In my experience the way that you develop faith in early recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction is this:
One, you start doing what other humans tell you to do.
Two, you start praying and meditating on a regular basis in order to try to improve who you are as a person.
That's pretty much it in a nutshell: If you start following advice from other people then you open the door to becoming the better version of yourself that you were meant to be all along.
Meaning that in early recovery, you simply do not have all of the answers, and you are going to be floundering if you try to figure out addiction recovery on your own.
Basically, you have enough mental willpower and stamina to do one of two things, but not both of them: You can execute a plan, or you can come up with a good plan. But you can't do them both.
And when it comes right down to it, you have to execute your plan. You cannot just sit around think of the perfect recovery plan all day.
This means that you have to outsource your plan to someone else. In other words, you must have other people tell you what to do in early recovery if you want to succeed.
And that requires faith. It requires trust. In order to build this faith, in order to develop this trust in others, you really only have one choice: You must dive into recovery head first, start taking advice from therapists, sponsors, and peers in AA or NA, and keep doing the next right thing in front of you.
If you do this consistently and you keep taking advice then it will build faith. If you choose to follow your own ideas then you will very likely relapse and your recovery efforts will crumble. If you relapse any faith in others or in a higher power will be destroyed, as your drug of choice will take back over as being your real higher power.
So your best bet is to get humble and to ask for help. Your faith and your hope will grow from that tiny bit of willingness into something much more profound and powerful, but you have to give it a chance. It is important to realize that your life is not going to just turn around completely in a single afternoon.
You have to take action in order to build your faith. Specifically, you have to ask for help and then follow advice and direction in order to build your faith. People will tell you in recovery that “Your higher power speaks to you through other people.” Random people will show up in your life and you will learn various lessons from them, and you can look back and see how just the right people showed up in your life at just the right times.
Was this your higher power working through others? Perhaps, perhaps not. But if you do the work and you humbly seek advice and suggestions then you will start to build a faith that is really working for you.
When I was in early recovery I had to make a decision at some point, and looking back I realize that this decision that I made was really how I worked the third step in Alcoholics Anonymous. The decision was this:
I made an agreement with myself that I was not going to make any more decision of my own for the foreseeable future, say for the first full year of my sobriety. Instead of making my own decisions or using my own ideas I would always defer to the advice and opinions of other people.
Why? Because I could no longer trust myself. Everything that I tried to do was constantly another method of self sabotage. Everything that I tried to do to make myself happy ended in disaster or misery or chaos. My life was a mess and it was all my own fault, and it was all because of my own decisions. I had tried to shift the blame to other people, to circumstances, to society, but the truth was, I was a mess and all of my unhappiness was my own fault and my own doing.
Because of this I made an agreement with myself, in my own mind, that I would not be in charge of my own life for the first year of sobriety. I would listen to my peers, to my therapist, to my sponsor, and to my family. I would take their advice and their direction and I would do exactly what they told me to do.
So I did this and at first, nothing remarkable happened. I was going through the motions, plodding along.
But at some point I realized that things were, in fact, getting better. I noticed fairly quickly that in spite of what I believed, I was not miserable. I thought that I would be so miserable or so bored if I were following the suggestions of other people, but the truth was that my life was getting better and better with each passing day.
This was my fight for survival in early recovery, and at some point, I realized that–not only was I no longer miserable, but I was actually happier today than I was during the fun filled days of my addiction. And furthermore, I was able to go through an entire day of my recovery without thinking about drinking or using drugs at all. Not one craving all day long, which for me seemed like a real miracle.
And so as soon as I realized these things, these miracles that were happening in my life, I became quite grateful for the process of recovery. This caused me to want to work the program of recovery even more, to earnestly seek more personal growth, to try to become that better version of myself that recovery demands of us.
This is the path of long term personal growth in recovery that I really believe faith is based on. In other words, our faith may be spiritual based, and it may be made up of mental processes that live within our mind, but that faith is going to be strengthened by our actions in the real world.
And one of those actions that you are going to be taking is that of helping others at the suggestion of your sponsor, or your therapist, or your peers. But the other suggestion that you will take is that of helping yourself, of seeking personal growth, of becoming that better version of yourself.
And I believe that both of these paths are important in developing a faith that works and a faith that can heal your life. In other words, it is not enough to just have belief in a higher power alone, without the actions to accompany that. And it is not enough to jump through the right hoops and emulate certain actions in order to build a new life in recovery. Instead, it is the combination of both things, it is the spiritual faith combined with the positive actions that will allow you to create a life in which your faith can heal you and sustain you.
If you are in early recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction then my best suggestion is that you start with inpatient treatment. Following that you should be taking suggestions from sponsors, from therapists, and from senior peers in AA and NA meetings. If you follow those directions and the advice that you are given then you can build a working faith in your life, almost out of nothing at all. Just the tiny bit of willingness is needed in order to get started on this path of momentum and positive changes. Embrace the advice and insight that you are given in early recovery and you can build a strong faith that will last you for the rest of your life in recovery.
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