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Next Right Action

My wife and I recently celebrated our 12 year wedding anniversary in Vermont on Lake Champlain. I had been wanting to go to Lake Champlain for a while. The story of the great Fort Ticonderoga, situated on a hill overlooking the lake, fascinated me after reading the book 1776 by David McCullough, and a few years ago, my father and I traveled from Montréal to New York City via Amtrak, with the train skirting all 128 miles of the beautiful lake. So, this year, I finally decided to visit. We got to the lake in the afternoon, put our boat in the water, and off we went. We were on the southern half of the lake, and it was a new territory for me. I found myself relying very heavily on the channel markers. We travelled about 30 miles just going from channel marker to channel marker. Being nervous about being in a new place, as we were moving along I was thinking that this was a great analogy to early recovery and simply taking the next right action.

For most people who are in early recovery, life feels like it is in complete shambles. In many cases, the secrets that have been hidden for many years are finally out in the open, and dealing with that can feel like an impossible task. There are usually wounded family members on the other side of that as well. This can lead to the addict feeling overwhelmed with shame, despair and guilt and overall sense of feeling hopeless, which can often feel paralyzing and make it very difficult to take action.

However, the addict does not need to deal with everything all at once, and there is a phrase in recovery that comes to mind – “Take the Next Right Action.” It is very common for us to want to try to figure everything out in one sitting and quickly “fix” the damage that has occurred over years and years. This does not happen with sexual addiction recovery. I sometimes compare early recovery to a complete train wreck, and there is so much damage that it is impossible to rectify everything quickly. Just as I was travelling down the channel that I had never travelled before, the addict in early recovery is in unfamiliar waters. In those situations, the only thing the addict can do is simply to take the next right action, just find the next channel marker. A next right action can be calling a friend in recovery, attending a support group, showing up for a couple session, completing a therapy homework assignment, showing up for individual therapy, engage in new behaviors in the marriage, and the list goes on…

After days, weeks and months of simply taking the next right action, life starts to change. After telling our story over and over again to our peers in recovery, we begin to accept ourselves more. After we’ve gone through treatment with our partner, the relationship experiences the hope for healing. After completing the many homework assignments and therapy sessions, we have access to a new self-esteem we never knew existed.

If you are new to recovery and not sure what to do, I encourage you to find the next right action – just one right action, and then another, and so on. Think of only one thing that you can do that will support your recovery, and take that action. Simply moving from one action to another, like moving from one channel marker to another, you will eventually find the right course, and your life will change dramatically.