Recovery in Four Simple Words. “Do The Right Thing.” -Jay Keefe



Sobriety isn’t easy.

It’s simple, but it isn’t easy.

People ask me all the time what recovery is like, what the 12-step program I belong to is like.

My response?

I tell them that if I could sum it up, all of it, in four simple words, it’d be, “Do the right thing.”

Now that sounds simple enough, and it can be, but it’s far from easy, especially for an alcoholic who had not one, but two chips on his shoulders growing up.

This alcoholic doesn’t like being told what to do.


If I was told I had to do the things I did in recovery, I would’ve walked out of those dank basement rooms and never returned.  Luckily, I was simply (there’s that word again) given a few suggestions.

And considering I had tried to stop drinking on my own for the better part of two decades, I took those suggestions.

It was suggested I get on my knees every morning and pray that I be kept away from a drink or a drug for just that day.  That I could do.  I was raised Catholic but walked into my first 12-step meeting a staunch Atheist. And although I still do not practice any organized religion (and never will), today I believe in something greater than myself.  I don’t have a name or a label for it, nor do I try to analyze what “it” is.  I simply believe there is something more powerful than myself.  I know I didn’t create the earth or the planets or the galaxies, but something did.

Do I believe it was a guy who hangs out in the clouds in a toga and a white flowing beard?  Fuck no.  But I believe something created the universe.

It was also suggested that I attend a few 12-step meetings a week.  That I could do too.  I went to 90 meetings in my first 90 days of sobriety and while some were better than others, I never walked out of a meeting feeling worse.  One time in Reno, Nevada (is there a more evil place on the planet?) I felt the same, but I’ve never felt worse.  It’s like my daily dose of medicine.  I usually always hear at least one tiny tidbit of wisdom and after going to meetings for years, all of those nuggets of brilliance can add up to be quite an investment in my recovery bank.

Today I don’t go to meetings because I have to, like I did in the beginning.  Today I go to meetings because I want to.

It was suggested I apologize when I’ve harmed someone or when I’ve acted a little less than desirable (which can happen often if I’m in a bad head space).

I remember one time in particular when I was walking my dogs (off leash) and there were signs clearly stating that they needed to be on a leash.  The park manager approached me but I was on the phone so I sort of shrugged him off.

Granted, his approach was a little gruff (and I don’t like gruff) so I told him to fuck off.  We got into a screaming match, I said a few things that were rather derogatory, and we almost went at it.  I at least had enough practice (I was 5 years sober at the time) to walk away.

I put the dogs in the car and drove off, but I knew that I’d be dwelling on the

encounter for days, if not weeks, if I didn’t fix the situation.  I’d pretend what I would’ve done if I was more clever or what I should’ve said if he’d said this or that.   The guy (and the situation) would occupy space in my head for far longer than necessary.

So I turned around, swallowed my pride and ego, approached the park manager’s office, and knocked on the door.

He came out and approached me even more gruffly than before and I immediately apologized for my behavior and told him that my dogs would remain on a leash from then on.

He accepted my apology and away I went, on my merry way.

Now the guy could’ve attacked me, either physically or verbally, and that was something I had to be prepared for.  Luckily, he was cool about it.  But I did my part; I cleaned my side of the street, so to speak.

I practice what I’ve learned in those rooms, on a daily basis, and I do an inventory every night, to make sure I did, in fact, “Do the right thing” that day, and every day.

I also extend my hand to another alcoholic, whenever someone reaches out.  It may be something as simple as introducing myself to a newcomer or it may be driving someone to a meeting.  But I was taught to never say “No” when something is asked of me in the program.  So I don’t.

If chairs need to be put away or if I’m asked to speak or if I’m asked to make the coffee, I do.  It’s a simple (that darn word again) thing to do in exchange for remaining sober for another twenty-four hours.

I would’ve walked eight hours, barefoot, over glass, for just one more shot of tequila when I was at the end of my drinking.  That’s how obsessed I had become with booze.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask to extend myself or to help clean up a room and in exchange for living a happy, sober life.

Nope… I don’t think it’s much to ask at all.


Jay Keefe    Staff Writer, and Director of Happiness for The Addictions Academy 

National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer

Published Author of “And Drink I Did”

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