Addiction Recovery: When the New Wears Off
Oh, yeah... I got this! How many times have we heard that from a newcomer around the time he hits thirty or sixty days?
Pink clouds should be ridden as long as possible. I never want to deter a man early in his sobriety from experiencing the joy, excitement, elation, and serenity that comes with that first and most wonderful new-found contact with both Alcoholics Anonymous and his concept of a Power greater than himself. But pink clouds don’t last.
The first time we see a rainbow sober, we may realize it’s as beautiful as it was when we were high. We can contemplate something as simple as a flower and experience the sense of wonder. We revel in small "miracles" that have been happening all around us for all our lives. However, some of these things which once seemed fantastical or awe-inspiring eventually become natural and familiar to us. In too short a time, what was formerly the fresh new world of sobriety becomes part of the daily routine.
To some of us, it may seem as though we've no longer "got this." Sometimes we may feel we're "off the beam." Losing some of that initial zeal can be disconcerting. We may experience less elation than before; we may even begin to believe that our current circumstances aren't much different than before we entered Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s right - we begin to feel relatively normal again. Therein lays a good deal of inner conflict and confusion.
When did my pink cloud evaporate? Where did the magic go? Where did the sense of euphoria go? Just what is it that causes a degree of apathy and complacency to creep in? Think of it this way. Remember "her?" - the first love of your life? Remember the anticipation, longing, and aching in your heart for the next time you could see, smell, touch, or hold her? If that kind of ardor and excitement were to exist forever in that special relationship, we’d probably become overwhelmed!
The fact is, for us in AA, at some point the honeymoon is over. Then life's challenges occur and reoccur, just as it did before we were sober. Life still happens. Perhaps part of this gradual change is that we have ceased working the program and have begun living the program. Life happening from day to day, feeling those emotions we used to drink/drug away, awareness of our own causes and defects in what we do, say, and be, can lead to the feeling of "being away" from our program.
The strangest thing is this: What used to be so exciting, what used to be so new, what used to be the first thought in our heads is still there. We simply become accustomed to it. In other words, we have begun to live the program instead of merely working the program. What must we do to get that sense of newness, wonder, and fresh appreciation back? Is this even possible? Of course it is! The entire thrust of Alcoholics Anonymous - the primary focus of Discovery Place, in fact - is to "fit ourselves to be of maximum benefit to God and those about us."
Even after decades of sobriety, I’ll sometimes get to feeling rather dull. A bit of self-pity creeps in and I feel a little sorry for myself. But then, in looking closely at my hands, I see them grasping the steering wheel; I’m trying to guide my own life again. That’s dangerous for me. It’s dangerous for all of us. When those days come (and they will... if you don’t believe it, read page 14 in "Bill’s Story", our first thought has to be of others. How far do I really have to go to find someone in a little more pain than me, just a little worse off than me, or someone who needs a bit more than I need?
One short hour at any AA meeting will reveal a plethora of newcomers who probably wish they had exactly what we had when it was all new for us. If I can in some small way help them rediscover their pink cloud, then I can ride it with them in spirit for as long as they are on it. When I’m working with another man who isn’t convinced of Step Two - that is, that there's a power greater than him that can restore him to sanity - perhaps I just need to explain to the newcomer that he has a disease... that he’s not the only one feeling crazy. He can relate, and I can relate to him.
The sense of newness starts to return. The beauty of seeing the "new" in the newcomer is more rewarding than that I found for myself. For a short period of time I can get out of myself and, in a sense, be the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that somebody else can "read." I can be a representative of "God’s Army of Alcoholics" that fights the never-ending battle against the disease that we share in common. This gives me serenity. What I thought I had lost had actually become familiar; I became accustomed to it. So when those "blah" days come - and it's inevitable - just remember: This too shall pass. The downside to that whole thought process is the when those great days come, remember: This too shall pass.
Both you and the new man must walk day by day in the path of spiritual progress. If you persist, remarkable things will happen. When we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planned. Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances! -- Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 100