12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery by Allen Berger, Ph.D.

There are as many ways to mess up recovery as there are alcoholics and addicts, but Allen Berger, Ph.D., presents twelve common misguided beliefs and attitudes that can lead to relapse, and he provides a useful guide for working through these problems.

This passage is excerpted from 12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery by Allen Berger, Ph.D. Berger is a nationally recognized expert on the science of recovery. For more than thirty years, he has been on his own journey in recovery while helping thousands of others discover a way of life free from addiction. He is also the author of 12 Smart Things to Do When the Booze and Drugs Are Gone.

I believe that if we are truly to recover from the disease of addiction, we must grow up—emotionally. True recovery is the product of humility that emerges from living and practicing a conscious and spiritual life. In order to attain humility, we must be honest with ourselves. This necessarily includes looking at the stupid things we do, today, in our recovery. I use the term stupid to indicate the things we do that are self-destructive and not in our best interest.

Before we move on to a discussion about how to identify the underlying causes of self-destructive behavior, I want to share how I selected the twelve issues that I discuss in this book. There must be at least a million stupid things that we can do to mess up recovery—all of them self-destructive. A book cataloging all of these would be unwieldy. I wanted to narrow down the list to a more manageable size so I used the following criteria for my selection. I chose what I considered to be the most commonly confronted and critical issues during the early stages of recovery. I define early recovery as the first two years of recovery. The main issues that we confront during this time include breaking the bonds of addiction, establishing a spiritual foundation for our recovery, learning effective tools to deal with ourselves and our relationships, and dealing with the wreckage of our past.

Few of us will relate to all of these issues, but the general themes should be familiar. So without further ado, here are my top twelve nominations for stupid things we do to mess up our recovery:

1. Believing addiction to one substance is the only problem
2. Believing sobriety will fix everything
3. Pursuing recovery with less energy than pursuing addiction
4. Being selectively honest
5. Feeling special and unique
6. Not making amends
7. Using the program to try to become perfect
8. Confusing self-concern with selfishness
9. Playing futile self-improvement games
10. Not getting help for relationship troubles
11. Believing that life should be easy
12. Using the program to handle everything

These twelve things are tried-and-true ways of messing up recovery. In the following chapters, I will elaborate on each of them. Please try and keep an open mind as you read this book. It has been my experience that those who do best in recovery are those who are honest with themselves, open to new ideas and experiences, and willing to take direction.

There’s one more thing I want to talk about before we move ahead to the task at hand. As you read about each of these twelve stupid things, please ask yourself, What would cause me to think in this particular way or behave in this particular manner? The rest of this introduction presents a series of questions to help you become aware of the causes of self-destructive behaviors. The more we become aware of the underlying cause of a particular belief or behavior, the less it controls our life: awareness of what we are doing to ourselves—awareness of how we sabotage ourselves—starts the process of change.

Identifying the Causes of Self-Destructive Behaviors
Psychologists and philosophers throughout modern history have tried to understand why we human beings are so self-destructive. Their discussions have ranged from speculating that a death instinct exists deep within our psyches to believing that personality type, childhood trauma, low self-esteem, or an undercurrent of self-hatred are the culprits behind self-destructive acts.
I believe there are four possibilities to consider when assessing the causes of self-destructive behavior. They are numbered because it is important to consider them in order. I recommend starting with number one and working down the list, until the best fit is discovered:

1. our addiction, or our disease
2. ignorance
3. unreasonable expectations and emotional dependency
4. self-erasure and self-hate

Remember to consider each possibility in sequence. When we identify what motivates or causes our stupid behavior, we begin the process of change. Awareness starts the process of change.

Read Alan’s book:
12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery
Softcover, 136 pages
Hazelden Press
List Price: $14.95
Online Price: $13.45

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