We hear many things over the course of our recovery in our respective meeting halls (or “in the rooms,” if you prefer). These often include “It works if you work it!”, “Easy Does It!”, and “It’s a selfish program.” I am still surprised in many ways how often “It’s a selfish program” is misunderstood and/or misinterpreted. It IS a selfish program in that the main priority is achieving and maintaining quality sobriety. However, this is not accomplished to the exclusion of all other aspects of our lives. Also: AA is a selfless program. The two work hand in hand, along with gratitude, and a willingness to do the work.
When we are new in our recovery, we see the world as both scary and full of possibilities. Most want to embrace their recovery with a vengeance, almost as if they can get back all the wasted years of their addiction(s). Most are more than willing to try recovery as they have run out of plausible options. Sometimes, lacking the learning, experience, and wisdom that comes with long-term recovery, some take “It’s a selfish program” to mean that it is all about them. They are thinking “I come first. My recovery comes first. It’s all about me.” Yes, recovery comes first, for without sobriety, where will we be in our life’s journey? Recovery should be the priority, but not in place of, or to the exclusion of our other responsibilities. IF we are fortunate enough, we are still husbands, wives, partners. We are also fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. If we are fortunate enough to still be employed, we are also employees, team members, bosses. None of these go away just because we have seen the light and decided to work on being clean/sober. The world goes on, and we must function in it. These responsibilities are also part of our sobriety, believe it or not. Working an honest recovery means being “honest in all our affairs”; this means we honor our obligations and responsibilities, at home, at work, wherever.
As mentioned earlier, AA is also about being selfless. This is what is meant when we speak of serving others and “giving it away.” Helping around the house will get noticed. Participating more in your home group is noticed. Giving your boss and teammates at work an honest day’s effort will get noticed (and will be appreciated too!). The idea is that we don’t think ONLY of ourselves and OUR needs. We help people where, when, and however we are able and willing to do so – even in the small things. We begin to give away the possibility and promise of the stability, and hopefully, peace, we have found in our own sobriety. We are a beacon to our fellow human beings of what is possible through recovery. This is what we give away most: The idea that anyone can experience a better life through recovery, if they are willing to do the work. We give away the idea that a new beginning IS possible.
Now, all this does not mean life is a bed of roses and all our difficulties will vanish. That is a fairy tale that no one promises. AA promises hope, a new beginning, possibly sanity, and hopefully peace and contentment. There is still all that wreckage from our addiction(s) and their consequences scattered throughout our lives. We have to clean that up as much as possible, and some of it can not be completely made right. There will still be haters and knuckleheads in our paths daily, and we learn to deal with this in a constructive, positive way. We will still have setbacks. Recovery is about learning how to deal with all this and not lash out, pawn it off on others as being their fault, and/or crawl inside a bottle, or drop pills, hit the casino, or just run away. Recovery is hard. No one said it is easy. The key to a good working recovery is balance. Balance between prioritizing our ongoing recovery efforts, honoring our responsibilities, AND serving others. This is what recovery is really all about.