Nuts & Bolts of Abstinence: Recovery First

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Part of ACORN’s aftercare support is a weekly telephone meeting called “Nuts & Bolts of Abstinence.” On a recent call the common theme was fear, anger and sadness. So together they decided to focus on how to continue with strong recovery and abstinence in the face of difficult and challenging times. Below, Sherri Goodman Reveal, the “Nuts & Bolts” facilitator, writes about the brilliant suggestions the meeting participants came up with that night for putting recovery first no matter what is going on in our lives.


“One of our Wednesday “Nuts & Bolts of Abstinence” telephone meetings focused on how to work our recovery programs when we feel devastated by events that are out of our control and that threaten our serenity and abstinence.  At the time, we were feeling strong emotions over the same event.  But some of us, including me, have lost their abstinence over more personal events, such as the fatal illness of a parent, the death of a child, miscarriage, divorce, estrangement from children or other of Life’s curveballs.  These suggestions may be applied in any situation, and so we would like to pass along what we shared on the call: 

  • I am truly powerless over the outcome; I did my footwork [in the situation].  Now I need to work on acceptance.
  • The pain I feel is in my resistance to accepting the results.  The fear I feel is fear of a future event.

  • I need not attach danger to my feelings; feelings rise and fall; I can allow myself to feel the feelings of fear, anger, panic, sadness and have compassion for my feelings.

  • Meditation is helpful to regain my center.

  • I have the urge to numb my feelings and thoughts with playing computer games, food, spending, and/or hiding under the covers.  As food addicts, we are comfort-seeking missiles [from the Food Addicts in Recovery basic text].  However, as a recovering food addict, I must put abstinence first without exception; take the next right action in my daily life, stay in today and act my way into right thinking and feeling.

  • If I do the above, I remind myself that I do not have to feel immediate relief (which is a hallmark of an addict to want instant relief from discomfort.

  • I trust that my Higher Power will reveal the good or the positives in any situation; I just have to be patient.

  • Remember the quote in the Big Book: “It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feelings we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die. If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison”

  • Pray for the individuals involved in the event.  Pray to Higher Power for acceptance of reality.

  • We are not alone.  As they say in OA, “as we join hands we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams.”

  • Try a temper tantrum [with our peers or alone].

  • Apply the Serenity Prayer to this situation: Ask for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and wisdom to know the difference.”