Recovery VS Abstinence

A common misconception in the recovery community is not using drugs, drinking alcohol or acting out on behaviours equals recovery, this is simple Abstinence.
For this statement to make sense we have to work out what each means.

Full Definition of abstinence

  1. 1:  voluntary forbearance especially from indulgence of an appetite or craving or from eating some foods
  2. 2a :  habitual abstaining from intoxicating beverages b :  abstention from sexual intercourse

Many people arrive in rehabilitation centers or fellowship meetings and believe that because they no longer use drugs they are in recovery. If looked into their lives, they are much the same as they were when they were using. They are restless, angry, resentful and dysfunctional. The change that is needed has not taken place. In Alcoholic Anonymous meetings these people are referred to as “dry drunks”. It is believed that these people will eventually fall prey to themselves and drink again. This leads to the next point, the quality of life in recovery needs to better the life we have left, otherwise the desire to drink/use will return.

Full Definition of recovery

  • : The act or process of becoming healthy after an illness or injury : the act or process of recovering
  • : The act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty
  • : The return of something that has been lost, stolen, etc.

Abstinence plus change equals recovery. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a gradual process of change. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is a suggested program of recovery from Alcoholism, likewise other fellowships have mirrored AA’s 12 steps and had many people gaining freedom through that process. It starts with identifying the problem, if we don’t think we have a problem there is nothing to change so Step One is taking an in-depth look at the state of our lives.

We learn through the 12 step process that it takes a lot more than simply not using or drinking to change. We take a rigorous course of internal introspection to find out what behaviours, attitudes and patterns need to change for us to live full, joy filled lives. A belief in something outside of ourselves is also key to the recovery process. You can’t solve the problem with the thinking that caused the problem. We reach out to others who have done it before us and ask for guidance from them, we listen to suggestions and follow directions. There is a paragraph from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that states:

“Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.

Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

May God bless you and keep you –until then.”

  • A vision for you, Big Book page 164