The Difference Between Being Sober and Living in Recovery

I have found a fundamental difference between sobriety and recovery. I often hear people talk about the necessity of being of service or doing things for others to keep themselves sober. I am struck by the idea of personal gain, which is intrinsic to this type of transactional thinking and behavior. While I believe we have to act our way into right thinking, which is the basis of the idea that helping others is necessary in order to remain sober, our frame of mind must shift when it comes to living in recovery.

Recovery is the state of being where I know the right thing to do and so I do it, not in an effort to stay sober, but simply because it is the next right thing to do. Living in recovery, I am called by God (as I understand the creative force in the universe, also known as Higher Power, Spirit, higher consciousness, etc.) to continue to do the next right thing. The fact that taking this action helps me grow in my resolve to be sober, is a secondary or tertiary gain, not the main reason for my decision.

All spiritual traditions call for us to help those in need: the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger in the world outside of ourselves, but also to take a look at those aspects within ourselves, the parts of us that face loneliness, abandonment, lack, or alienation. When we take responsibility for helping others as well as working on our own internal struggles, because that is how we can work in better partnership with God, then we are living in recovery. Rabbi Heschel suggests that we make sure that God has a share of our world, every neighborhood is a Holy one, and God is truly our neighbor as we are all created in the image of the Divine. Let us all truly live life in recovery through our actions within, with others, and with the world around us.