Taking Responsibility in Recovery

luminoussunriseI have stayed friends with the woman with whom I had a relationship when I got sober some 30 years ago although we split up shortly after I was released from detox.  We have seen each other maybe 5 times over that period and every six months or so will have a back and forth on email that will last for perhaps 4 or 5 exchanges.  Most recently, I spent an afternoon with her and her husband while attending a conference in California, which then prompted a follow-up back and forth on email.

Our interactions today are about our lives today.  Generally, we have made peace with the past, but we do have some constructive discussions on that long ago period.  During our recent conversation a couple of things stood out.  First, how much I really just do not remember from my drinking days.  I have never been a big fan of the “drunkalogues” that often comprise 90% of an AA lead.  I am much more interested in the what happened, and most interested in what it is like today.  But in my recent conversation, I was amazed at how entire chronologies of events, pets owned, and so forth were completely forgotten by me.

More importantly, the second point that stood out was how I had blamed the individual for the loss of a pet cat.  I could not even remember the pet in question, but importantly too, was the reflection of my old “blame game” approach.  Needing to take accountability for my actions and not blaming my circumstances on others is an issue that I have dealt with throughout my recovery – whether employers, professors in school, family, and so forth.  I am also pleased that this area of life – being accountable for my own actions – is where I believe I have and continue to take increased responsibility.

And then there is the line that when you are pointing your finger at others, there are four pointed back at you – explaining perhaps my low level of tolerance for folks who want to consistently blame others for their circumstances.  I appreciate too that just by wishing it so, does not make it so.  But I believe for all in recovery, there is a starting point – a ground zero as it were, where we make a commitment and choose to move forward, from which we cannot go back.  I appreciate and am grateful that recovery gives me a choice where I can make a decision for taking responsibility for my own actions – imperfectly and flawed – and to share that experience, strength, and hope with others in a recovery that is truly a process and not event.

Progress not Perfection – Is that the Problem?


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I have been reasonably quiet of late in blogging.  I have just come through a rather hectic work life, my wife and my personal existence is chaotic to say the least as we both transition toward our retirements – although she has just opened a new storefront and I am lining up projects that will keep me nearly as busy as I am today.

In my 30 years of sobriety, two of my favorite AA clichés have been “Process not an Event” (hence the name of this blog) and “Progress not Perfection (the title of this post).  Both concepts are mainstays of my recovery.  They remind me that if I continue living into recovery, then I will continue to make progress every day.  I should not expect perfection just because I no longer drink or drug.  Rather recovery is all about process, the growth.  I can very honestly reflect back on any period of time and see where that growth has occurred – consistently and without question.  Like almost everything else in recovery, these sentiments permeate all aspects of my life.

That leads me back to the topic of this particular post – and I am wondering – when is it good enough?   I don’t mean this as a matter of resting on our laurels and proclaiming myself “cured” of alcoholism.  But as an employee in higher education, and I am certain this holds true in many or most careers these days, I am wholly bored with the notion that what we produce is never good enough – that there is always one more class to teach, one more article to publish, one more conference to attend – in that perpetual progression toward an unattainable perfection.

Instead, I am coming to see the process less as a conscientious move in a progressive direction but rather, simply being one with the progress.  That is, perhaps it is time to stop pushing and dragging on the progress process, but simply and actively being the process along a nonlinear circuitous path.  I am grateful that recovery has provided me with that opportunity.