Getting out of your own head and focusing on others is a great way to keep up your recovery. But what are some healthy ways to expand your horizons?
I hit bottom in the spring of 1998. I had been drinking and using constantly for months. I was paranoid about getting caught, and I was worried I was going to run out of money to support my habit. My world was very small.
I knew Bill Clinton was the president, but if you’d asked me about local or national or global affairs, I’d have given you a blank stare. As a boy, I’d been fascinated by politics and even worked on campaigns. I still have a really cool Carter-Mondale button from 1976.
My addiction took away my interest in the world around me. By the time I hit rock bottom, I hadn’t read a newspaper—this was largely pre-internet—or watched the news on television in months. I had other priorities.
When I got sober, one of the many things my sponsor told me to do was read a newspaper, every day. In the 21st century, that would mean getting online, but the principle is the same. It wasn’t that he thought I needed to be well-informed in order to stay sober. Rather, he knew that anything that would get me out of my own head would be helpful. The more interested I was in anything other than getting high, the better.
In those first few months of sobriety, I followed with growing interest the story around the impeachment of President Clinton. I followed the home run competition between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I even followed a heated debate over a planned redevelopment project in my city.
Please understand, being up on the news is no substitute for taking an interest in the lives of others directly around us. Helping newcomers, talking to friends in recovery, building healthy relationships—these are at the top of the priority list.
At the same time, ours is so often a disease of isolation, one in which our own personal problems become magnified and we lose the capacity to pay attention to those around us. When we focus on the world, we become aware of concerns much greater than ourselves.
Turning on the news isn’t in the steps, but it was a step toward helping me see that I was an addict among addicts, a worker among workers and a citizen among citizens.
We’re all in this together.