Taking What Is and Making It Work

By Ken Wells - 06/13/2021


Series Two; Blog Thirty-Six

Feelings in recovery can be like a pendulum that swings from one extreme to the other. There are times that we are oversensitive and other times we are not sensitive enough. Sometimes we seem to work very hard to make something out of nothing and other times we need to take what we think is nothing and make something from it. For example, you can perceive someone’s silence as rejection in an instant, and then build what Mark Nepo describes as a cold castle on that tiny imagined brick. In this way you make assumptions from what can turn out to be nothing. Other times you might go to a 12-step meeting that lacks the chemistry you hoped for. You don’t know anyone, there’s no coffee and you honestly feel turned off by everyone who is present. This becomes the time that recovery would require you to make something out of nothing. How many times have you walked away from a meeting empty and how many times did you shift your attitude and walked away with insights of gold? It becomes about attitude and your willingness to shift your spirit.

So much of recovery is about taking what is and spreading it around to make it enough. There are many things you don’t have to have to be successful in recovery. You don’t have to have the best addiction counselor in the field—you are not the best client. Why would you need the best counselor? It’s not imperative that you pay an exorbitant amount to the greatest guru or an arm and a leg for treatment that you really cannot afford. You don’t have to find a “kick-ass” sponsor. The list of imagined unnecessary requirements can be endless.

There are some things you must have. You will need an attitude to do whatever it takes to be sober. You will need to employ the capacity to take what is and spread it around and make it enough. These two ingredients will take you to where you need to go in order to access who you need to work with and to engage what you need to face in order to be sober and find healing.

Here are some considerations to help you cultivate these characteristics:

Embrace grit and grind in recovery: I am not a big fan of providing plush conditions for addiction recovery. I also don’t promote the opposite, that austere conditions are required for recovery. I just believe that what is needed to do sobriety is a willing attitude to embrace grit and grind. One of the spiritual virtues to the 12 steps in recovery is courage. Recovery does not happen by way of convenience. Addicts in recovery build their life around recovery, not the other way around. Ninety meetings in ninety days requires commitment to a whatever-it-takes mentality. Recovery requires more than merely jumping through the hoops.  It demands that you tell on yourself at each meeting and that you not leave the meeting without getting one thing to help you remain sober and deepen recovery life. You then follow up with accountability by reaching out to someone to help you to incorporate in your recovery what you discovered in your last meeting. When you do these three things 90 times in 90 days, tell me you won’t get better. Yet, it requires grit and grind because these things are simple but not easy to do.

Practice gratitude: You will lose meaningfulness in recovery living if you do not practice gratitude. The challenges in recovery are so daily! Every day struggle to do the next right thing requires embracing the grit and grind but you won’t be able to remain consistent in this effort without practicing gratitude. Take your eyes away from the challenge and choose to be grateful for what is around you. Notice the birds around you, your kids, your pets, your neighbors, the intricacies of everything outdoors, your partner, your job. The list of gratitude is endless. Yet, this practice will take what is and make it more. At the next meeting you attend that doesn’t have what you are looking for, practice gratitude and see what you find in the meeting after doing so.

Practice being generative: Believe it or not, your recovery is not all about you! Living sober creates a foundation of living whereby you can become generative. Generativity means any activity that contributes to the development of others and to the life of the generations that come after you. It’s a way of living.  Addicts practice the 12-Steps to end the crazy-making experience of addictive living. The power of healing is legendary. However, healing would be short-lived without the emphasis of Step 12.  Step 12 encourages addicts to pass along the hope for recovery to the next generation of addicts in need of healing. The 12-step program was never designed to be insular but inclusive.  Twelve step generativity is about the mentality of sharing hope for transformation to those without hope. Addicts with experience in recovery point to promise and healing to the generations that come after them.  This is the nature of generativity spawned from the 12th Step.

The story is told of a 10-year-old boy who loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When he went to get the peanut butter jar to add to his jelly sandwich, he noticed daylight at the bottom of the peanut butter jar. Dejected, he threw away the peanut butter and walked out of the kitchen with nothing. His dad called him back to the kitchen, took the peanut butter jar from the trash, scraped the sides so that his son had 1/2” of peanut butter rather than the usual 1”, slapped it with the jelly slice and his son now had something where he otherwise would have had nothing.

Recovery requires that we take what is when resources are less than ideal and make something from nothing. This art form of recovery will require your personal grit and grind, the magic of your grateful spirit and a commitment to generative recovery living.

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