Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

What Is Right Action in Recovery?

ActionThey say:

We don’t think our way into right action

We act our way into right thinking

I used to think I used drugs because I was sad: because I had pain—physical and psychological; I had Bad Feelings I needed to resolve (read: Get Rid Of) before I could stop using drugs. If I Got Rid of the Feeelings, then quitting drugs would be easy. Right?

This is partly right. I used drugs in part to numb out certain feelings. I wanted them gone. But no amount of psychotherapeutic intervention was going to get rid of the feeelings that were bugging me. These feeeeelings were dominating my world—I was allowing them to rule my mind.

They needed to be managed, by something other than me. My management strategies were digging me further and further into a hole.

They also say:

Feelings aren’t facts

Part of addiction is the childlike conviction that all feeeeelings are the whole of reality. Also, that they will last forever. Which is why they also say:

This too shall pass


Methadone solution, the way it’s doled out at treatment clinics.

This saying always makes me think of my friend Arlene in L.A. She used to say it all the time: “This too shall pass.” It was the way she got through her methadone detox. Arlene tapered off 225mg methadone per day. Anyone out there have a clue how tough it is to kick long-term methadone—especially that big a habit? She was knocked flat for a long time. But she did it, because she knew, and was repeatedly told by skilled counselors, that the feeeelings of withdrawal meant she was healing, and that they would pass—if she put one foot in front of the other and Took Right Action.

You hear often, “This is a program of action.” Part of right action is taking direction from a skilled counselor, in the form of a sponsor if it’s a 12-step program.

I received some news—what might be called “bad” news—last week. The “bad” part wasn’t the news itself; I expected and welcomed the actual news; but rather the way it was delivered. It was given in a way that made me feel minimized and disrespected. And I copped a resentment.

“So I wrote some inventory,” I told my sponsor the other day.

“Stop that,” she said.

I was surprised. “I’m not supposed to write inventory when I have a resentment?” I said.

“Not when one of your shortcomings is taking too much inventory,” she said.

Ah-ha. Hadn’t even thought of that. True addict that I am, I always think more is better, so I upped the ante on the inventory. “She’s right—you’re way too hard on yourself,” a friend said when I related the story in front of our mutual sponsor.

Instead, I’ve been directed to make daily gratitude lists of at least five items.

“Oh good,” I said. “I have a Gratitude App on my iPod—”

“NO,” my sponsor said. “You have to write it with your own hand. With paper, and an ink-pen.”

There was a slight pause over the phone while I absorbed the insistent tone and tried not to laugh.

“It doesn’t have to be a fountain pen,” she added.

I did laugh. “I have a fountain pen,” I said. In fact I have several.

“I’m sure you do,” she said.


So now a little Black n’ Red journal sits by my bedside; a tiny book, too small to write inventory, but just the right size for little lists. There’s also an ink-pen, so that I can make my daily gratitude list—so that I can take Right Action.

Now I have to DO IT, whether I feeeeel like it or not.


  1. Gratitude and writing those things for which I am grateful helps to rid me of a lot of character defects. I used to live by every feeling. Nice to know that not every feeling is truly real.

  2. I was working my way through a self-help book, and driving myself nuts (I critique writing styles), and one day found myself following a pickup truck with a bumper sticker saying only,

    “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.”

    I spent way too much money on that damn book, for a bumper sticker to sum it up perfectly.

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