overwhelmed woman in sobriety

What to Do When Sobriety Loses Its Priority

12-21-2023Recovery Tools

We’ve all been there. Whether we’re in our first 30 days of recovery or we’ve got multiple years of long term recovery, we’ve all gotten “off the beam” at some point. So, what should we do when sobriety loses its priority?

Just what do we mean by this? Generally, it means that “life” has happened! We’ve gotten busy at work, we’ve become bogged down in schoolwork, we’ve become stressed about money, or perhaps a romantic relationship has taken the “number one” spot in our lives.

For whatever reason, we’ve lost touch with the fact that the only reason we have all of these things in our lives is because we’re sober.

How to regain your recovery as the number one priority

Start with honesty

One of the cornerstone principles of staying sober is honesty in recovery. It’s amazing how much relief can be had when a little bit of honesty is applied to a sticky situation in recovery from drugs and alcohol.

If you’ve been disconnected or distracted for a while, a simple phone call to a trusted person in recovery or spending time with your sponsor over a cup of coffee can go a long way. It’s also advisable to hit a meeting and lay out your recent situation honestly.

Walk through your fear of reconnecting

It’s common in these moments of disconnection to experience a fear of being judged for your apparent lack of prioritizing the “right” things in recovery. In our experience, this is nothing more than false evidence appearing real.

Almost nobody in the rooms doesn’t relate to a time in their life when they’ve gotten too busy, gotten resentful, or become inundated with distractions to the point that they lost touch with their sobriety and their Higher Power.

You’re far more likely to be greeted with understanding chuckles and warm smiles than you are with any sort of judgement.

Get back to basics

One of our favorite sayings in substance abuse recovery is, “everything we need to know, we learned in our first 30 days.” Stop for a second and think about what you learned to do when you first got sober:

  • Get a home group and regularly attend meetings
  • Develop relationships with sober people and be honest with them
  • Go through the steps with a sponsor
  • Be of service to others

We could probably come up with a couple of other things, but that’s a fairly good list. In fact, one of the most often repeated quips in recovery is the well known 6-word summary of the steps:

Trust God, Clean House, Help Others

When we know that our recovery has lost its priority, a good place to start would by examining how many of the above activities you’ve participated in recently.

If you’ve been blowing off your home group or service commitments recently, that’s a good place to start! If you’ve left your sponsor hanging for a while, a phone call is likely in order.

Examine your first step

It’s been said that the first step is the only one we need to do perfectly. There’s no better explanation for this than the last page of Step 1 in “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”:

“For practicing A.A.s remaining eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect – unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.

- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg 24

The fact is, the first step is the very reason most of us take any recovery-related actions at all. It’s the reason we show up week after week. If we’ve wavered in our understanding of the first step or how it applies in our lives, it’s natural to struggle with the remaining 11 steps.

Take it easy on yourself

You didn’t walk into the woods overnight, you likely won’t walk out overnight either. That is okay. Depending on how long you’ve been disconnected from your recovery, you may have a higher hill to climb, so to speak.

The direction of a good 12-step sponsor will be important here. Ideally, your sponsor knows you very well and can provide their own experience regarding times they’ve lost touch with their priorities as well.

Realigning priorities in recovery might be simpler than you think

One thing many of us have noticed over the years is that nobody escapes moments of being “off the beam” for a while. It happens, especially around periods of relative normalcy, like the 9 month sober mark. It’s common to feel as though it’s going to take forever to get back in the flow of recovery and feel good.

Oftentimes, this isn’t the truth: simply beginning the process of realigning your priorities in recovery can have a tremendous relieving effect.

One benefit of having gone through your current experience is that you’ll simply get to add to your experience. They say “faith is hope with a track record!” Congratulations, your track record now includes a moment where you stumbled and were able to “Face Everything And Recover!”

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