Recovery – from alcohol or other drugs is built on the foundation of many paradoxical relationships. Characterized by words like forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, and humility, recovery requires us to be willing to grow along spiritual lines. In order to achieve these principles, our old ideas must be destroyed entirely.

Recovery is comprised of prolonged suffering that ultimately cultivates our transformational healing. For most of us, we only see the world in black and white. Upon seeking recovery, we are able to see the variation of colors between – the all or nothing mentality – we held onto so firmly. Our experiences become more than just the miserably mundane experiences of our past. Through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and treatment for our addiction, we are able to look back on the wreckage of our past and enter into an experience that is truly paradoxical in nature.

Suffer to Get Well

Many of us walk into treatment, or the rooms of AA, in a state of misery by way of cunning, baffling powerlessness over alcohol. We may have experienced incomprehensible demoralization and suffering beyond comprehension before we are open to the idea of sobriety. If we are lucky, our suffering will eventually provoke desperation for change.

We finally take a glance at the impact our disease has had on ourselves and our loved ones. For most of us it is too much to bear – often referred to as the “gift of desperation.” Unless this gift is accompanied by unwavering truth, of the stark nature of what we are up against, the gift of desperation will only accompany further desperation.

Prolonged suffering bears the fruits of recovery. The basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous discusses “Being beaten into a state of reasonableness through the continual dynamic of not being able to use safely.” The suffering, of the real alcoholic, is produced through the inability to refrain from the source of misery despite consequences. Our suffering becomes necessary for the desire to change. Desperation becomes truth, through the admission of powerlessness, which becomes the foundation for the willingness to change.

Surrender to Win
At first glance, the combination of these words may seem utterly defeating. In reference to combat, surrender means to stop fighting. Many of us associate this concept with losing to an opponent. The irony of this is, we have been surrendering ourselves – but to only our master – to our addiction. In recovery, “surrender to win” becomes a matter of addition by subtraction. We begin to let go, of the things blocking us from the Spirit, and we gain a clean foundation for necessary personality changes to take precedence.
In Step Three, we are faced with the decision to be willing to surrender (turn over) ourselves to the care of God and the action laid before us going forward. Many of us tremble at the thought of letting go of our beloved drug and alcohol addiction and we avoid seeking treatment. By giving up, or surrendering our lies, deceit, financial/legal troubles, physical ailment, and emotional distress we gain freedom, community, fellowship, spiritual connection, and the ability to learn how to live life on life’s terms.

Die to Live
Recovery requires destruction and total reconstruction through daily rehabilitation. In order to achieve freedom in sobriety, we must die to ourselves daily. The deconstruction of our, naturally selfish, ego can be a daunting task. Our addiction seemed to serve us just fine until the negative consequences far outweighed the temporary benefits. It has been said, by an early member of A.A., that the Steps require a lifelong exercise regiment of uncovering, discovering, and discarding.

How many years have we spent enslaved to alcohol and other drugs? Oftentimes, it seems as though there is no way out. Some of us have managed to make it to the brink of death, yet we are revived yet again and forced to face the reality we have created for ourselves. Through the Steps, we are able to let go of our old ideas and face our fears of the unknown. Fear is replaced by gratitude and confidence to take on an entirely new way of living. Destroying our ego – filling ourselves with the Spirit – allows us to be present in a place of unwavering acceptance and freedom.

Give Away to Keep
In regards to working with others, Alcoholics Anonymous’ basic text clearly states: “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” Steps Ten through Twelve gives us the ability to take a spiritual path that enables us to be of service to others and the world around us.

Once removed, from our drug and alcohol addiction, we have the ability to take on an entirely different perspective. It becomes seemingly impossible to truly express all we have been given, in sobriety, and all we are grateful for. The most significant imprint, left behind, is a life filled with love and compassion. Mahatma Gandhi says it best: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Our path may seem to have been comprised of steps in many different directions, yet all the while people we have met along the way have served a very specific and meaningful purpose. We also carry healing and the message of experience, strength, and hope to others through the reflection of the Twelve Step Principles.

Drug and alcohol addiction is a life lived elsewhere and recovery is our journey back home.