I did not graduate college; I do not have a degree; but let me assure you I have a Ph.D. in ‘what not to do in early recovery.’ I went to treatment five times and have had all different brands of early recovery. So, I can talk about the vital actions that are necessary early on all day long.
These actions are simple but so unnatural for the untreated addict that many do not follow the correct ones or just pick and choose the ones they like. Let’s get something straight; if anyone truly wants recovery, they need to be all-in. Picking and choosing is basically as good as doing nothing because it ends the same way, picking that drink or drug up again.
There is a well-paved road to walk and follow to maintain sobriety; while our paths to getting into recovery are different, the path to getting and staying sober are quite similar. Some vital principles/actions to surviving early recovery include:
- Going to meetings
- Finding a homegroup
- Practicing principles (honesty, willingness, open-minded)
- Finding a support network
- Working the steps with a sponsor
- Finding someone to be transparent with
I collectively struggled with all of these things in early recovery in my previous attempts that ended in relapse, but the one I want to talk about today and I personally believe is the most important is that last one, finding someone to be transparent with.
What is Transparency?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of transparent is: “having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly.”
Hmm, that’s a little too science-based for me and my brain. Here is a better definition a few lines under that first one: “free from pretense or deceit.”
Transparency is letting someone know what is going on in your heart and your mind. It means when you are having that rough day a couple of months into recovery, you have someone you can reach out to and let them know precisely what is going on without holding anything back and doing that on a regular basis.
For men, that means opening up to another man, which can be difficult. I know it was for me.
Practicing transparency also means telling on yourself; if you make a dumb decision or an irresponsible one, make sure you have another sober man in recovery to talk to about it. Holding it in can start a real case of self-will run riot.
A key thing to remember, in recovery, when we tell on ourselves, we aren’t going to get punished. Instead, we will look at it and dissect what happened and why and how we can prevent it in the future.
Finding the Right Person
I can only speak on my own experience; it was hard to find another sober man to open up to for one very distinct reason. Growing up, I was taught to ‘be a man’ and take care of my own problems. My dad meant no harm is what was all he knew. Unfortunately, so many men are taught this; it’s the central theme for today’s male ego.
It’s also a deadly belief system for the suffering addict and alcoholic.
Accepting and doing step one is saying precisely the opposite of that belief. I had to admit I absolutely cannot handle my own problems, especially my drinking problem. I did not and still do not have the power to stop drinking.
Ultimately through the steps, we will connect to a higher power that we will rely on to stay sober rather than our own mind, but first, we need to ask another man who has been through the 12 steps what to do and how to live life.
We are not going to tell someone our deepest darkest secrets on day one, though. We need to cultivate a relationship with someone before we are transparent with them. More often than not, the person we find to be our sponsor is also the one we open up to and stay honest with.
Many people comically equate this seeking to dating, and honestly, it is like dating. Seeking out that person who will guide us and that we trust telling everything to is a critical task, and it should be treated very seriously and done ASAP out of treatment.
Going to meetings consistently in the same area is the best way to find Mr. Right. There is no way to pinpoint how we find someone we connect with; it may be with something they share or talking to them after the meeting and having chemistry with them.
The best advice I’ve ever heard is, ‘Find someone who has what you want.’
This takes work and consistency; sure, you can just pick a sponsor after one day of seeking one. But, after that, it’s up to you to be honest with yourself and look at the intentions behind picking them.
Once you have taken all the little steps that lead up to finding some support and finding a sponsor, the hard part really begins. Many have heard the saying before; we are as sick as our secrets. No secret is ever worth keeping in our head. Pride needs to be pushed aside early in recovery for us to get honest with this new relationship with a sober support/sponsor.
For everyone, there will be or has been a moment when being open and completely transparent gets them out of a bind, and a connection is made about why it is just so important.
If you are new to all of this or have not had success yet in long-term recovery, I want to bring some awareness to you.
There is going to be a day where you are in a bad funk for a reason or no reason at all, but you are just feeling that funk, or perhaps you were dishonest about something and feeling guilty about it. Whatever brings you to have a bad day in early recovery, reach out to that person you have been getting to know and building a relationship with (again, usually a sponsor but does not have to be) and let them know precisely what is going on.
Do not hold anything back; pretend you are sitting at a table with them and just throwing all the evidence at why you could be having a bad day on that table. It’s being thrown out there so it can be examined — so, follow through.
True early recovery work is based on learning from our mistakes. This learning does not come from our own mind; it comes from those who have been in our shoes and made it out alive and are still sober.
To wrap it all up, if you don’t have someone in your life right now who you can call on a whim and feel comfortable letting them know what is truly going on in your life right now, then you need to find someone ASAP. Because that day where things are so bad, you make that ultimate wrong decision is coming, and you need to have a plan.