On more than one occasion, I’ve heard remarks like, “Since everyone is different, is it possible that there are some recovery rules that may not be helpful — or even harmful — to some addicts?”
When I got into the program, I was told that there were no rules, only suggestions, but that they had worked for a lot of people and the chances were good that they would work for me, so maybe I needed to set aside my reservations and listen to other people for a change.
One of the defining characteristics of human beings seems to be the conviction that we are all different, and thus certain rules of living, behavior and society in general don’t apply to us. It is true that we are all unique in some ways, but it is also true that we humans have the vast majority of our behavior in common.
All creatures need certain things: air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, reproductive behavior and the other things necessary for the biological survival of their species. Humans need security, family, employment, friendship and intimacy. Finally, we all need self-esteem, confidence, the respect of others, a sense of achievement, morals, rules to keep society running, and related things.
So, what does nearly every addict lack out of the above list, at one time or another? Would it be fair to say nearly all of them? Aren’t these the very things that we often ignore in our search for better living through chemistry? Aren’t these the things we need to repair, or finally progress to having, in order to remain “happy, joyous and free?” Isn’t achieving those things or getting them back the whole point of sobriety?
Recovery isn’t about quitting. We quit lots of times. Recovery is about learning how to live after we quit — without using again. And in recovery, “terminally unique” is not a joke. It’s a diagnosis — and a curse.