How Can I Know What the Right Advice Is?


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Inside the rooms of recovery — and certainly out of them — people like to give advice. Ever since man learned to speak, we were likely offering each other advice on how to live and conduct our affairs. Hopefully, most of the time, advice is well-intentioned and kind-spirited. Sometimes it’s terrible advice but rarely is it malicious. People like to talk, and people like to think they know what’s best for everyone. What often results is a cacophony of noise and suggestions. Some advice conflicts with others, some sounds bad but feels good, some sounds great but feels wrong, and some of it we simply don’t understand. There’s too much going on to make much sense of anything sometimes.

This situation is very common for the alcoholic or addict who is a newcomer to recovery. This new person hears so much advice and opinion about recovery and life in general that it can be hard to make heads or tails of anything at first. Perhaps there are ways to cut down the interference noise and hear good advice with a little more clarity.

Distinguishing Good Advice from Bad

Knowing good advice when we hear it can be a challenge. One of the simplest ways to know good advice from bad is to have enough life experience to consider others’ suggestions or opinions. As Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgment.” All jokes aside, this isn’t far off the mark. Of course, the easiest way to figure out if advice is good or bad is to take the advice and see what happens. But this isn’t always the best way to go about things, especially where our recovery and lives are concerned.

Another way of evaluating the quality of advice is to consider the source. But there’s another big problem here — sometimes we may find excellent advice in unexpected places. The very wisest people who ever lived considered the opinions and advice of everyone, weighed it over carefully, and proceeded with their best judgment. A child may end up giving good advice about having a positive attitude. A homeless person may provide sound advice about relationships. A depressed person may give good advice about what’s really important in life. As we consider the source, we must be careful not to judge the source. Instead, we can listen to their advice and think it over.

Sometimes we want a second opinion. However, second opinions can often sound like more noise, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid. If we’re truly inundated and confused by the advice we receive, we can seek a static source to consult. A spiritual book, especially the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, might be just the answer. There is a lot of time-tested recovery literature that contains helpful information and advice on many subjects and situations. Having an unchanging guide like this can help root us to stability when our lives (and the advice we get about our lives) are constantly changing.

Questions We Can Ask Ourselves

When we receive advice of any kind, there are some helpful questions we can ask ourselves. Does the person giving the advice have good intentions for us? What is the motivation behind this advice? Are they knowledgeable about the subject they’re advising us on? Do they follow the same advice? Are they happy? That last one might seem like it doesn’t belong, but think about it. If the person loves the life they live, their advice might be worth considering.

This might seem like many questions to consider every time we get advice, but it won’t always work that way. We can, however, benefit from asking at least some of these things. Over time, we better decipher the amount of advice and opinions we hear in our early recovery.

Finding Clarity

Ultimately, receiving too much advice might result in feeling unclear about what the right thing to do really is. We often need some clarity to get our bearings. After we’ve consulted the Big Book and other recovery literature, if we still need some focus, we’ve got another way — prayer and meditation. The more we pray and meditate, the more mental clarity we gain access to. Practice makes progress with these disciplines, and any time we spend praying and meditating improves our ability to be calm, at peace, and think more clearly.

But the benefits of prayer and meditation don’t stop there. When we practice these things in conjunction with working the rest of the 12-Steps, we are given access to our higher power. Having this contact with our higher power can be very useful as we sort through advice. We can spend quiet alone time with our higher power, which may go a long way in filtering out some noise. Of course, if we are new to recovery and not used to communicating with our higher power, it wouldn’t hurt to run our experiences by a sponsor or trusted friend.

Ultimately, knowing what advice to take and what to ignore is a complicated subject. But thankfully, we need not worry about it. Read the Big Book and follow your sponsor’s directions. They will show you the way.

Advice given in the rooms of recovery is often well-intentioned or at least not meant to do any harm. Most people mean well when they try to give others advice. But sometimes, there are too many sources of input and too many opinions coming at us. When it comes to filtering all the advice we hear in early recovery, we can remember that we want to keep our recovery community large while keeping our board of advisors at a manageable size until we get our bearings. As we work the 12-Steps and grow more familiar with our higher power, we will have more clarity and experience to draw from when considering advice. If you’re an alcoholic or addict struggling to achieve or maintain recovery, you may benefit from the 12-Steps just like we did. At Jaywalker Lodge, we know the 12-Steps work because they worked for us, and we won’t ask you to do anything we ourselves haven’t done. Begin your recovery now. Call Jaywalker Lodge 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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