I answered a question on social media regarding the judgment many find in the rooms of 12-step recovery.
What is your opinion on being in recovery but not healing the inner self and still keeping dark secrets — while still participating in sexual activity? Can you posses a judgmental and better than thou attitude toward fellow addicts — and still claim recovery?
The definition of recovery is continued and sustained improvement of the quality of life. The 12-step program and fellowships are one pathway to recovery — not the only one.
With that being said, there are many sick people with so-called clean time who do not possess the characteristics of those practicing a spiritual program. The 12 x 12 talks about this and calls these people “bleeding deacons”.
As far as your recovery goes, that is between you and you. No one else can define what your recovery or your process should look like. If anyone tries, it is not in alignment with the program, but their own belief systems. The literature clearly cautions us against these spiritual hilltops — not only for our personal reprieve, but for the heartbeat of AA as a whole.
The old-time members, who sit on these hilltops, facilitate a culture of shame. This shameful dynamic IS detrimental, and robs many of the opportunity to find recovery in the rooms.
YOU are the only one who knows your motives, and YOU are the only one who gets to decide where you are in your process.
Do many go back out because they won’t let go of old behavior? Yes. Do many relapse who will not heal the wounds of their past through an honest inventory? Absolutely. But there is no one sized fits all process.
Regardless whether you were in the program or not, it would be true that most humans who experience trauma need healing. The only difference between us and normies is that if we don’t heal it, we will likely use again. And if we use again, we will likely die.
So, yes, it is probably a good idea to move towards unraveling some of that pain. But remember, it doesn’t have to be done with a member of the program. The instructions are clear and they are right there in black and white.
So if you don’t feel comfortable doing this with a program member do it with a therapist, a spiritual adviser, or whatever suits you. But until then, do not internalize the shame inflicted upon you by some sick members. Clean time doesn’t equal recovery.
There are good people in the rooms who work the program as it is written, despite the clicky and shameful culture that many groups have created. Find those people. They will not judge you in the very least. You will know them if you look. They will shine like a diamond in the rough.
When you find them, grab ahold and don’t let go. They will show you the way, but they will walk with you — “shoulder to shoulder” — as the program asks them to. And they will not give advice on your relationships, because they know that the Big Book clearly asks us not to.
You are doing great. The fact that you are here and asking for help, even attempting to live a better life, is proof of that. Most don’t make it that far.
So if it don’t apply, let it fly. Don’t let it bother you. And when you want to speak out, reference the literature because it is on your side. Even the gossip is addressed in the 12 x 12.
So no matter what they say, you know the program doesn’t support their condemnation of you. You know that’s not the program. And you know it will come up in their own inventory — IF they are working steps. But either way, that inventory is not yours.
As far as the connection between your behavior and relapse, it depends on whether or not that behavior is attached to your addiction — regardless what the behavior is. And you are the only one who knows that.
Many women associate prostitution with their addiction, for example. For those women, prostitution and getting high go hand in hand. So selling their bodies is where picking up starts, and they cannot do it if they wish to stay clean. If your current behavior is like that to you, then you might consider abstaining. But only you know if that is the case and only you have to deal with the results of that determination.
Going beneath the surface, the fact that it is old behavior is less relevant than what you are doing with the behavior — how you are using it. It could be new behavior, but the bottom line is the same.
If you are doing anything to consistently change the way you feel, instead of healing the pain that causes your discontent, you are not recovering but are more so doing what roomies call white knuckling it.
This could be old behavior or a newfound addiction to brownies, even a new relationship. If you are using it to “be okay”, chances are it will lead you back to your DOC.
But regardless of how honest you are, or what changes you do make, years of building our modality doesn’t go away over night. It is a process. Progress is key, not perfection.
If you are headed towards a relapse, a part of you will know it long before you pick up. It is your choice whether you listen to that part of yourself, or the other.
Just think of it as a bank or the two wolves. The one you make the most deposits into or feed the most has a better chance of winning. We don’t only choose our addiction when we pick up. We choose either our recovery or our addiction hundreds of times a day. Every step we take and every choice we make is choosing one or the other.
We choose our addiction many times before we actually pick up and use. When we skip the meeting, take the old way home, slack on our self-care, or lie, we choose our addiction.
No one chooses their recovery every single time. We all eat that extra brownie or skip out without helping to put up the chairs away after the meeting — one time or another.
Look at all the people not working steps — they are not choosing recovery every time they push away the notebook. Some push it away for years or forever.
The important thing is that you choose your recovery — aka the next right thing — as much as you can and make every effort to chose it more and more. If you do this, earnestly, your first thought and your second thought will slowly trade places. And choosing recovery — which is to say choosing yourself — will come more and more naturally.
So my question to your question would be, do YOU think this behavior is bad for your recovery? Because the inventory is yours, not the other persons. And if you are okay with your choice, my hat is off to you. Get your experience.
But if you do find it taking you off the rails, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you or you are not doing it right. It just means you are human and you are learning something about yourself that you didn’t know before, or that you didn’t want to know.
Then you just forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it, dust it off and stand tall. Don’t pick up, and work through it. Walk through it with grace and dignity. Because your humanness is your gift to the world — not a liability. And if you stand on that, you may use your experience to help others — others just like you.
Written by Holly Kellums
Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash