Imagine that you suffer a heart attack and collapse to the floor. Paramedics rush to your side. Examining you from head to toe, they find can’t find a pulse or breath.

From the way your wrist lies twisted on the floor, it’s clearly broken.

What should the medics do first: administer CPR, or set your broken bone?

It’s obvious, right? The wrist can wait; a broken bone won’t matter if oxygen isn’t pumping through your body.

The same is true of your recovery. It must come first. If your own recovery is in jeopardy, you won’t have the oxygen you need to help others. In fact, you will put them—and yourself—at risk. I’ve seen this play out in the lives of hundreds of people. Those working in the treatment industry are no exception. Here’s why:

  • They confuse service acts (ones that come with a pay check) for recovery.
  • They think that time spent around people in recovery counts as a personal investment into their own recovery.
  • They believe that reciting the 12 steps and the promises is the same as living in active recovery.
  • They start feeling that they’ve outgrown the need to invest time in personal recovery.

Here’s how I’ve seen the progression from rock bottom to recovery, and sometimes back again, if daily recovery doesn’t stay front and center…

Hitting rock bottom drives many people to give recovery a try. Once they reach the bottom, they start ticking through all their losses from alcohol and/or drug use:

  • Spouse, kids, and other key relationships
  • Jobs
  • Time
  • Money
  • Freedom
  • Self-worth
  • Memory
  • Possessions
  • Health

Recovery doesn’t look like a bad alternative. So they go into treatment or a 12-step program. Eventually, they start finding restoration and more sanity. They get a taste of “The Big Book” promises being fulfilled more each day.

Over time, many reestablish former relationships or start new, positive ones. They find new jobs, and start to rebuild their lives. Pretty soon, they gain control over money and possessions, and their health starts to return. Eventually, those individuals who received a fresh start look like “normal” people who never had to overcome an addiction.

For too many people, once they’ve tasted success, they move themselves from “in recovery” to what they tell themselves is a state of “recovered.” All of a sudden, they don’t have time for recovery. Their priorities change. The things that they once lost—and found again in recovery (spouse, family, work, friends, money, etc.)—become more important than going to meetings, working with a sponsor, and being a sponsor to others still suffering.

Remember the heart and wrist? When you focus on the wrist without making sure the heart is thriving, the heart fails.

When you take your focus off recovery to put your spouse, job, kids, friends, fun, etc., first, your recovery dies. The very thing that restored your ability to have success in any part of your life gets pushed to the back-burner.

Recovery is like any other relationship: you grow, stagnate, or dissolve. Regardless if you’ve been clean one day or 40 years:

  • When you hit your knees each morning to ask God or your Higher Power for guidance, you grow.
  • When you go to meetings whether you feel like it or not, you grow.
  • When you look for and act upon opportunities to serve daily, you grow.
  • When you still learn from your sponsor or others in the fellowship, you grow.
  • When you experience intense moments of gratitude for what God or your Higher Power continues to do in your life, you grow.

What are you doing today to keep your personal recovery the most important part of your life?

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