Recovery: Change of Heart, Thought and Attitude

Recovery:  Change of Heart, Thought and Attitude

…it should be pointed out that physical treatment is but a small part of the picture. Though you are providing him with the best possible medical attention, he should understand that he must undergo a change of heart. To get over drinking will require a transformation of thought and attitude. We all had to place recovery above everything, for without recovery we would have lost both home and business.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 143)

Recovery is not just about doing things and being able to check the boxes that mean you did each thing.  Recovery requires a complete change of:

  1. Heart
  2. Thought &
  3. Attitude

Recovery requires not only a change in the way you think but a change of why you think the way you think.  Many people believe that the way recovery works is to live the rest of your life thinking the same way and simply ignoring the self-destructive thoughts.  Others believe that in recovery you will stay basically the same person but your thinking will somehow change in spite of being the same.

If you are going to change your thoughts and attitude you are going to have to change the reasons you have those thoughts and attitudes.  What I am getting at is the fact that if you are very advanced in addiction/alcoholism you either change completely or you stay the same.  You cannot think the same way and do different things (for very long).

YOU ARE EITHER CHANGED OR YOU ARE THE SAME AND IF YOU ARE THE SAME YOU SHOULD EXPECT THE SAME RESULTS.

Think of those of us at the worst levels of addiction/alcoholism who try to quit on our own.  We know that quitting means not doing it again.  We decide to quit and are firmly resolved to staying abstinent. Yet suddenly we use again.  In some of these instances we tell ourselves some insanely trivial reason why this particular time does not count as relapse even though we know that any use at all means I have no longer quit.  The problem is not just what happens after I start using.  The bigger problem is my attitudes and thoughts immediately before I use again.  What was going on in my mind that made me think it was okay to do something I was firmly resolved not to do?  Something that I knew to be so self destructive and so destructive to all of those around me.

So we shall describe some of the mental states that precede a relapse into drinking, for obviously this is the crux of the problem.

What sort of thinking dominates an alcoholic who repeats time after time the desperate experiment of the first drink?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 35)

But there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 37)

“Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out.”  Whatever happens at the moment we decide to use cannot even be called sane and definitely cannot be considered a time when we are in control.

If we do not change the entire basis of why we think the things we think, we will still end up thinking the same thoughts.  This change is the basis of recovery and should be the desired result also.

Many of us who frequent Alcoholics Anonymous meetings hear this stated regularly and often miss or ignore this fact. For example, if you are familiar with something called “The Promises” one of them is:

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 84)

That is a desired result and in the list of promises it is really the summary of some of the results of this change of attitude and outlook.

Why is all of this important?  The truth is that if you are going to gain this new footing for your thoughts and attitude to stand on, you will need to be willing to let go of your old footing.  To have a change of heart, the old heart has to be removed to allow the change to happen.

A huge goal for your recovery is to not only change who you are, but to change why you are who you are.

If the reasons you do and even think thinks you think have led you to do things that destroy your life and the lives of those around you then those reasons are probably wrong.  You probably need new reasons!

IN RECOVERY, IF YOU ARE NOT CHANGED; YOU ARE THE SAME AND CAN EXPECT THE SAME RESULTS.

In the Alcoholics Anonymous book, Carl Jung is quoted as having put it this way:

The doctor said: “You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you.” Our friend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.

He said to the doctor, “Is there no exception?”

“Yes,” replied the doctor, “there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences. To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 27)

Recovery is going to require that you have “huge emotional displacements and rearrangements.” Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of your life have to be cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives must begin to dominate you.

That is the change of:

  1. Heart
  2. Thought &
  3. Attitude

Are you open to that?  That is what recovery must look like if you expect it to work!  Being able to say you did this or that will not keep you sober if each these things do not lead to change in your life.

“CHANGE IS A CONSTANT.  THOSE WHO REFUSE TO CHANGE TO BE BETTER WILL BE FORCED TO BE CHANGED TO BE WORSE”

Wade H.

