fat lady3Yogi Berra taught us all that it ain’t over til the fat lady sings!  The process of recovery has a similar final act.

To the general public, the term “recovery” is seen as “someone who is trying to stop using alcohol or other drugs.” (NCADD)   It then follows that the process of recovery is accomplished when we stop using.  Achieving the thing we call sobriety.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently undertook to quantify what the process of recovery might look like.  Their work yielded this definition:  “Recovery is a process of change whereby individuals work to improve their own health and wellness and to live a meaningful life in a community of their choice while striving to achieve their full potential.”

That last phrase “striving to achieve their full potential” is to be sung by the fat lady. Quitting is not enough.  Sobriety does not equal recovery, it is just the first verse of the aria.

The underlying philosophy of AA is that we stop drinking, straighten out our lives and serve others.  It is in the serving of others that we begin to find that “full potential” thing.  Getting outside of ourselves far enough that we can do some good for others.  We are not capable of that until we have some good sobriety.

Our addictions are grown in fields of dysfunction.  The meadows of self pity, entitlement, selfishness, arrogance, fear, anxiety, anger or perhaps the back forty of pain, loneliness,  and brokenness.  We become the personification of “We want what we want, when we want it!”  Cleaning up the character defects and ridding our growing fields of the behaviors that support the process of addiction takes a lot of work after we find sobriety.

In fact we don’t get much done until we find sobriety, it brings the clarity we need to see our dysfunctions.  The truth about ourselves, not the lies we love to tell ourselves or the justifications and rationalizations from our “pretend world” fashioned from the building blocks of our denial.  Counselors, sponsors, and other helpers can help us with clarity before our own sobriety can manufacture it. But again, this verse is in the early part of the song.

The final descants begin when we have come far enough that we can assist others.  We can cover or as St James says “hide” a multitude of our sins through helping others turn away from addiction.  The service changes us.  It changes our heart. For many of us, it must needs be a “mighty” change.

The play though tragic can become beautiful with the correct ending.  The aria is magnificent if we can just sing to the end.