Old School Recovery

Talk with “old timers” in programs like AA and a lot of those amazing folks will tell you that our approach to recovery has softened over the years. It’s true – and like everything else, there are pros and cons to how things have changed.

I’m always looking at the bottom line – what works/what doesn’t. I get that people have feelings about things and I honor that. I also get that when folks are trying to force a square peg into a round hole that that shit doesn’t work and somebody needs to call them out on it.

The trouble is, you have to be fairly secure in who you are to tell someone when they’re lying to themselves, wallowing in self pity, or otherwise staying trapped within their current comfort zone (healing and growth don’t happen in there).

One of the most important services I can provide to a person – whether they are active in addiction or in recovery – is to tell them what I believe the truth is in absolutely no uncertain terms. Simple truth: We don’t do subtlety. We don’t follow you when we don’t like where you’re going and mincing words with us is a waste of both our time.

The two most important words of recovery are accountability and responsibility. If you don’t have those then you’re just wafting in the breeze and you’ll go where your disease wants you to. Get your feet planted on the ground. Keep your head where your feet are at. Reach out to those who care and know more than you do. Listen. Accept suggestions. Work your ass off. Repeat.

The language of recovery centers around willingness – tell me what you’re willing to do to get sober, stay sober, and have a better life. When you have suffered sufficiently (old school concept) there are three little words you will come to embrace: Whatever. It. Takes.

I do not wish for you to suffer. I have simply come to this truth: There are exactly two things that increase willingness – suffering and a spiritual awakening. The gift of desperation is an old school concept. It’s the point at which all conditions we might place on our sobriety and recovery fall away because we cannot tolerate it one more second. It’s painful and beautiful to behold.

When you receive it; I will hug you and patiently hold you while you cry.

I will not pity you. I will empathize with you.

Then I will ask what you’re willing to do?

No matter what your circumstances I will expect specificity from you. Tell me what you will do, when you will do it, who you will do it with and where it will occur. If I can’t hold you to it, it’s bullshit and we both know it. Take words like “probably” and “but” out of your vocabulary and get down to making a plan and sticking to it.

I’m old school because I never lose sight of a terrible reality – people die from this disease every single day. While the rest of the world awakens to an “epidemic” those of us who have been closer to the fire know this is nothing new. While we will honor every pathway to recovery, we also know that accountability, responsibility, and willingness are everything.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.