When a lot of us come into addiction recovery, even having been defeated by drugs and alcohol without question, we can still be resistant to change. This phenomenon takes many of us back out, and not all are lucky enough to come back into the rooms. Even those with time can fall into the trap of being un-teachable, and it is a dangerous position to be in.
“Oh, no, I’m totally open-minded,” is usually the go-to retort for close-minded people. Just presenting the idea other options exist can cause an immediate backlash and commitment to denial—even in the face of mounting, indisputable evidence.
Sure, they very well may be correct, but if our battles with drugs and alcohol are anything to go by, then we are clearly not infallible. It behooves us to truly be open-minded, but the problem is that we might not like what we find.
Why would someone hold onto a belief that very well may cause him or her to relapse, though? Well, for the same reason we were so steadfast in our belief we were right about our drinking and/or using: self-will. Self-will, together with delusions (really just a form of dishonesty), are character defects that take even those with long-term sobriety and cleantime back out. It might not always result in a relapse, but it always results in restlessness, irritability, and discontent.
That isn’t to say this closed-mindedness is intentional. Most of the time, people don’t realize it is an issue until there is enough pain and suffering to convince them otherwise.
This is all well and good, but what does this have to do with drug and alcohol recovery?
Chapter 5 of the Big Book says that, “some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas, but the result was nil until we let go absolutely.”
Note that the passage does not specify “old ideas about alcohol and/or drugs.” It says “ideas”—as in, in their entirety. It also says we won’t see any benefit of doing the work until we let go of them.
Some of those ideas won’t change—we just have to be willing to let that idea change. Holding on to some idea or philosophy as part of our identity is a dangerous game, yet it is one that all of us play to varying degrees.
It isn’t the first or last time we had to be willing to let our ideas change, either. In Steps 2 and 3, we had to do the same thing. Why, then, should this be any different in our continued path of recovery?
We can stay clean and sober, no matter what. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there will be times in recovery when that comes into question. We have to keep an open mind, because any drunk or addict who defies the disease is miracle, and miracles—by definition—aren’t supposed to happen.
Keeping an open mind isn’t a one-and-done, situation-specific action. Open-mindedness is a continuous part of being clean and sober, and enjoying The Promises.