The Purpose (For Others, Not Ourselves)


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For alcoholics and addicts in their disease, “purpose” is replaced by the driving power of alcoholism and addiction. We don’t need much purpose, nor could we find any beyond what our disease dictates we must do. But purpose may not ever be a thing we think about very much, whether we struggle with addiction or not. Then there are some who long and search for meaning and purpose in their lives. Yet many simply search for the sake of searching, never settling on an answer to the question of purpose.

When we alcoholics and addicts finally, gratefully, arrive in the rooms of recovery, we may be a little surprised when we learn that the 12-Step program of recovery gives clear purpose to our lives. Perhaps we never gave the purpose question much thought, or we thought it was unanswerable. When we finally hear our primary purpose, a mix of emotions may fill us. For those staying and continuing to work the 12-Steps, we will find that even our daily lives are filled with purpose. Let’s take the time to learn about this powerful, often overlooked subject.

What Is Purpose?

“Purpose” is defined as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” In the context of humans and our incredible lives on this Earth, the search for purpose is an ancient one. Some have claimed that purpose will reveal itself to each of us individually and personally as we seek it out. Others have argued that there is a universal purpose to human life, and we ought to agree and accept it. Others believe that purpose is whatever we choose to make of it — our purpose can be whatever we decide it is. As for which of these approaches is correct, that debate has been going on practically forever.

But what is the purpose of purpose? Do we really need it? Some wise men maintain that discovering or deciding on the meaning of life and the purpose for our individual lives can be incredibly beneficial. The idea goes that if we have a purpose, it will bolster us against all the practical uncertainty and trials of life. Luckily for alcoholics and addicts, we have the spiritual foundation of the 12-Steps and our higher power to carry us through and lift us up during all the emotional and spiritual highs and lows of life. We may or may not have a formal religion that does the same, so our emotional and spiritual toolkit works at maximum efficiency.

Likewise, we need to eat right, exercise, visit a doctor, and probably a therapist as well. These things keep our body and mind functioning well, so we are fit and prepared to weather any difficulties. But what about the practical arena of living? Our careers, our day-to-day responsibilities, our relationships, etc.? For these activities, many submit that we need to know our purpose. Once we have this key ingredient, we will be provided with a general set of rules — the guiding posts to aim between. And this will keep us focused, supported, and motivated to live our best and do our best. This is what we hope that purpose will do for us.

Our Primary Purpose In Recovery

For alcoholics and addicts, we already know we’re lucky. There’s nothing the 12-Steps can’t do for us. Recovery itself comes with a primary purpose, the goal that all alcoholics and addicts can come together to achieve. It is one of the things that unites us and saves our lives. The primary purpose of the fellowship of recovery is simple: to carry the message of recovery to alcoholics and addicts who still suffer. We all have a part to play in this, and we do it together. This is the purpose that motivates and inspires us as a group.

Individual Purpose In Recovery

We are given so much sage advice in the recovery literature and the 12-Steps. We are told that constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs is vital to our survival. We are told that resentment and debate are no good for us. We are given much clear direction. But a profound statement made in the book Alcoholics Anonymous regarding the 8th-Step and 9th-Step often slides under the radar.

The book says, “At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not the end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” These few sentences have a lot to say. Trying to put our lives in order is not just applicable to the transformative 9th-Step, but it also holds true for the constant and evolving process of working the 12-Steps and growing in our recovery. We are always seeking to put our lives in better order, and we use the 12-Steps consistently to help us do so.

However, the book clearly states that this is not the end in itself. Getting our lives in order is a byproduct of the 12-Steps, not the goal. Seeking only to get our own lives in order is the self-seeking we are warned about many times. “Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” This is the real goal, the true purpose of and for our recovery. It is not for us, it is for others — the people around us.

We work the 12-Steps and allow them and our higher power to transform us and our lives. In the process, we get a life beyond our wildest dreams. But more importantly, we grow and improve and learn new ways of being so that we can be of maximum service, not just to our higher power but to all people we come in contact with.

Alcoholism and addiction can take so much from our lives, from our relationships and careers to internal things like our motivation and purpose. The 12-Step process of recovery can provide newer, sturdier versions of these things in the process of helping us find freedom and recovery from our deadly disease. Our internal condition needs as much attention as our mental, physical, and emotional health. Our recovery works best when it is the central focus of our lives. If we keep this foundation firm, with the help of our community, the 12-Steps, and our higher power, we can build a life we never thought possible. Discovering our life’s purpose within recovery can be a revolutionary experience. We become bolstered against any troublesome low spots that may eventually come our way. If you are ready to live a life of purpose, meaning, joy and fulfillment in recovery, there is no better time than now. Jaywalker Lodge is here to help you every step of the way. Call us 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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