Sobriety as Doing the Right Thing

When people give up an addiction they are taking their life in a new more positive direction. In other words they are doing the right thing. It is generally accepted that when people do what is right they will tend to be rewarded with a positive outcome. If the only good thing that the individual does is to stop drinking it is unlikely to lead to a successful life in sobriety. In order to achieve that people will need to devote their life of trying to positive actions– this is the path that will take them where they want to go. It would be fair to say that sobriety is all about doing the right thing.

Doing the Right Thing in Recovery Explained

The term doing the right thing probably sounds quite vague to most people. This is because some would argue that the right thing is highly subjective. For example, a criminal may believe that robbing a bank is the right thing for them to do. It is suggested that people can better decide on the right action to take by asking themselves the following questions:

* Could it hurt anyone?
* Is it fair?
* Does the action trouble their conscience?
* Does it violate the golden rule?
* How will the individual feel about this action after they have performed it?

The Right Thing and the Golden Rule

The golden rule is a value that most humans share. It is associated with all religions and even non-believers will usually subscribe to it. In its simplest terms the golden rule means that the individual should treat other people they way they would like to be treated. It means that if people are going to take action that will impact other people they will need to consider how they would feel if similarly impacted. If they would not like to suffer such consequences then it is wrong for them to inflict such consequences on other people.

Doing the Right Thing and Ethics

A more formal way of deciding on what is the right thing to do is to rely on ethics. This is a branch of philosophy that is completely concerned with doing the right thing. It is a set of principles that people can use to govern their conduct. This is particularly useful for those grey areas in life where the right action isn’t always obvious. The types of ethical ideas that people hoping to do the right thing should consider include:

* Respecting autonomy means understanding that other humans have the right to live their life based on their own motives and reasoning.
* In simple terms, Beneficence means to do good. Ethical living means trying to do what is good.
* Non-maleficence means not causing harm to other people.
* Honesty means not trying to deceive other people because this would interfere with their ability to make good choices and be autonomous.
* Socially acceptable behavior means acting in accordance with the norms of a given society, community and culture. This should not be seen as repressing an individual’s personality or individuality.

Sometimes people are faced with moral dilemmas and even ethics might not be able to provide a clear distinction between right or wrong action. In such cases it is suggested that people investigate the matter fully and follow their conscience.

How to Decide if Actions are Wrong

The individual can determine that an action they wish to take is wrong because:

* The purpose of the action is to manipulate other people.
* The action is going to hurt other people.
* The action will lead to later negative consequences for the individual – a good example of this would be substance abuse.
* The individual knows deep down that the action is wrong.
* It involves some type of dishonesty.
* It is unethical
* It means breaking the golden rule.
* They are taking the action because of bitterness or anger.
* It can be argued that if people have not considered the potential consequences of their actions then this means that it cannot be the right thing – even if it later turns out to bring positive results.

Sober Horse Thief

In Alcoholics Anonymous meetings they sometimes use the metaphor of the sober horse thief. It refers to a situation where a horse thief manages to stop drinking. They may be physically sober, but they are still a horse thief. There life may continue to be plagued with difficulties going forward because of their occupation. This metaphor is a reminder that just getting physically sober is not enough to ensure a good and rewarding life. By stopping drinking the individual will have made a vital first step but more work is needed. In sobriety people need to develop a new relationship with reality and this involves doing the right thing.

There are probably not many sober horse thieves in Alcoholics Anonymous these days, but there are some dry drunks. This is a term used to describe people who no longer physically drink but in many ways continue to act as if they were in the midst of addiction. The symptoms of a dry drunk include:

* The individual continues to be involved in maladaptive behaviors – for example, exercise addiction or workaholism.
* They behave dishonestly and secretively.
* They may try to manipulate other people to get what they want.
* They are full of negativity about their current life and their future.
* They are cynical about recovery.
* The view life away from addiction as being similar to serving a prison sentence.
* They may have few scruples about hurting other people if they feel it will benefit them in some way.
* They have no interest in doing the right thing – unless it happens to be what they want to do anyway.
* Such people tend to be full of bitterness and resentment.
* They will feel envious of those who appear to be doing better in recovery.
* They may try to pull other people down into negativity and cynicism – a dry drunk can be a real danger for a person who is newly sober.
* They will usually be full of self pity.
* They are likely to relapse.

In order to not become a dry drunk (or sober horse thief) the individual needs to do the right thing.

Benefits of Doing the Right Thing in Recovery

There are some definite benefits to doing the right thing include:

* The saying that people reap what they sow contains a great deal of truth. The consequences of any action can have far reaching effects.
* There is no need to be a Buddhist or Hindu in order to believe in karma. It simply means that when people do the right things it will usually mean the right things will happen for them.
* People who do the right thing find it easier to sleep at night. This is because they will have fewer things to stay awake worrying about.
* Guilt can be a highly destructive force in an individual’s life – most addicts will understand what this is about. If people do what they feel is right they will not suffer from guilt.
* It leads to much stressful living because they individual will not be always looking over the shoulder waiting for the past to catch up with them.
* Less stress means that the individual will be less likely to suffer from stress related illness.
* The individual is able to look other people in the eye. They don’t feel like they have something to hide.
* Doing the right thing increases self esteem. It causes the individual to value themselves more highly and so put more effort into living the good life.
* People who try to live an ethical life tend to find it easier to build meaningful relationships. They have no hidden agendas and other people can sense this – it makes the individual more appealing as a person.
* Those who hope to get the most out of recovery need to establish a more open and honest relationship with reality. Failure to do this will lead to further suffering.