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  • Writer's pictureJack Shain

Sticky Note Commitment Theory

At the end of 2019, I was invited to partake in a seminar. It was hosted in a nice office facing downtown Santa Monica, where I could see the first 12-step meeting I ever attended over six years ago (Man, that night was awkward). This seminar was put on by the Recovery Playbook, a coaching business focused on helping people rediscover their passions. The challenge was simple: write on a Post-It a dedication on how you want to live the next year of your life. The hard part was that it had to be one word. Some people dedicated their year to honesty, willingness, health, etc. Seeing that I was going to be getting married in April (not happening anymore, thanks Covid), I chose the action “commitment.” I was told to put it somewhere I would see it every day. Not being a huge fan of leaving myself inspirational notes or quotes, I reluctantly stuck it to my bathroom mirror. I did not realize how much this simple sticky note would change my life over the next few months.

Being a cynic, I was thoroughly annoyed by leaving it on my bathroom mirror. I have 5th grade penmanship at best. But I saw it every morning, and as friends began to ask for my time, I could not help but think of that 2-by-2 inch sticky note. Instead of saying no, I would think “commitment”. This was when it really began to annoy me. Back when I was a newcomer, many wise old-timers ordered me to say yes to any 12-step request. Whether it was showing up to a meeting, calling someone, or being of service, I did my best to say yes. Looking back, I was pretty bad at it. I was able to avoid people before they asked me anything (Or they just didn’t expect anything out of me, so they didn’t ask. But I like to think I beat them at their own game).

Having dedicated a year to commitment I have found myself feeling like a newcomer and saying yes. This began an attempt at podcasting with two of my best friends. The premise is about three friends who are in recovery who all have dead fathers. Do you have a dad? Neither do we. My wife and I were able to have a civil ceremony with a small intimate group of friends. I jumped into Loyola Marymount University's Recovery Program (yes, this is the school that kicked me out). Over the last two weeks, a group of us have put together an online recovery portal for college students and faculty. We are averaging about five meetings a day. And somehow I ended up sponsoring more degenerates than I know what to do with (although most of them don’t call). In a span of 3 months, this concept has drastically changed my life and ignited creative passions.

But now as we sit in isolation for most of the day, I struggle to find new ways to live in commitment. One definition of commitment is: an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.The example they give are business commitments. That definition does not work for me. It can’t work for me. Left to my own devices, I know where freedom of action takes me. I doubt it will take me to a drink or a drug, but a good four-hour Pornhub session starts to look like a good idea. But afterwards I feel gross, and I can’t make eye contact with my wife. I become distant, grumpy, and resentful, and then make her believe she is the one who has a problem. Yes, I can still be an asshole with six years of sobriety.

Commitment has to have a better definition. I almost have to reverse the wording and recognize that commitment grants me freedom. And sitting in my apartment all day, my commitments don’t sound very fun. Secretarying two meetings every Monday, worrying needlessly about the blog, checking in with friends and family, meeting up at 4pm Monday through Friday to participate in an LMU meeting, and completing paid gigs, are vital to my sanity. If I don’t commit to these things, then there will be no peaceful interactions with my wife. I also must remember that my chosen isolation and social distancing is a commitment to not spread Covid to anyone else. I live in an apartment complex, which has confined quarters that are not much different from a dormitory or cruise ship.

So today my commitment evolves into the present circumstances. How can I be a good husband rather than a distant one? How can I be a good neighbor without the possibility of spreading Covid? How can I be a good friend, son, or brother? It was my mother’s birthday yesterday, so I called her and we caught up for twenty minutes. To me, that is what this year of commitment is about. Happy birthday, Mom!

This article was written by Jack Shain, CADC-II and founder of Keep Left Recovery.

Photo above was drawn by Charles Hutton, AKA Insta-Chaz

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