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Taking It Easy in Recovery

A common slogan heard in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step venues is, “Easy does it,”  though this does not sound congruent with what a newly recovering addict is learning and hearing from the meetings. They are told to do so many things to maintain their abstinence from their substances and behaviors that none of it seems particularly “easy”! First off, there are the meetings themselves, which seem scary and very strange. These people laugh at the darnedest things! And they chant and sometimes clap and sometimes sing “Happy Birthday” to those who celebrate sober anniversary dates. And there are all these unknown behaviors to get acquainted with—when to talk and when to be quiet, praying, moments of silence, where to sit, sharing or not sharing in a meeting, what to say and what to NOT say, calling a sponsor and getting phone numbers from other sober members to begin with. People spouting all kinds of slogans that make no sense, going to any length (whatever that means!), working the steps, reading the book, working with a sponsor…

…and all of that without drinking, drugging, gambling or whatever addiction got us to the meeting…wow! So the slogan, “easy does it” seems quite ridiculous in the face of all that bombardment of information and instruction. What could it mean? Being overwhelmed by all the new input, many a newly recovering addict has turned and fled, deciding that there is just too much to do to remain abstinent. They will either decide not to do it at all or to do it totally on their own. These are both very poor choices to make. The reason for this particular slogan is just that. An overwhelmed addict is in trouble. They will begin to make very poor choices and usually this leads to self-destructive behaviors. Believing that they can never do ALL of what is required to maintain their abstinence, they will do none of it.

Therefore, easy does it becomes pertinent and appropriate advice from the other recovering members and a supportive sponsor. Finding a beginning point with the help of their support group, they make an inroad by continuing to attend meetings. This is where they will have the opportunity to strengthen their resolve to remain abstinent and to achieve hope that they are on the right path. While all of the components to maintaining their recovery are necessary, they will learn which ones to begin with and which ones will follow in due course. This is the same for everyone coming into early recovery. That is why the phrase is important and has been a part of the culture of recovery meetings for over 75 years.

Addicts, by nature, can be characterized as having “black and white thinking” or “all or nothing” ways of seeing things. When they are faced with more than can possibly be processed in a single moment, they tend to become panicked and destroy any chances for progress. Therefore, it is continually recommended that they take their recovery in small steps and progress from point A to point B. There is no race, and no winners in this arena…only those who recover and those who scare themselves right out the door and into the arms of their waiting and very patient addiction.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.

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