By Don Troutman, Founder, Clean & Sober Transitional Living
The holiday season brings a lot of emphasis on giving and getting gifts. Well, I get to be part of that every month of the year when CSTL residents give and receive AA recovery chips. No holiday is necessary to make those meetings special!
Recovery chips tend to mean different things at different points in a person’s recovery. When people have just gotten sober, receiving a chip is a validation to the outside world that they’re headed down the right path. It’s one of the few measuring sticks we have for sobriety. Everybody knew when you were abusing drugs or alcohol, so now everybody can witness the validation of your sobriety. Yes, there is ego involved here, and it’s a healthy, motivating force because it prompts us to recognize how far we’ve come in our recovery. And it prompts our peers to offer up the support for sobriety that can be essential early in the game.
In early recovery, people are shy about getting up in front of their peers to receive their chip. But peer pressure inspires them to step to the front of the room and get their chip from a sponsor, a roommate, a friend or a family member. Those chips become ever more cherished at the six-month and one-year mark as people gain distance and perspective from their drinking and drugging days. Because they can’t dismiss their drug or alcohol use as “a frolic” or “no big deal,” they can recognize how far they’ve come and embrace the strength of their sustained sobriety.
Some of the most powerful chip presentations involve family members who give chips to their loved ones. I’ve been honored to see husbands give chips to wives – and vice versa. I’ve heard tearful parents tell a beloved child, “I have my son (or daughter) back.” And I’ve watched children give their parents a chip while telling them - with a child’s innocent wisdom - how happy they are to have a Mom or Dad who doesn’t drink anymore.
Recovery chips tell a tale about a person’s commitment, integrity, progress and determination. What a gift to ourselves and to the people we love. Recovery - the gift that keeps on giving, one day and one chip at a time, all year long.