stronger in recovery and find new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving; we gain strength and understanding as well as acceptance of the need to use these new tools if we are to establish and maintain sanity in our lives.
Questions to Think About
- What old behaviors, or ways of thinking do you find yourself still using today?
- Are there people, places, or things that tend to trigger this response in you?
- Who can you go to that will help you determine alternative ways to think, emotionally react or behave?
- What actions can you take to help ensure you use healthy choices, decisions, management strategies and coping skills in finding new solutions for your ongoing day-to-day recovery?
" If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves"
©2013 John W. Stiemke