How Can I Change Everything?


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When we are new in recovery, we often hear the silly slogan “The only thing you have to change is everything.” It’s said in jest, but it’s also true to a large degree. For those of us who are new to recovery, this can seem like a tall order. Never mind the fact that we’re new in recovery and so much is already changing, but we have to change everything? There’s a lot of helpful information that we can learn about this phrase and what the intense goal of changing “everything” really means.


The Goal: Everything

First, we need to examine this goal closely. Changing everything is a lot! Is this something we genuinely want for ourselves, something we feel pressure to do, or was it something somebody told us? We need to look at the source of this goal and do some serious contemplating. The reason that the recovery community tells us to change everything is in direct reference to our lifestyle and attitudes as they were when the disease of alcoholism or addiction had control of our lives.

Now that we’re in recovery, all those behaviors, habits, actions, and attitudes that supported our disease have to go. We can’t expect our life in recovery to be different from our lives before if we let everything stay the same. If we spend every night in the bar or at the dealer’s house, can we really expect to lead a different life? If all our friends drink and use drugs or if all our thoughts are negative and self-defeating, can we really think that our lives will change? This is what people in recovery mean when they say we have to change everything. They mean it, but they mean it in relation to our lives in our active disease.


It’s Not Literal

We don’t have to start eating meat if we’re vegetarian. We don’t have to change our religion if we like our higher power. We don’t have to pick a new favorite color. We don’t have to wear a suit every day. We can do those things if we want to, but we don’t literally have to change everything. We simply have to be willing to change the things that impede or jeopardize our recovery. Some of these changes may be emotionally difficult — we humans are creatures of habit, after all. But for our lives in recovery to take full effect, we must be willing to fully let go of our lives in the disease. Not everything we let go of will stay gone, but that is up to life itself and our higher power. We don’t have to literally change everything, but we do need to work the 12 Steps enough that we become willing to let everything change if it needs to for our health, happiness, and recovery.


We Don’t Have To Do It All

When it comes to actually changing the things that need to be changed, we don’t have to do it all alone. There are some changes that we will have to make for ourselves and our lives, but those things will reveal themselves as we work the 12 Steps. That’s the real work we have to do and the one thing we really have to focus on: the 12-Step work. If we do that, the necessary changes we need to make will become clear to us, and so will the path ahead. Not only will the changes we need to make reveal themselves, but so will the path and actions we must take.

When it comes to the rest of everything, we won’t be alone for any of it. Our recovery community, the 12 Steps, our sponsor, and our higher power will be there with us every step of the way. We can’t recover alone, and while there are some actions only we can take, most of the time we will be surrounded by love and help. We will have to change a lot, but we don’t really have to do the heavy lifting. The 12-Step program is designed to help us change as we work it, so the changes that happen within us take place as we work the 12 Steps. The changes that happen outside of us will reveal themselves as we continue to do the work, and the actions we need to take will be made clear in the process.


Everything That Changes Is Replaced By Something Better

Life in recovery is not about being punished for our lives in active alcoholism and addiction. Life in recovery is not about losing things, no longer having fun, or becoming boring. Life in recovery is about hope, fun, purpose, meaning, fulfillment, and happiness. Nothing we lose in recovery goes away without leaving room for something even better to take its place! Anything we are asked to give up simply leaves room for us to receive something new. Change can be an intense process. But if we stay involved in the 12-Step program, we can rest assured that any changes we are directed to make will be for the better.

Jaywalker Lodge believes that everyone who suffers from alcoholism or addiction deserves to find recovery. The 12-Step program is a course of spiritual action designed to produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that bring about freedom and recovery from the disease of alcoholism and addiction. This process entails a great deal of change, but no one recovers alone. We need each other to recover, and we help each other every step of the way. We simply don’t do it alone. Any of it. The process of working the 12 Steps creates change in us and our lives as we do the work. Change takes time in both life and recovery. Little by little, the 12-Steps guide us in the direction we need to go. If you are ready to begin your journey and experience the transformative power of recovery, then Jaywalker Lodge is ready to help you. Are you ready for a change? Call us 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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