There’s an old phrase in computer programming that goes… “Garbage In – Garbage Out”. In other words, if I program a faulty code, I’m going to get a faulty outcome.A computer behaves much like the human brain. The information we take in, read, and observe leads to the way we see the world. As the Roman philosopher and emperor Marcus Aurelius once said, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature”. In other words, garbage in – garbage out.
Another way of looking at it can be stated like this… “The attitude is the mother of the behavior.” Or, “as I think, so shall I act.”
In my early recovery I found it crucial to surround myself with people who were actively involved in staying sober. I had programmed my brain to look for people and places where I could party and get high or drunk. I needed to wipe out that faulty code and replace it with the code of recovery.
In the rooms of the program we often hear phrases like “90 meetings in 90 days”, “Meeting Makers Make It”, or “Don’t Think, Don’t Drink and Go to A Meeting”. Although these phrases may sound cliché and even simplistic, there is sound reasoning behind them. In the early days of sobriety, my brain/computer is loaded with the code of addiction. It is going to take a lot of code wiping to replace the code of the disease with the code of recovery. Surrounding myself with people who are clean and sober, going to 12 Step meetings and reading the literature of recovery are all ways I can overwrite the code of addiction.
Of course, “There is One who has all Power”. Our Higher Power can immediately relieve our obsession and craving for drugs and alcohol and change our outlook, attitude and programming in a nanosecond. This has happened for many in our fellowship and it is how Bill Wilson started his life as a sober alcoholic as detailed on page 14 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (aka The Big Book).
However, it also states in the second appendix of The Big Book that many of us developed this changed outlook and attitude gradually. This profound psychic change, or spiritual experience, or spiritual awakening, or changed programming, was of the type that the psychologist William James described as the “educational variety” because it happened “slowly over a period of time.”
It is said that the “eyes are the windows of the soul”. If I direct my gaze to the lifestyle of addiction, my soul will radiate and reflect that which I see. If I direct my gaze to the lifestyle of recovery, my soul will reflect and radiate a life that is happy, joyous and free.
John Donovan is a volunteer for The Retreat with over forty years of recovery experience. He is a frequent contributor to The Retreat’s blog.