“A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations, and affairs.” – P. 19 Alcoholics Anonymous
There’s more to sobriety than simply going to meetings and working with a sponsor, and as the quote suggests, the more important factor lies in the lifestyle we live outside of the rooms of our recovery groups. Yes, you should go to meetings. Yes, you should work the 12 steps. Yes, you should work with newcomers. The point is, that all of this work is for not if you continue to live an unethical lifestyle outside of the rooms. The point of this article is to challenge and question if you take your program with you outside of the rooms of AA.
The theory of cognitive dissonance in psychology states that actions which conflict with belief systems results in a state of discomfort and restlessness. This is part of the reason you should live a harmonious lifestyle that you take everywhere you go. Otherwise, we end up in this state of discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance. When I was using, I lived differently according to each group of people I was around, which in turn caused an inner turmoil that created a lack of identity within myself. This lack of identity resulted in the inability to stand up for what’s right, which in turn led me down a path that was determined by the negative individuals around me. Ultimately, it’s important to be one person that you take with you everywhere you go, to avoid cognitive dissonance and obtain integrity.
Having integrity is being one unified individual. We get caught up in saying that “integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.” This is partially true because doing the right thing when no one’s looking avoids not only cognitive dissonance but also helps you sustain a level of integrity that doing wrong does not. An individual reaps the benefits of being whole and unified when they take their program with them wherever they go. Taking your program with you directly relates to the way you treat God, people, places, and things inside and outside of the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I urge you to consider and assess the way you treat the world and see where you can refine your lifestyle. Do you treat strangers with kindness? Are you loving towards your friends and family? Do you respect the earth and the places or things inside of it? And are you honest in all of your affairs? “Taking your program with you” isn’t necessarily about 12 stepping everyone you encounter, instead, it revolves around being kind, being loving, and being honest at the end of the day. There are countless ways to build upon and improve your connection that directly correlate with the actions you take or not take throughout your day. I suggest you take actions that improve upon your surroundings, and avoid taking actions that inhibit them from thriving. As they say in the program, “What are you packing into the stream of life?” Notice how they don’t say, “What are you taking from the stream of life?” I originally intended on writing out a list of different ways you can contribute to the world, but I’d rather each one of us to find that out on their own. There are skills and talents that are unique to each of us that I encourage you to discover and develop, then nurture and share. Taking this mindset with you, is what it means to take your program with you, which ultimately means to live a kind, a loving, and an honest lifestyle.