Keep It Simple: Making It Through Early Sobriety

We’ve all heard the phrase “Keep It Simple.” In an over-complicated world, the concept holds more and more allure. It refers, quite simply, to the streamlined beauty of approaching an issue with little speculation or embellishment. Things that are simple are easy to understand and to do.

The “Keep It Simple” concept has been used throughout history in design, Alcoholics Anonymous, science, philosophy, religion and even the Navy. If you look it up on the internet, you may be told that the Navy invented the term “Keep It Simple Stupid, or KISS. It was a term used in weapons engineering, stressing the importance of making equipment easy to operate and fix in combat situations. Centuries before, the philosophical “Occam’s Razor” stresses the importance of simplicity when problem-solving. One famous quote is “If you hear the sound of hooves, think horses, not zebras.” Through the ages, simplicity has been stressed by great minds like Confucius, St. Paul, Leonardo Da Vinci and Albert Einstein. Even in modern design and lifestyle, the new emphasis is on simplicity and lack of clutter, often termed “minimalism.”

In the recovery world, “Keep It Simple” has been a familiar phrase since Alcoholics Anonymous began in 1939. It was the favorite phrase of Dr. Bob, one of the cofounders of AA. During his last speech at the national AA convention in 1950, he spoke of the simplicity of the AA solution. “Simmered down,” it is a simple message of ‘love and service.’ And, his final words with Bill W, his partner and friend, he said, “Remember, Bill, let’s not louse this thing up. Let’s keep it simple!”

So, if recovery from addiction is a simple program for complicated people, how can we keep it simple?

Keep It Simple: Recovery from Addiction for Complicated Minds

1. Compartmentalize
We’ve all heard the expression,” One Day At A Time,” but what does it really mean? It means to compartmentalize tasks and events into smaller elements. Certainly, looking at a lifetime without alcohol seems daunting and impossible. But we can make it without a drink for 10 minutes. Then we can make it for another hour. Then we can go a whole day without it. Before we know it, we’ve gone days, weeks, months without drinking and taking drugs. It is much simpler to do the difficult things in small increments of time.

2. Show Up and Do Your Best
Woody Allen has been quoted saying ,”80% of success is showing up.” Many of us who are in the grips of addiction have a habit of avoiding situations. We can start thinking about all of the bad things that can happen until we are paralyzed with fear. We can feel unprepared or inadequate. Addiction can damage our self esteem and faith in ourselves. We can easily talk ourselves out of going to a meeting or facing tasks. But, if we just show up and face whatever is next in our lives, we can start building that esteem back. We can start to realize that no one else is perfect either. We can rest in the knowledge we are trying our best.

3. Stay in reality
Prolonged drug and alcohol addiction can actually change the way our brain behaves. Our thoughts and emotions get stuck in “fight or flight” mode and we are in constant panic. When our brain is in worry mode, we can imagine all kinds of scary scenarios. We can become immersed in fear over the smallest situations. We can keep things simple by staying where we are right now. Worries about the past and the future do not help us in the present. Ask yourself,” do I need this worry right now? Is it helping me or hurting me?” We cannot know the future. If we think we can, we are just deluding ourselves. Unless you are a fortune-teller, leave the future to the future and stay where you are right now. Look at what is immediately in your awareness, stay in reality, and take action only of you need to.

4. Do The Next Right Thing
This concept builds on the previous ideas. We have to compartmentalize each task into smaller chunks. We have to do the best we can with the knowledge we have right now. We have to stay in reality and not some distant past or future. What is the next right thing to do? Well, we cannot always know. Learning to make responsible conscious decisions is a skill many of us need to rebuild after addiction. But you can ask yourself this: “Is this next action going to be unkind or cause someone harm?” If the answer is yes, it’s probably not the right thing.

5. Ask For Help
Most alcoholics and addicts have tried many times to either quit or to drink like normal people. We think that if we just change from bourbon to wine, or get that dream job, or move to a new city, we will be able to control ourselves. This constant effort to figure out how to change can be exhausting. Also, in many cases, it doesn’t work.

Luckily, there is a simpler solution. We follow in the footsteps of those who are successfully sober. We can find our mentors by going to 12 Step meetings and listening to what people say. Does someone in the room exude confidence and peace? Do they say things that give you hope? Ask them for help! People in recovery are willing to help. You can get a sponsor and he or she will help you with the trials of early sobriety. Those of us who have found sobriety love to share our experience and help others. You don’t have to figure everything out on your own. Follow the winners. It will be much simpler.

In conclusion, getting sober is not easy. No one says it is. But it can be simple. Show up, be where you are, ask for help and you can find sobriety one day at a time. A complicated mind wants drugs and alcohol. A simple and unclouded mind can stay sober.

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Keep It Simple: Making It Through Early Sobriety
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Keep It Simple: Making It Through Early Sobriety
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Early sobriety isn't easy, but it can be simple. With a few tips you can stay sober one day at a time.
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Ventura Recovery Center
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