Am I Willing To Let Go

Am I Willing To Let Go

If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at Step Six. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all – every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 76)

If a person has done a thorough Steps Four and Five that person is ready to start working on Step Six.  That means the person has gone through every anger and resentment in his or her life and has not only worked on getting over the emotions of the situation, but has learned to see each incident so differently that he or she is so concerned about the other person that it is terribly hard to have resentment or anger.  That means that he or she has looked through every fear and has realized how each one is a destructive force in his or her life.  That also means that he or she has looked through every sexual encounter and thought learning to see those differently also.

Then in Step Five this is all discussed with another person and with God having the expectation of both a feeling of some level of release but also that the person hearing all of this will dig a little deeper to help the person see his or her own challenges a little clearer.

If this all goes correctly it is not the end of these things, it is just a clarifying of what is really wrong with the person.  “What are the real problems behind my problems?”  This is not just a clarifying of how “jacked-up” a person is.   This is a clarifying of what is really wrong so that so that he or she works on the right things.  In other words going through the past, looking at every struggle in your life to see what you need to do to be free of those struggles.  Then going over all of this with someone else and with God to get a deeper outside perspective of all of this.

I just went through a lot of stuff so lets slow down and take a clearer look at what the desired end result of Steps Four and Five are.  Think of a person going to the hospital and just kinda doing whatever the other patients seem to be doing as treatment and hoping it will fix whatever is wrong with you.  This is where Twelve Step Programs become less and less “cookie-cutter” and become far more individualized.

In a perfect world, by the time you have reached this point, you have a list of your more serious problems that came out of what you have done in Steps Four and Five that is used to work Steps Six and Seven.

We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 71)

If do not have a list like this and you are trying to work on Step Six, get together with your sponsor, grab your Forth Step and work together to make one.  You are actually not finished with Step Five until you make one.

We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 76)

There are a couple of important points here:

  1. Things “which we have admitted are objectionable” is a very important part of this step.  A HUGE part of transitioning from Step Five to Step Six is having admitted (fully) that the things that are listed on your list of “grosser handicaps” that you came up with in working Step Four and your sponsor helped you add to or come up with in Step Six are deep problems that need to go.  If you do not feel all of these are problems that need to be dealt with, it is okay.  YOU ARE NOT READY TO WORK STEP SIX.  Get together with your sponsor and other mentors and work on HONESTLY getting to that point.
  2. The sentence: “We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable” lets us know what the main point and end goal of Step Six is.  Step Six is about complete willingness.  “No matter what happens” kind of willingness.  “No matter what I am feeling” kind of willingness.
  3. Then comes the details of Step Six:  “Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?”  So, if you feel the things listed are problems that you need to be free of then its time to look at yourself and do a “complete willingness” check.  Are you completely willing TO LET GOD remove all of those things AT ALL COSTS AND NO MATTER WHAT?

That is a big question.  There is a deeper question here than what many people reading this understand.  “What if you can only learn to be free of these things through discomfort?” 

For example, what if you are so “hard-headed” that you tend to not learn things until there is no other alternative.  In other words what if you are the type of person who will not truly decide changing something until not changing has become so painful that you clearly see that there is no other choice.  In such a case, the only way to get you to change is to cause you enough pain to force you to see the need to change.

In other words you may need great discomfort or outright pain as part of the process of change.  Are you so convinced of the need to change that you are willing to ASK GOD to hurry the process of change for you AT ALL COSTS AND NO MATTER WHAT?  Even if the process is painful, uncomfortable, and nearly unbearable, I want to be changed so desperately that I am ready for this and ready for it to all happen as quickly as possible so I can be changed.

I know that by now, many of those reading this automatically are thinking; “No thanks, I’ll pass.”  That is actually the normal response.  That is exactly why this step is here.

Step Six is not simply a checking to see if you are ready, it is the Step where you grow to a point of being ready.  Then, when you are ready, you go to Step Seven.

Can He now take them all – every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 76)

This is where you spend time with God, your sponsor, other mentors and yourself getting ready.  Step Six.  Think of it this way:  “Can he take them all, no matter how – every one of my “grosser handicaps” or “character defects?”  If you cannot answer “yes”; GREAT!  You are on the right Step.

