• Dianne Schwartz

Build your life around your recovery . . .

...not your recovery around your life.



When I was running my Monday evening group, Living in Sobriety & Abstinence, I asked a client who was struggling with achieving abstinence what meetings he had been going to. I knew the answer even before I asked the question.


“None,” he replied. He said he had to do stuff for his daughter and other things to take care of. He explained that he made his daughter’s needs a priority over attending meetings.


I told him that he had to build his life around his recovery, not vice versa—that his first obligation is to his recovery . . . if he wants to have it and keep it. I stressed that he needs to connect with a recovery support system and attend a meeting before taking care of his other responsibilities each day.

When he heard this, he brightened, as if a light bulb had suddenly turned on. He acknowledged with some gleeful understanding that he had been wrongly doing just that: building his recovery around his life. He told me he had been “thinking” about going to meetings, but he had been “too busy” to follow through. He began to see that he was “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk.”


We need to understand that recovery activities have to be a number-one priority to stay in recovery. The irony is that when life gets better because of recovery, we tend to forget to keep it as a number-one priority and other things in life start to come first. There’s a wonderful saying in the rooms of 12 step meetings that whatever you put before your recovery, you will lose.


The high functionality, insight, clarity, energy, and more that come with recovery will be lost without a solid recovery foundation. The client in this story was in early recovery and had not yet built a recovery foundation. Without first being involved with a recovery support system, he was too vulnerable to relapse while trying to fill his role as a functional father. If he didn’t stay in recovery, his ability to be there for his daughter would go down the tubes.