To give advice or not, that is the question…


Last night there was a little drama on the LAA forums. I hate to say it, but now that I am where I am, I can’t relate to or tolerate too much drama (years ago I thrived on it). The drama is based on an ever-going debate as to whether or not the LAA site is 12-step based or not. That doesn’t necessarily mean much to me. What does, though, is the fact that if it were a traditional 12-step program, advice (the exchange of it) cannot occur. On the one hand, I can understand how this kind of rule would apply:

  1. In recovery you need to think for yourself. Half the reason you’re in the situation you’re in is because you most likely have lost your identity and do not think for yourself. I am guilty of this and I have seen many guilty of this. Therefore, you must come to certain conclusions yourself. Sure, it makes the process harder, but this is your recovery and you must work it alone (with support, not direction from others).
  2. Despite good intentions, there are many people out there at different levels of recovery that will offer wrong or bad advice. On a small scale that might mean someone ill advises you to tell your husband about your affair, believing that truth should be your ultimate goal. But this advice backfires and the husband divorces you. On a larger scale I can think only of cultish religious groups that advise you to turn over all your money, possessions and sometimes even your life. In these two cases, advice is not good.
  3. No one knows you (especially on a message board) better than yourself. And what advice might work for one person, simply may not work for another. Trouble is, when we are in early recovery we do not know this information. We believe the answers lie outside ourselves, which thus, leads us to continue the cycle of dependence on others.
  4. Lastly, advice given specifically from message boards is based on the honor system. Who’s giving the advice? How well do they know you or your situation? How well did this advice work for them? The source of advice needs to be trusted and that can be very tricky to figure out in cyberspace.

But on the other hand, the giving of advice is invaluable, especially to those suffering, in pain and new to recovery. When I was in the throes of my addiction I didn’t know up from down, left from right. I didn’t know how things worked, the difference between right and wrong or what was NORMAL. Like so many new to recovery, I was an infant. I had just been born– or rather I had just come to the realization that something was seriously wrong with my life and I needed to change, grow and learn a new way of living. And when I was there the advice I received from support groups was INVALUABLE. It was a life force for me. Others who had come before me, reassured me that things would change, get better. They advised me to keep posting, stay focused, don’t give up. They yelled at me, “don’t be a fool,” “what you’re doing is wrong,” “stop feeling sorry for yourself.” And, with their advise, they ultimately helped me to redirect my energy into something more positive.

Advice, along with your own personal common sense and inner strength, along with support from others and courage from within, is a part of the process of learning and becoming. When you are a child you need the advice of your elders (“don’t stick your hand in the fire”). And when you are in early recovery, I believe you need the advice of those who are in advanced recovery (“stop the affair, you are destroying your life.”) And whether this advice is called “advice” or “inspiration” or “guidance” or whatever…it is the invaluable exchange of wisdom and information that is essential to better living and growth.

However, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. And so it is the same with advice. And well it should be. You don’t swallow a pill without water to help it go down and the same should be said of advice. You should never believe in someone else’s advice more than your own instinct of what is right and wrong. If something smells fishy, it probably is. And you need to trust yourself and your own judgment when it comes to listening and learning. We know the world is round because someone went again fact and discovered for himself that those facts were wrong. And that same amount of questioning and doubt must be applied to the advice you receive. What is the source? How does it apply to my life? Does it make sense? Does it feel right? Will it help me in the long run or hurt me or someone else?

So while I think that some advise is inappropriately given, I still believe the exchange of advice is vital to a recovery-based community, but that all advice must be taken with a grain of salt and integrated into what is best for you personally. Someone can tell you what to do, but you are the one who ultimately decides what’s best for you. You are the one who ultimately decides to follow the advice or not.

Here are some other thoughts on advice:

HOw to give advice

To advise or not

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