Step Six is for when you are WILLING TO BECOME willing to let God remove all of your defects of character by any means necessary.

Step Seven is for those THAT ARE ALREADY willing to let God remove all of your defects of character by any means necessary.

“The Watch Four” to Watch For!

“The Watch Four” to Watch For!

This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

This passage is an overview of the process we are to learn to do at Step 10, but this is actually a brief overview of the way we are supposed to live year to year, day to day and minute by minute.

There is a brief process listed here that could be more detailed or more complicated, but what is listed here does a great job of summarizing it.  These things are not to be relegated to just a process, but are supposed to gradually become the way you live.

This passage lists a process; the process is just stuff until you take action.  Once the action is taken it is supposed to be repeated constantly.  Once the process has been repeated constantly for a period of time it will become a habit.  Once a habit has been with you long enough it transition from a habit to a part of who you are.  It becomes a part of your lifestyle.  It is a part of who you are.  That is the goal.

Lets start by looking at the process briefly outlined in this passage:

FIRST, we continue to watch for negative and destructive thoughts or actions.  If you are at Step 10 and working your steps as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book, you probably have a good idea what destructive thoughts and actions are most destructive to your life and those around you.  The authors also included four that are often common to us working through recovery:

  1. Selfishness
  2. Dishonesty
  3. Resentment
  4. Fear

Even if you have your own personalized list, these four should be included.  We will call these “The Watch Four.”  These are the things that you are supposed to be on watch for at all times.  These (along with whatever other items you may list) are indicators that you are about to unleash crazy in your world or that you have already been unleashing crazy in your world.  If you are watching for these and see that one has begun arising in you, you are in deep trouble.  That is why it is imperative that you keep watch.

NEXT, you have to know what to do if you are watching and one of these crops up.  Before you respond or act in any way or even give all of this too much thought, STOP!  Ask God to remove the destructive thought, attitude or behavior on my part.  It does not matter who else is involved or what is going on, first I must stop my own crazy train.

AFTER ASKING GOD call, visit or somehow discuss whatever you have going on with someone helpful.  That means someone who is at wise enough to use common sense, far enough in recovery or in life not to give you stupid advice and strong enough to tell you the truth (even if it will make you angry). 

Too many people look for advice from people they already know will agree with whatever stupidity they are thinking or who won’t say anything they don’t want to hear.  It is helpful if you can find a few that have been through this process properly and understand.

The point is to test your thinking and get an outsider’s perspective and guidance.  For that to happen you need to be actively looking for these people and discussing this with them before something happens.  Then, when something like this comes up, these people will be expecting your call or visit and will know exactly what you are expecting.  (maybe you can prepare them by showing this to them)

AFTER TALKING TO SOMEONE, you need to take action to change.  If there was another person involved, you probably owe him, her or them an amends.  If this is the case do not put it off, do all you can to repair the situation as soon as possible.  Try to do anything you can as fast as you can to undo your part of whatever happened.

ONCE YOU HAVE MADE AMENDS focus on intensively working with someone else who is struggling with addictions, alcoholism or whatever you are struggling with.  This is the best way to deal with this sort of struggle (along with the other parts of the process).

PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Not only is working with others part of getting immunity from destructive thoughts or actions, working with others is part of ensuring immunity from relapse. 

This is the way we are to deal with the negatives and destructive things that enter into our lives.  I did skip one point from the passage on page 84 until now.  It is four very important words: 

When these crop up…  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

We are not discussing something that might happen, we are talking about things that will be trying to creep back into your life at every turn.  At first all of this may seem tedious or annoying.  After you do all of this long enough it will just become normal and seem less and less of a tedious effort and eventually just become the way you think. 

The point is to stop letting ridiculously foolish things from pouring out of your life or to stop holding in ridiculously foolish thoughts and feelings and deal with these things.  This is all a huge part of learning love and tolerance and these things are the code of all things Twelve Step.

Learning to live like this is change and change is what recovery is all about.  Like I always say:

IF YOU ARE NOT CHANGED YOU ARE THE SAME AND YOU CAN EXPECT THE SAME RESULTS!

Wade H.

