Literalism in Recovery

jeepcloseLiteralism is the lowest level of meaning.

Richard Rohr, p. 70 Immortal Diamond

In recovery, literalism is both a blessing and curse.  The blessing end comes in keeping me centered on the proven necessities for recovery.  For example, a very literal admission that I was “powerless over alcohol” and that my life had become “unmanageable” were key to beginning a recovery path.

But literalism can be a very limiting factor as well.  If I were to take the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous as literal and dogma, I would binge on sugar, be opposed to having a sponsor, reject the 90 meetings in 90 days advice I received when I was discharged after 30 days of detox, and so forth – based on what the Big Book does or does not contain.  In not taking a literal and dogmatic approach, over the years I learned that contrary to the advice in the Big Book, sugar is just another alcoholic food for me, having a “sponsor” of some sort is critical to my staying on a good recovery path, and all of those post Big Book publication clichés of advice like 90 in 90 allow me a solid foundation on which to grow my recovery.

So, here is my heresy in 12-Step recovery – over the 30 plus years I have been sober from alcohol and drugs, and then later tobacco and now dealing with my eating disorder, I have at times gone at least several years, and maybe as many as 5 years without attending a 12-Step meeting.  About 10 years ago I got into a 2-3 meeting per week routine for nearly a decade.  Most recently my attendance is more sporadic.

However, since walking into a detox unit in 1984, every day I have been mindful and reflective that I am an alcoholic in recovery.  How that mindfulness is manifest has evolved considerably over the years.  For example, now in my less frantic pace of retirement, my morning practice includes a prayer to remain sober and aligned with my True Self for the day, writing my morning page reflection, posting a gratitude list, writing and mailing a thank you note to someone, reading a daily reflection, and in the evening writing a couple of paragraphs about some aspect of one of the 12 steps.

My bottom line is that today it works for me.  Tomorrow, maybe not.  I am fond of saying that I have no problem today that is not of my making.  I am grateful I accumulated a plethora of tools over the year from which I can pick and apply to a specific situation.  I am grateful too that over the past three decades I have always chosen one of those tools, or added a new one, to keep traveling down the recovery road.

Here is the interesting thing I have found – by not taking a rote and literal approach to recovery for the past three decades, my day-to-day existence aligns more closely with the 12-Steps today than in the past. For that, I am grateful.

3 thoughts on “Literalism in Recovery

  1. Pingback: Why AA works. For me. | Process Not An Event

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