The Danger of Never Taking a Risk

"I believe that one of life’s greatest risks is never daring to risk." – Oprah Winfrey, American media talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist (born 1954)

We’re so cautious when we’re in recovery, especially in the early days, weeks and months of being newly sober. But while this is probably a good recommendation when we’re just getting started, just beginning to find our way in this new life of sobriety that we’ve chosen to live, in the long run, it may be that we need to take on a bit more risk.

This is not to say, however, that it’s ever recommended to rush blindly into something without first weighing and balancing potential risk versus reward. Nor does it mean that we’ll automatically know the answer and immediately know what our decision will be in all circumstances. Wouldn’t that be easy if it were true? But life isn’t like that, and that includes our lives in recovery. No, we have to continue to exercise prudence and good judgment, but we can ratchet up our tolerance for a little risk as we become more grounded in recovery.

How do we know when we’re able to tackle things such as projects, going after goals that seem now to be out of our reach, entertaining the possibility of embarking on a new direction in life – one that isn’t anything we’re now familiar with? How will we be able to tell that we’re ready for this?

The answer is that it will be different for everyone. That’s not a cop-out or weaseling out of answering the question. It does mean that what one of us feels comfortable and confident enough to do may occur at a different time and in a different way than what someone else in recovery feels comfortable and confident enough to take on.

Getting ourselves prepared to assume more risk isn’t all that difficult, however, so this is something else to keep in mind as we move forward. We may be well advised to carefully think through all our proposed actions before we actually embark upon them. This doesn’t take all that long, though, so we shouldn’t be concerned that we will lose out on any opportunities by doing our due diligence in carefully thinking through how we’re going to handle them.

In a way, it’s like preparing to take a trip. We wouldn’t just jump in the car and head out without making advance preparations. That would be foolish. We’d likely wind up not carrying with us essentials that we need. If we head out without a roadmap or step-by-step navigation, we may even lose our way. Surely we may make unnecessary detours as we try to right our course. All of this could be avoided with a little advance planning.

So, too, is our desire to gradually take on more risk. Consider this. We hear about or an opportunity presents itself to us. We don’t know that much about it or what it would entail, but on the face of it, the opportunity seems like something that might prove beneficial to us. Do we leap at the chance to get involved without first studying it? That’s not a good idea. It’s akin to jumping in the car without any of the necessities we need for the trip or carrying a map with us. No, a better approach is to review what we do know about the opportunity, learn as much as we can about it – including any potential downside, as well as the purported benefits – and then make a conscientious, informed decision about what approach, if any, we’ll take.

We took a risk when we went into rehab, not knowing what it would be like or how it would turn out for us, correct? But we knew that the potential benefits far outweighed any risks involved. After making the commitment to get clean and sober, we stuck with the program through completion. At least, many of us did it that way. Some of us may have needed a time or two extra before we finally convinced ourselves that recovery was a better way to go than to continue on our path of addiction.

Granted, there are risks that we encounter every day in recovery. There’s the risk of running into old acquaintances and former friends who still use, and with whom we associate using. How we will handle such a situation could be a risk, if we’ve not put together a plan for dealing with it prior to its occurrence. Allowing ourselves to become run-down, overstressed, overtired, lonely or hungry also presents risks for our continuing recovery. We know, for example, that we are vulnerable when we first enter recovery. We have to learn how to take proper care of ourselves, how to begin strengthening our recovery toolkit and to be on the lookout for signs of potential relapse.

Most of all, we know that in order to move forward and become a productive and happy member of society, to return to our life and our loved ones with the hope of making a better life, we have to step outside of our current problems and fixation on ourselves. This takes some time and practice. It also requires patience and our willingness to ask for guidance along the way. We have a ready source of that in our support network, that of our 12-step sponsor, fellow group members, and our loving family and close friends.

Our sponsor, for example, may see how we’re doing and advise us to take it a little bit slower, to not be so anxious to take on too much, too soon. This is good advice that we’d do well to heed. By the same token, when we are proceeding to achieve our goals and work the Twelve Steps, there will undoubtedly come a time when we’ll discuss with our sponsor whether or not we’re ready to take on more. This is a perfectly logical and appropriate conversation to have, especially when it touches on anything that is recovery-related.

Building up our self-confidence will help greatly as we approach readiness to take on risk. Just be sure that we consider all aspects carefully before we act. But, definitely do accept the risk and commit to doing the work required to reap the rewards and benefits. This makes our recovery and our life more meaningful.

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