Institutionalized in Recovery

 Okay, people have been wanting pictures (yes, still taking them!):

Hot Air balloons practicing before work!  And my little friend by my storage room.  My little guardian keeping all the bugs away!  I have a strange fascination with spiders....

 Ginger and I's weekend started off great last night.  Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we knew that Saturday I didn't have to work and Ginger had no plans other than her usual routine.  With my Photoshop Elements 10 books beside me, a book my brother let me borrow that I can read at my leisure, and date night tonight, I'm a happy camper.  Oh yeah, the Olympics are on too! 

So I heard a word this week, institutionalized.  Usually it is in context with prison or jail.  Briefly it basically means that someone gets so use to the structure and life in a prison or jail that they can live no other way.  I've heard stories of people who have gotten out only to commit a crime so they can get back in.  However, the context in which I heard it in had to do with recovery.  Being institutionalized in recovery.

Now before I continue let me state that I am pro recovery meetings.  Whether it is Celebrate Recovery, AA, NA, Winner's Circle, TAX, to name a few, I believe these meetings help to save lives.  They are an integral part of developing a support group if you have none, or good as a supplement to an already existing support group.  I know people who have used these meetings a short while to get back on track and I know people who are "lifers", those who will go to a meeting for the rest of their lives. 

I've stated before the battle I've seen with "One Steppers" and "Twelve Steppers".  Those who believe you are healed instantly from addiction are the "One Steppers".  "Twelve Steppers" believe that meetings are the way to sobriety.  My belief is, God is in control.  Can He heal instantly, Yes.  Can He use meetings to help you on your way, Yes.  Whatever gives Him the glory.  Too often, however I've seen both sides look down on the other, or someone from one side trying to convince another that is not the way.  Maybe you should ask God for guidance, just saying.

So back to institutionalization.  Can you believe I spelled that right on the first round!  In recovery it means a dependence on meetings.  If I miss a meeting I'll drink or use type of thinking.  If I'm not going to meetings I'll fall.  How often have I heard that....  If your not serving at meetings, doing the twelfth step, your on your way to relapse.  Let me state that early in sobriety, meetings or a support group is essential.  It could be a church support group or a recovery meeting, family and friends (who don't use), accountability partners, and such.  God will guide you along the path He has chosen for you and it's my belief not to fight God.  I've seen people who immerse themselves in church and people who've gotten professional help.  Let me state this, what are you doing if your not going to a meeting?  Like me, I'm with my wife.  But if your going to the bar instead of a meeting, well, choose the meeting my friend.  There are good reasons not to go to meetings and bad ones, choose wisely.

As you work through the issues of your addiction, it is essential as well to take the things you learn from your various support and apply them.  Early on, just showing up to meetings may be all you have the strength for.  But at some point you have to put work into your recovery.  There is a responsibility once you become sober.  If your weakness is the bar, stay out of the bar.  The beer store, stay out of the beer store.  Your friends drink?  Don't hang around them when they drink.  DO you have amends to make?  Make them.  Do you have issues to talk about, share at a meeting, or with an accountability partner, sponsor, pastor, best friend, I think you get the point. 

But I think the trap some people get into is that going to meetings equates to staying sober.  I know plenty of people (I was one) that would go to a meeting and turn around a drink after the meeting.  Happens more than you know.  Pick your meetings wisely, your friends at meetings wiser.   Again, early in sobriety it may be your choice is the bar or a meeting.  Which way do you think God wants you to choose?

And God will guide you.  You can't become dependent on the meeting.  What happens with this?  People miss a meeting for a good reason (not a bad one, like hanging out with your friends who drink) and they panic.  I'm on a downward slide, I'm going to relapse, I'm too weak.  Think it doesn't happen?  Think again.  Going to meetings is good, for the teaching, fellowship and support, but realize it is the work you put into your recovery that keeps you sober.   There are people who are lifers, those who God has called to various positions in the ministry to run or help etc.  It is their calling.  But missing a meeting because you have a family function, or a sick child, or you yourself are sick isn't going to kill you.

For others, it is for a season.  Ginger and I are in this category.  We began to question one day why we were going to the meetings.  We were burned out.  It was time for a rest.  Ginger was going through a very bad bout with her bipolar and because of my responsibilities in ministry I was torn because I wanted to be with my wife and help her.  So I stepped down to be with my wife because, as God guided me through wisdom by talking through others, my wife is my number one ministry.   When I first stepped down I can't tell you how many people came to me "concerned" that because I wasn't going to a meeting I was in danger of relapse.  Really?  My thinking was if I hadn't learned anything in ten years I was in trouble.  But my thinking was also this, God guided me this way.  The other concern people had was since I wasn't doing any ministry I wasn't working for God.  Really?  So I posed this question to them, what constitutes ministry?  Ginger and I have a close knit group of friends and Ginger and I tend to counsel and be counselled by them.  Does that constitute ministry?  Can ministering to one person be considered ministry?  Yes, God calls people to be pastors, and ministry leaders, and such.   But He also calls individuals to help individuals.  And you wouldn't believe the opportunities Ginger and I have had one on one. 

At this particular point in our life, we are not going to meetings.  We enjoy going to our church, we have fellowship with family and friends, and we communicate with each other.  Will we ever go to a meeting again?  If God directs us, yes.  But I think it should be a prayer filled choice.

Just a side note.  Sobriety is possible.  There are four stages to alcoholism and I was in the 4th stage.  Only a miracle could have brought me sobriety.  But I found it.  It has been a long road but you know what?  I'm happy with my life.  All of the above, well, it's just my opinion through this walk of sobriety I'm on, just observations from the edge of life.   You can agree or even disagree, I'm happy either way because life is way too short to argue about the little stuff.



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