Staying Focused, Yet Flexible

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For alcoholics and addicts in recovery, routine can be a genuine lifesaver. We have our regular meetings to attend, daily times of prayer and meditation with our higher power, fellowship, scheduled times with our sponsor, service commitments, and good old 12-Step work to do. It’s a routine that’s repetitive by nature, and it quite literally saves our lives while helping us grow, change, and experience a life more full, meaningful, and joyous than we could have ever imagined. This routine might even feel a little monotonous sometimes, until we remember just how free it makes us and all the wonderful things it makes possible.

We can then add our normal daily routines. Perhaps it’s a work and/or school schedule, family time, working out, or sporting events. Routines in our daily life are much like rituals in ceremonies. The repetition has an impact, and it also calms, centers, and restores us — especially in our 12-Step routine. But not everything in life can, or even should be, “just” a routine. 

Keep Yourself Engaged

Often the things we do over and over again, time and time again, become like white noise. We stop participating in them fully and just go through the motions. With anything, but especially with the spiritual nature of the 12-Step program, just flying on autopilot can begin to draw negative consequences out of wholly positive actions. We kid ourselves into thinking we are trying when we aren’t, and we grow resentful that we’re not getting the results we used to when we were more present and awake. But it was the very alertness, awareness, and cognition of our fully engaged presence in otherwise routine actions that allowed them to produce growth, change, and learning. When we do things we’ve done before with our eyes closed, we lose much of the benefit. We might stay sober by just going through the motions, but we won’t keep growing and thriving in our recovery unless we keep our eyes open.

Just as easily as we can lose sight of our routines, there are some parts of life that can’t be routinized. We never know when someone may ask us for help, or when we may be presented with an opportunity to be of service. It would be a sorely missed opportunity to refuse these things just because they don’t fit into our over-organized schedule! It would be just as much of a shame to miss out on chances to help others because we aren’t prepared to deviate from our normal routines. Schedules and routines are comforting and they provide firm foundations that we can always return to, like a home. We want our home to be solid, safe, and secure — but not so secure that we can never leave it.

Sometimes Life Has Other Plans

Then there is the ultimate wild card, life itself. Tragedy and chaos are not always looming right around the corner, but they are also not likely to avoid us entirely. Sometimes things happen in life that no one could have foreseen, planned for, or expected. Sometimes we get dealt a tragic blow, or something happens to spin an area of our life into chaos. It’s at this point that we can see the real utility of flexibility. As the ancient proverb says, a tree that does not bend with the wind will break. We must consciously cultivate flexibility into our internal and external modes of living. We must have a direction to head, but we must also have enough gas in the tank to make it through a few detours as well. Letting go of our need for control and learning to place our trust and dependence in a higher power will go far in helping us stay flexible. Luckily, the 12-Steps are all about helping us do just that. 

In these unplanned and turbulent times, we must keep in mind which routines we need to continue for comfort and strength, and which we can let go of. When we assess our lives in this way we can become malleable enough to weather the storm with minimal damage, while staying spiritually fit enough to meet calamity with serenity. For instance, if we lose our job, it’s probably a bad idea to stop praying and meditating daily because that helps keep us fit mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But while we are searching for a new job, it might be helpful to skip our Saturday morning routine of playing video games with our buddies, so we can use that time to put in job applications. Of course, an active social life is a vital component of a full and healthy life, so each instance will require honest thought coupled with prayer, meditation, and trusted advice to reveal the best course in any given situation.

Finding Balance

Life largely consists of striking a balance between order and chaos, routine and freestyle. Sometimes, which is which isn’t totally up to us — but we can do our best to consciously keep one foot in each realm. We can discover, implement, prioritize, and practice the routines that help us be our best for others, while uncovering and exploring the areas of life that are best left unstructured and open to possibility. It takes practice, trial and error, self-searching, thorough 12-Step work, and plenty of good advice from our recovery community at Jaywalker Lodge. But as we progress and practice striking a balance between focus and flexibility, we will find ourselves more at ease and more engaged with life.

Alcoholics and addicts often have a negative relationship with unhealthy routines. Embracing the lifestyle of a 12-Step recovery program can replace destructive routines with positive ones. It can also help build flexibility and resilience where there was once rigidity and a desire to escape our troubles. If you are stuck in a bad routine with alcohol or drugs, we can help you break it. At Jaywalker Lodge, we have been there ourselves and we are ready to help you begin your life in recovery. Call us today 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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