People who are new to the rooms of recovery, may at times feel like they are on a different planet than they were before. In a room with a group of people who share a common experience, stories of both their life in addiction and in recovery are revealed. For over 80 years, people have worked with each other to abstain from alcohol or any other mind altering substance that has the power to ruin lives.
If you are in your first thirty days of sobriety, hopefully you have gone to the front of the meeting room to collect a “newcomer” chip. The newcomer chip may seem unimportant when compared to yearly anniversary chips, and some people in early sobriety may opt out or walking to the front to get an under 30-day sober chip. However, some would argue, and they would be right in doing so, the newcomer chip is the most important as it could be considered one’s first introduction to humility.
It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of a group of relative strangers, and identify as a newcomer. It is an action that says you are willing to put ego and every other potential shortcoming aside, declaring that you are in fact an alcoholic and/or addict. It says that you are ready to surrender, that your way isn’t working and that you are ready to do whatever it takes to be free from the bondage of self.
Perhaps you have witnessed someone pick up an anniversary or sobriety birthday chip, and maybe they were given a chip that acknowledges decades of abstinence. If so, you may have found yourself in awe. With your inner voice saying, “How?” The answer to that question, to the puzzle of how someone can abstain from drink or drug for multiple decades, is simple; you just keep coming back and don’t use drugs or alcohol no matter what.
Recovery is a gift that is given freely, but one that requires continued vigilance against the snares of addiction to hold onto. One manages to work a successful program of recovery by following in the footsteps of those who have walked the road before you. Those who have managed to acquire significant time in the program are fully aware of the fact that they cannot keep what they have unless they give it away. If you don’t have a sponsor, find someone with significant “time,” a person whose words resonate with you.
Long term sobriety is possible, and by continuing to practice the principles of recovery in all your affairs, you too may one day find yourself walking to the front of your homegroup to collect a chip acknowledging decades of recovery. You may find yourself in front of newcomers who are thinking exactly what you were thinking all those years ago. Recovery has the power to take a fragile newcomer and turn them into an inspiration to a new generation of recovering addicts and alcoholics.
But for now, next time you are at a meeting take stock of all the years of collective recovery in the room. People with decades, like Jeanne McAlister who just celebrated 60 years of sobriety, taking her last drink in 1956, The CW6 reports. She, like many with significant time, chose to use her recovery to help others, founding an addiction treatment center in San Diego in 1977.
At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, we would like to honor Jeanne McAlister steadfast dedication to helping others find the gifts of recovery.