What to hang on to
If you are in real trouble — if you are addicted to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, food, sex, worry, resentment, lying, depression, or anxiety — if you want to recover; and if you are willing to accept and act on suggestions from people who themselves have recovered — the outlook for you is good.
There is a way out
Do not let anybody tell you that recovery from addiction is impossible, or unusual. Hundreds of thousands of addicts have recovered — fully, beautifully, and permanently.
The people who clutter up the addictive scene and make it seem like a big deal are the addicts (all of us at one stage of the game) who do not really want to recover and who are still horsing around with the situation and mainly playing games. When you reach the point of wanting to recover and become willing to do what recovered addicts tell you to do, the battle is more than half won.
In the beginning of your recovery you are so weak physically and so bombed out mentally that you are easily confused and easily put off. Therefore you have to make “first things first” a rule and stick to it.
The first thing you do is learn the first principles of recovery from someone who knows them and practices them, and to begin to practice them your self. If you approach them with a little humility, they are not hard to understand, and it is not an impossible task to follow them. These principles (and the company of the people who practice them) are your lifeline.You simply cannot afford to argue about them. You merely have to do them, one day at a time.
The way to recovery begins with a few simple, uncomplicated first principles, which come to you as suggestions. Maybe you will not like some of these recommendations, but the thing to remember is that they work, and none of them should be left out. The whole problem is to hang on while you are coming out of the woods, and these suggestions tell you what (and what not) to hang on to.
Hang on to God
The first source of help to which an addict needs to turn — first in order of time and first in order of importance — is God. This is not a matter of religion or philosophy but simply a matter of fact. It is the power of God which enables addicts to recover. Without that power, there are few recoveries.
Now there are a lot of different opinions about God, but we are not talking about God as an opinion but as a living power. You have to remember that you are an addict, not a professor. Do not waste time theorizing about God. What you do is get in touch with God by the simple and direct means of talking to God, that is, by plain, old, ordinary prayer. Every nitwit knows how to pray; the knack here is to do it. No preliminary ducking or bobbing is necessary. Just do it.
Do not waste energy debating about God. Take God as a possibility
— a working hypothesis. Make the experiment of getting in touch. This comes ahead of everything else, and anybody can do it. You can do it. Hundreds of thousands of alcoholics and drug addicts (many of them atheists) have made this experiment and proved to themselves that there is a Power greater than themselves who responds and gives real, practical, effective help when called on. All real recovery begins here. It makes no difference whether you are a believer or not. If you are not, start by praying to the God you don’t believe in. Just park your objections for a while, and do it as an experiment.
Hang on to the truth
You connect with God by means of the truth. And you connect with the truth by stopping lying. All Addicts are liars. Please do not resent this. It is just a statement of fact. Some of us lie in gross ways, some in subtle ways; but all of us are ferocious liars.
As a starter, stop lying to yourself about your condition. Stop pretending it is better than it is. If you are an addict, you are in the grip of a disease which is a vicious killer, and you cannot do anything about it — not by yourself and not with the best scientific, psychiatric, or medical help in the world. Addiction is usually incurable except through spiritual conversion. If you face that fact, your chances for recovery are good. If you ignore it, your chances are poor.
Next, stop lying to get out of jams or to smooth off the rough edges of life. Don’t lie for the sake of peace; don’t lie when common sense invites you to do so; don’t lie to cover up your past; don’t lie on job applications, expense accounts, or tax returns; don’t lie to your boss; don’t lie to your husband or wife. Just don’t lie. When you fail in this resolve (as you will), admit it promptly. And don’t indulge in failure; that is, don’t lie any oftener than you have to.
This policy of non-lying takes real courage if you have a messy past, as most of us do. It feels like it is going to cause problems for you, rather than solve them. But in actual practice it is a life-saver and a life-transformer. Try it, and you will find that non-lying simplifies life and makes it easier to deal with. And it does something else of greatest importance: when you take truth-telling seriously, you put yourself in direct touch with God. God is truth, and throughout the day every decision you make to be honest opens you up to the healing light of his presence. This is not just a pretty thought; it is something real, like electricity, only alive. Work for the truth, as best you can, and the living Truth — God — will work for you. He will give you the strength which you yourself lack, the strength to take the next step.
Hang on to total abstinence
One day at a time, stay away from alcohol, drugs, smokes, or whatever it is that you are addicted to. Total abstinence is the key. That means none — not even a little bit, not even one or two. (In the case of alcohol addiction, drug addiction, tobacco addiction, and coffee addiction, stopping is achieved by a program of total abstinence. In the case of food addiction and sex addiction, stopping is achieved by faithful adherence to a program of limited use.)
One day at a time, with the help of God and the truth, you can do it. It is the first drink or pill or shot or cigarette to which you must say no. One day at a time, stay away from first drink or drug or whatever, and you will never have to worry about all those disastrous ones that follow. “One day at a time” is not a trick with words; it is a thoroughly practical, well-proven formula for success. No addict can face the prospect of a whole lifetime of total abstinence. It seems to big an order. But any of us, with God’s help, can stay away from the first drink, the first pill, the first shot, the first cigarette, or whatever, for twenty-four hours. Do not underestimate the power of this principle.
Hang on to your recovering brothers and sisters
You cannot recover alone. It is a deadly mistake to think that you can. In our times God has chosen to speak to addicts through brothers and sisters who are ahead of them on the road to freedom. These brothers and sisters are the people who can show you how to recover. Find them. Learn from them. Work with them. Join their group, and go to their meetings. If you cannot locate a group, do what the pioneers in this field did: dig up a couple of people who are also looking for recovery, and start your own group. Go to meetings — practice the Four Absolutes, the Twelve Steps, and the Ten Points in all of your affairs, one day at a time — work with others as you go. It really is that simple.
Working with a group is necessary; you cannot sustain a recovery without it. But the group is not God; it is only a vehicle through which God works. It is the principles that communicate the power. Recovery begins with getting in touch with God. He gives us the courage to get honest; he gives us the strength to stay away from the first drink or pill or shot or cigarette or whatever, one day at a time; and he puts us in touch with the people we need to work with.
At the same time, do not misuse trust in God as an excuse to avoid people, or to try to get around any of the other factors in the basic equation. Hanging on to God, hanging on to honesty, staying away from alcohol or drugs (or whatever your addictive substance is), and working with your recovering brothers and sisters — these constitute the formula for recovery, and they go together. You cannot work successfully with any of them unless you are working with all of them. By doing these few simple things, literally millions of previously desperate and hopeless men and women have had their lives, their sanity, and their strength restored through the All Addicts Anonymous way of life.