How Do I Get Unstuck?

healing progress Dec 15, 2020

I recently asked my 12-step home group: What do you do when you are stuck? I asked the question because I felt stuck. As always, I got some great wisdom from the group. Here some thoughts on the topic:

Admit it to someone

Two things that have been vital in my recovery: I have to bring things into the light and to be honest about my weaknesses. When you go to the hospital to get a wound fixed they don’t examine you in a dark room. When I had open heart surgery, my open chest was flooded with powerful lights so that the surgery staff could do their work. The darkness was not a good place to be in our addiction; healing began when things were exposed to the light, whether the exposure was on purpose or not.

One of our 12-step meeting guidelines is to lead with our weakness. I don’t find that very pleasant because I want everyone to think I have it all together. But I don’t have it all together and if I can’t admit that among my fellow recovering addicts, where on earth can I admit it? My pride says, “I can do this” but my reality has shown that I need help. A lot of help. Help from God and help from others. Usually help from God through others.

Keep doing the right things

If you are stuck, are you doing the right things? Here are the right things for me:

  • Reading or listening to the Bible
  • Praying to God
  • Being conscious of my thought life
  • Applying the 12-steps as needed
  • Going to meetings and making phone calls
  • Avoiding negativity like news, social media, and talk radio
  • Serving others in small ways
  • Making the effort to engage with family and friends

It may look like a daunting list of dos and don’ts, but none of them has to be done completely or perfectly. Consistency is more important than quantity. Progress not perfection. “The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Follow the light of God’s word and your conscience and do the next right thing. There is more power in a bunch of small wins than in looking for huge gains all at once.

Make Some Changes

Sometimes we get stuck out of sheer boredom. Boredom for me is a real danger signal and should be for any addict. Let’s face it, we were very clever, creative, and daring in the midst of our addiction. There was a certain level of excitement around the whole process of planning, scheming, and covering up our actions. They were wrong and had destructive consequences, but the point is, we were active and aggressive in pursuing our addictive behavior, in spite of wanting to stop.

Can we expect lasting sobriety and recovery if we are passive about it? No. I have to be as active and aggressive about growth and healing as I was in addiction or I am not going to make it. The more “bored” I am about recovery, the more I am drawn to go back to the “excitement” of my addiction. It may seem like insane thinking but I have seen it play out in my life and the lives of others.

Don’t try harder, try something different. Here are some suggestions:

  • Call someone in the program or in church that you don’t normally call. 
  • Take a different route to work. 
  • Attend an unfamiliar meeting. I don’t drink or have a drinking problem, but I have attended some AA meetings and found each of them very insightful and encouraging. 
  • Find a way to take the focus off of you and your recovery. 
  • Read a book unrelated to recovery. 
  • Focus on general growth and self-improvement, including good nutrition and rest.
  • Serve others, even in small ways.

Maybe You’re Not Stuck

If you are doing good and healthy things, it may be that you are not stuck at all. You could just be in a “flat spot” in your recovery and healing. I have found that there are cycles or seasons in my life where I experience more temptation or feel mildly depressed. There may be an unconscious seasonal reminder of a past event that triggers these things. But, when I stay the recovery course and don’t quit, there is usually a huge breakthrough in my recovery and healing. I am sure that there are many times when we quit and miss out on a big leap in healing.

Progress is not always linear and it takes faith to keep doing the right thing even when progress seems stalled. Here is how James Clear illustrates it in his excellent book, Atomic Habits:

Imagine that you have an ice cube sitting on the table in front of you. The room is cold and you can see your breath. It is currently twenty-five degrees. Ever so slowly, the room heats up.

Twenty-six degrees.

Twenty-seven.

Twenty-eight.

The ice cube is still sitting on the table in front of you.

Twenty-nine degrees.

Thirty.

Thirty-one.

Still, nothing has happened.

Then, thirty-two degrees. The ice begins to melt. A one-degree shift, seemingly no different from the temperature increases before it, has unlocked a huge change.

Keep working the program. Keep seeking the Lord. You won’t be stuck for long. What’s on the other side will be better than you can imagine.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen (Ephesians 3:20, 21).

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in your will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

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