Is Your Recovery Pointless? What is the Point?

Is Your Recovery Pointless?  What is the Point?

We have been trying to get a new attitude, a new relationship with our Creator, and to discover the obstacles in our path. We have admitted certain defects; we have ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; we have put our finger on the weak items in our personal inventory. Now these are about to be cast out. This requires action on our part, which, when completed, will mean that we have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our defects. This brings us to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 72)

In the first sentence what we have is a brief summary of the purpose and goals of working the originator of all Twelve Step programs.  The list consists of three parts:

  •    a new attitude
  •    a new relationship with our Creator
  •    to discover the obstacles in our path

These three help take a deeper look at our goal in working the program and the destination.  Knowing what the destination or the goal for you at the end of your recovery is has great importance.  Consider these two quotes:

“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” – Author Unknown

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Seneca

The person in recovery who does not know what he or she is aiming for will not ever know if he or she gets there or even if he or she is still heading the right way or not.  If you have no goal, then it doesn’t matter how well or poorly you do things, because all of it is pointless.  This sentence from page. 72 is the compass for each of our Twelve Step recovery experiences. 

These are the goals, but they appear logically in reverse order.  Simply put: 

We start by looking for the obstacles in our path.  The obstacles to “what?”  Again, if you cannot answer the question and know what the “what” is, you would not know the difference between looking at the obstacles and actually stacking up more obstacles.  The “what” is the next one on the list:  The “new relationship with” God. 

We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 69)

We have been blocked off from God and it is tied to “self-will.”  We start to clear away what has been blocking us when we make a decision (Steps 1-3) and make an inventory (Step 4).  The “self-will” part is a huge part of all that “blocked off from God” stuff and a root to our addictions or alcoholism.

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

This is the how and why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

Selfishness or “playing God” keeps us from a deep relationship with God.  Whatever we believe our relationship with God has been, we need to develop a new one.  We may hate the word God, kinda believe in God, believe, or be a highly trained member of the clergy, but if you are working recovery, “a new relationship with our creator” is needed. 

The steps are described here as cleaning up, or helping to clean up what has blocked you from Him in the past. 

Once you reach the end of the program portion of the Alcoholics Anonymous book (pg 164) you are turned over from the care directions of the process to the direction of God.

Still you may say: “But I will not have the benefit of contact with you who write this book.” We cannot be sure. God will determine that, so you must remember that your real reliance is always upon Him. He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave.

Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven’t got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 164)

All of the Steps and all of the recovery information is admittedly a small amount of info in the lifelong process.   When a person reaches and is living out the “maintenance steps” (Steps 10, 11 & 12 which are steps that are carried out every day) a part of that process is being turned over to God’s guidance. 

When we backtrack to Step 10 we see how properly working the Steps is tied to the “New Relationship with our creator”:

Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us.  (
Alcoholics Anonymous pg 85)

The reason we are supposed to “sense the flow” better if we “carefully followed directions” is because we worked at removing what has been blocking us from a deep relationship with Him.

Step 11 is far more directly concerned with deepening our relationship with God.  There is far more to this concept, but the basic idea is talking to and listening to God.  That is the building of the relationship.

11.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 59)

Now think about the second part of Step 11; what you pray for.  We are to pray to know His will and for the strength to actually do what His will is.  This is the foundation of the “new attitude” we were talking about.  Couple that with the destruction of “selfishness and self-centeredness” and throw in the rest of the details covered in the “maintenance steps (Steps 10, 11 & 12) and you have not only a new attitude, but a new way of living.

As a new person, with a new attitude you will do new things.  As the same old person, with the same old attitude, you will probably do the same old things or worse.

All of us must look for the things that put distance in our relationship with God.  Then once those things are as out of the way as we each are capable of, we make a conscious effort to deepen the relationship with Him constantly.  Then we let Him direct our thoughts as the both the source of our “new attitude” and as the “new attitude itself.”

I leave you today with this strong message describing the importance of this understanding and about what we need to do to recover:

 ———————————————————————-

Perhaps there is a better way – we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.  (
Alcoholics Anonymous pg 68)