When There’s No Place to Go But Up

 "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." – Oscar Wilde, Irish writer and poet (1854-1900)

When we are in recovery, whether we are literally coming back from lying in the gutter or just feel as if we’re climbing up from the pit of despair, we know what it means to be at rock-bottom. When we look at our life thus far, we know one thing for certain: When we’ve hit bottom, there’s only one place to go, and that’s up.

This is the good news and the bad news. It’s certainly good news if we vow to change our behavior and not only get clean and sober, but stay that way. It is bad news if we know that we could do something to make our lives better but we choose to remain in our current state. While we may not totally relapse, we’re not getting any further along in our recovery either. So, faced with the good news/bad news dilemma, what should we do when we enter recovery and find ourselves in a quandary, not knowing exactly where to turn? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Begin by getting a sponsor. We know we should be attending 12-step meetings, whether that means going to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or any of the other self-help groups that are comprised of individuals seeking recovery from our particular addiction. What can our sponsor do for us? For starters, he or she is our guide to begin the process of recovery, to learn about and begin to work the Twelve Steps. Whatever doubts and uncertainties we may feel when we’re new to recovery, our sponsor has likely felt at one time as well. In any case, our sponsor is committed to helping us successfully navigate our personal recovery and is one of our best allies in our ongoing commitment to sobriety.
  2. Begin by living in the present, not rooted in the past. Sure, we all have things that we’ve said and done in our past that may continue to haunt us, but it does us absolutely no good to remain fixated on them. Worse yet, such a constant focus on the past prevents us from living in the here and now, tending to the things we need to do today to help us become more grounded in our recovery. By living in the present, we instead keep our concentration right where it should be: being committed to doing what it takes to be clean and sober and to begin learning a healthier way of living that doesn’t include alcohol or drugs.
  3. Center in on a few goals that are achievable. We need to have something to work toward that we truly believe in, a goal or set of goals that are not only good for our recovery but are also good for our innate happiness and sense of purpose. When we strive to achieve something, we are looking up at the stars, not down in the gutter where we may have come from. In any case, we need something to spur us on, to give us hope, to increase our enthusiasm and sense of self-esteem, self-confidence, and satisfaction.
  4. Share what’s on our mind. If we’re bothered by an issue or a problem that seems insurmountable, there’s no sense keeping it bottled up inside. The way up from the gutter and toward the stars is a path that requires us to relieve ourselves of our load, to unburden ourselves and find the strength, courage and hope to keep on moving forward in our recovery. We can and should make use of our sponsor to help us better understand what’s going on, but our sponsor is not a counselor and cannot provide therapy. If there is a continuing issue of the nature that requires counseling, we should absolutely find a therapist or go back to one that’s currently available to us. Why suffer in silence when there’s help that’s readily there for us?
  5. Have hope. We know that we learn by doing. And we grow as we learn and do. This should give us adequate motivation to keep moving forward in recovery, to keep pushing for the stars that we see when we look up. In other words, have hope. All things are possible. And it begins with what we do today.

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