Being a Leader in Recovery

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Table of Contents

Every man among us likes to view himself as a leader, but are we really ready to pony up when it comes to doing what leaders do? What about those of us who don’t view ourselves as leaders or simply don’t want the moniker? Doesn’t seeing yourself as a leader oppose the humility that the Twelve Steps constantly ask us to seek? These are some good questions, so let’s delve into the answers. We’ll start with what it means to be a leader in recovery and who among us is tasked with this position.


A Group of Leaders


The truth is that there are no official leaders in recovery. We often look to those with the longest time sober to lead the rest of us in recovery. But this system only works if those with the longest time sober are still actively working the Twelve Steps and maintaining their spiritual fitness. 


Reality tells us that not everyone keeps themselves spiritually fit at all times. Our spiritual fitness fades just like our muscles do when we stop exercising. The closest thing we get to real leaders in recovery is those who keep themselves spiritually fit by working the Twelve Steps, no matter how much sober time they actually have. Spiritual fitness is a matter of daily maintenance, meaning it’s won and lost one day at a time. One day it may be an oldtimer who’s the most spiritually fit in the room, but the next day it may be someone with much less sober time. 


In this regard, we are all asked to be leaders in recovery at one time or another. We cannot recover alone — we already know that. We recovering alcoholics and addicts rely on each other to get and stay recovered. So, we all take turns. Some days it falls to us to lead the way, and other days we will need to rely on the leadership of others. Just like some days we need help, and other days we need to be of service. 


Now that we’ve confirmed there are no real leaders in recovery, hopefully we can see the many ways that makes all of us leaders. Sometimes we will be the most spiritually fit person in a meeting. Other days we will be the sickest. Understanding this, it’s easy to see that eventually all of us are asked to take the lead at one time or another. What do we do with this responsibility, and how do we handle it?


It’s Our Responsibility


Maintaining spiritual fitness is our primary responsibility, but our higher power is the one who really does the heavy lifting. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says that we are never cured of our alcoholism or addiction — what we really have is a daily reprieve from the disease that is contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition. The Big Book also says that the rebuilding of our personage and our life is a by-product of the Twelve Steps, but the true purpose of the program of recovery is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to our higher power and our fellow human beings. 


Keeping this in mind, our path is clear, our work is cut out for us, and our mission is obvious. With our physical body, our fitness is our responsibility — it’s exactly the same with our spiritual fitness. It’s our responsibility to acquire the daily reprieve and fit ourselves to be of maximum service. The good news is that we can achieve both of these things via the same method: we work the 12-Step program of recovery in its entirety all the time. That’s all we have to do. We go to meetings, work the Twelve Steps, and be of service. Our higher power handles the rest. All we’re responsible for is working the program of recovery.


If we remain active in the Twelve Steps and the recovery lifestyle, we will achieve the daily reprieve and become fitted to be of maximum service. This puts us in the position to be a leader in recovery whenever we are called upon, whether it’s being asked to be someone’s sponsor, being called upon to share in a meeting, or some other scenario. Whatever is asked of us, we can rise to the task, be a good spiritual leader, and give the very best of ourselves.


What Makes a Good Leader?


The first characteristic of a good leader in recovery is someone who actively and continuously works the 12-Step program of recovery in all its aspects and elements. Remaining active in the program all but ensures that we can weather the ups and downs of our lives. It helps give us balance across the entire spectrum of our lives. It’s also how we become fitted and prepared to render maximum service to our higher power and our fellow humans. Within the program itself, we find all the other ingredients that make a good leader: selflessness, service, strength, peace, vision, direction, purpose, and more.


A good leader leads to be of service to others, not to gain for himself. A good leader thinks of others and makes sure he does what he can to help them. A good leader has a higher power whom he relies on for strength and inner peace. A good leader works the 11th Step so he has clarity of vision, direction, and purpose. At one time or another, we are all called upon in recovery to take our turn as a leader. 


In recovery, we have no official leaders. We have some traditions, and of course we have the Twelve Steps, but we have no other master besides our own higher power. That being said, not much gets done in recovery without someone leading the way. While each of us has our own higher power who leads us, at different times and for different reasons we will all be called upon to act as leaders in recovery in one way or another. Everyone gets a turn. Whether it’s leading a meeting, being a sponsor, sharing our story, or uplifting someone else, we will all be asked to step up to the plate every now and then. It’s up to us to be ready to take on this responsibility when we are called upon. We do this by working the 12-Step program of recovery. If you are ready to begin your recovery journey, we’re here for you. Call Jaywalker Lodge now at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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