The Progress Trap

by Joshua Hoe

Progress not perfection.

That is one of the cornerstones of 12 step programs.

On the one side, I never want to give myself any credit for virtually anything. I could stay sober for twenty days but I know people who have been sober for forty days (so I am still a failure).

On the other side, my progress can seem like a sign that I have it all licked, that I finally have gained “control,” that maybe I have (finally) graduated from recovery.

This is what I call the “Progress” trap.

Celebrate, It is Actually Good For You

Me and other old guys in the program often say that milestones are really more so the newcomers and strugglers can see that sobriety is possible.

There is some truth to that.

But, celebration is important. Especially for addicts.

Yes, humility is also important. But, staying sober is hard work and often requires facing up to and working through some serious emotional pain and trauma.

Also, I have always had a tendency to give myself no credit for achievements (I remember after one of my debate teams made it to the final four of the National Debate Tournament I spent maybe a minute and a half feeling good about it).

Sometimes it is good to just be happy and even proud of yourself.

And you can be proud of yourself for NOT being in control, for letting yourself be powerless, for giving up the power and being humble when that doesn’t come easily or naturally for you.

But, how do you do that without falling into the trap?

Avoiding the Trap

It seems like a bit of a broken record, but the answer to the trap is to fall back ion the tools.

You can celebrate because while you are proud of yourself, you are also aware that you didn’t make it alone and that you succeeded my NOT being in control.

You can celebrate because after you celebrate, you still have meetings to go to, people to call, meditation to do, and prayers to make.

And, perhaps most important, you can remind yourself that the only day you can stay sober is the day you are in. No matter how much you accomplish, today is still the day you need to remain sober.

In other words, the key to avoiding the trap is relying on your program of recovery.

Just like in virtually every other time you face a trigger. The answer is having the humility to give it up to someone else or to something larger than yourself.

The answer is in starting from the belief that you can’t control this part of your life…and that freedom comes from “not being in control.”

What do you do to avoid the “Progress Trap?” Would love to hear your experience, strength, and hope, please leave a comment!

As always, we do not identify ourselves with any particular program or organization and we hold no leadership role in any particular program or organization. We are not therapists and do not pretend to be. The purpose of this blog is to share experience, strength, hope across the recovery community.


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