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One of the existential turning points within the recovery experience is marked by the diminishment of backward sense making (What happened to me?) and the increased urgency regarding one’s post-sobriety future (Okay, what do I do now?). All manner of emotions feed this transition: release, relief, gratitude, unworthiness (survival guilt), remorse (guilt over past transgressions), a gnawing sense of emptiness, and, not uncommonly, a passion to help others similarly afflicted. Many forces coalesce to push people out of addiction, but finding a higher purpose in one’s life is a potentially powerful pull force within the process of long-term recovery. For many, that purpose is found in service to others.
A.A. is so decentralized that in a very real sense, there really is no such single entity as “Alcoholics Anonymous”—only A.A. members and local A.A. groups that reflect a broad and ever increasing variety of A.A. experience. To suggest that Alcoholics Anonymous represents a “one size fits all approach” to alcoholism recovery, as some critics are prone to do, ignores the actual rich diversity of A.A. experience in local A.A. groups and the diverse cultural, religious, and political contexts in which A.A. is flourishing internationally. (Kurtz & White, 2015)
The devastating effects of addiction on physical/emotional health and social functioning have been meticulously catalogued, but far less attention has been given to its toll on character and the role character reconstruction plays in the recovery process. A recent rereading of David Brook’s The Road to Character has spurred this reflection on character and addiction recovery.