Recovery builds many positive qualities that we need in order to stay sober. It builds virtue and moral character, not to mention that it also ignites the spark of spiritual growth. In our early days, however, we’ll find that our situation often results in a few new fears as well. How do we tell people about our recovery? What should we do if someone offers us our drink or drug of choice? When many of us begin, we don’t even know all of our triggers. Fortunately, these issues often subside by the time we fulfill the Eleventh Promise.
The Eleventh Promise pertains to the manner in which we approach difficult situations. More specifically, the Eleventh Promise focuses on situations that caused us frustration in the past. After working the Twelve Steps and building up our principles, we now find that we often handle things differently. We no longer buckle under pressure every time life hands us a tough decision. Recovery teaches us to make better choices and to stick by them, even if doing the wrong thing might technically result in a better outcome. But, much like the rest of the Twelve Promises, we must work to reach this point.
Note that the Eleventh Promise, like the rest of the Twelve Promises, often blossoms around the time we work on Step Nine. For many addicts and alcoholics, making amends might top the list in terms of difficult situations. Nonetheless, we do what we must for the sake of our sobriety. And when we experience the joy of setting things right, we decide to apply this moral standard to the rest of our affairs as well. Some addicts might start doing this long before Step Nine. Either way, the result will be a much better way of life.
Fulfilling the Eleventh Promise
The Eleventh Promise states:
“We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.”
This sentence contains a hidden promise that might strike some as fascinating. Not only will we handle many situations in better fashion than we may have before, but we will know how to do so intuitively. This sounds like a tall order. After all, how could we intuitively know how to handle situations that we’ve only ever handled badly in the past? Doesn’t this sort of thing require practice?
Sometimes, but not always. The Eleventh Promise doesn’t apply to every baffling situation under the sun. Many people find the gymnastics in Cirque du Soleil quite baffling. But working Step Nine and fulfilling the Twelve Promises won’t instantly turn such individuals into contortionists. For something like this, we obviously need quite a bit of practice (and possibly some natural talent). Instead, try applying the Eleventh promise to one of the questions we brought up earlier. More specifically, think of the question regarding what we should do if someone offers us drugs or alcohol. In early recovery, we might find even the thought of such a situation to be unbearably frightening. As we mature in our sobriety, we realize that the matter is actually quite simple.
When it comes to the types of situations we worry about in recovery, we require two primary assets: intuition and follow-through. The Eleventh Promise offers us the first asset. We must demonstrate the second asset through our own actions. But it all begins with intuition. If we don’t know what we will do in a given situation, the chances are far too high that we will do the wrong thing. Why do you think the prospect of someone offering us drugs causes so much anxiety? Because we don’t know what to do. And on some level, we know this indecision will likely cause us to say yes.
If we work toward the Eleventh Promise, we can prevent such circumstances. We find that many of the situations that caused us emotional disturbance in early recovery seem to affect us very little once we get some more time under our belts. Some situations will still get under our skin quite a bit. But as long as we keep our heads high and our feet planted, we can get through any circumstance with our dignity intact.
Situations That Used to Baffle Us
The prospect of someone offering us drugs certainly used to baffle us quite a bit when in early recovery. But the scope of the Eleventh Promise extends far beyond this one situation. Many other situations left us grasping at straws, both in early recovery and active addiction. Making amends. Letting people see our vulnerability. Telling the truth about a lie that we managed to keep hidden for far too long. We often knew when these were the right things to do, yet we still avoided them. Many of us convinced ourselves that we did so out of confusion, that we wanted to do the right thing but simply didn’t know how to approach the subject without hurting someone we loved.
On some level, we knew the right thing in each of these situations. There was at least some small part of us that acted out of selfishness rather than confusion or concern for others. But in another sense, our excuses were not outright lies. After deceiving others for so long, many of us truly didn’t know how to come clean anymore. Most of us had very little practice, if any. We feared the outcome, even when we stood to lose very little from our honesty. Bear in mind that many of us lied during our addiction when the truth would have proven sufficient. So when it came to the bigger issues, we found ourselves at a bit of a loss.
Social situations caused a number of us distress as well. As our drinking and drug abuse began to push away those we loved the most, only our fellow users remained. When we weren’t with these people, we were usually feeding our addiction alone. Over time, we spent less and less time in proper company. Perhaps we still kept up appearances at work or school, if our addiction was of the functional sort. But social situations in which drugs and alcohol were nowhere to be found? We simply didn’t know how to navigate such affairs. Rather than deal with the headache, we simply avoided these events and continued our isolation.
These situations and more put us at odds against ourselves. But the Eleventh Promise suggests that recovery can help us turn over a new leaf. No longer do we succumb to misery simply because we don’t know how else to live. Today, we can stand tall and handle these situations with confidence, care of the Eleventh Promise and the wonderful intuition with which we are gifted upon its fulfillment.
Discovering Our New Intuition
Some of our victories in later sobriety might be due to more than intuition. If we care about remaining sober, we’ll usually prepare a relapse prevention plan. This means that we already know exactly what to do if someone offers us drugs and alcohol. To some, this may not sound like a big deal. But saying no isn’t always as easy as Nancy Reagan made it sound. It takes conviction. Even if our best friend is the one offering us a drink, we must remain steadfast. Yes, loyalty to our friends is a virtue. But so is loyalty to ourselves and to our sobriety. And it is this precise loyalty that will build the strength of character we need to fulfill the Eleventh Promise.
When we fulfill the Eleventh Promise, honesty should no longer require any effort on our part. We do the right thing naturally. It becomes easier to live with confidence, because we no longer carry the burdens of our constant lies. Even after working Step Nine, we find that we must occasionally make amends to someone. Perhaps we neglected to come clean with this person the first time around, or perhaps we harmed them recently. Either way, we now know that our only option is to clean our side of the street. This may still be troubling, but far from baffling. At this point in our recovery, we know precisely how to handle these sorts of situations.
Social situations become easier in later recovery as well. By the time we fulfill the Eleventh Promise, we learn to act like ourselves around others. This stems largely from the fact that we possess a greater understanding of what it truly means to be ourselves. We don’t need to use drugs and alcohol as a crutch anymore. This might stand as one of the greatest facets of our new intuition. Rather than thinking about how others perceive us and trying to sway those perceptions, we can behave in a manner that feels natural to us. We often find that this does wonders for our social life. And since we need a strong support network as part of our relapse prevention plan, this particular attribute of the Eleventh Promise is particularly beneficial.
The Eleventh Promise won’t solve every single one of our problems. But many issues that once perplexed us no longer seem so insurmountable. We can live joyfully, embracing our newfound serenity while reaping the rewards of our sober lifestyle. Addiction is a cunning, baffling and powerful foe. Fortunately, the Twelve Promises provide us with the strength to keep it at bay. As long as we continue to nurture our recovery and never take it for granted, we can continue to stay strong and live happily.