Our Word of the Week series continues here at South Orange County Detox and Treatment as we turn our focus to a new word to examine, “influence”. As an addict/alcoholic, the first association with this particular word makes me think of “driving under the influence” or being “under the influence” of a particular drug. The next association that comes to mind, and following the natural progression of anyone who has suffered the legal consequences of addiction, is some type of criminal charge and maybe even a night, or 30, in jail. Once we admit we have a problem, however, and begin taking the necessary steps to seeking out a solution, we can begin to focus on the word “influence” in a more positive and hope-oriented light. Influences play a monumental role in the early stages of recovery, whether they are groups and communities, individuals, or even ideas. The reason it is so important to subscribe to positive influence early in sobriety is two-fold: first off, we can go back to our original association with influence, which is that of our drugs of choice. Our physical addictions, psychological obsessions, and emotional dependency on these substances were the determining factors in all of our actions when in active addiction. It is often said that one should not pull out a rug from another person without something adequate to replace it. This leads me to my second point which is that we have to be able to replace the drugs, and more aptly put, replace what the drugs were a illegitimate substitute for, in order to maintain any semblance of sanity during these first stages. I think the most obvious and universally effective replacement for the negative influence of drugs is the positive influence of a like-minded community such as is found in the rooms of AA and NA. Although engaging in the 12 steps is an invaluable tool for self-enlightenment and spiritual growth, I’m simply suggesting showing up to a meeting in order to find love and support from those who can identify with the addict’s plight as there is an inherent healing quality within this type of connection. Once this foundation is laid and one is able to feel supported by a community, it would be remiss not to turn our focus to a higher-order purpose. What I mean by this is setting our sights on emulating those individuals who might help bring us closer to our potential in whatever form that may be. As an example, if one of your goals in recovery, or life in general, is to become a great basketball player, you ought to be looking to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as your influence and probably not setting your sights on surpassing the average Joe at your local gym. In all likelihood, none of us will ever be the Michael Jordan’s of our respective aspirations, however, adopting someone or something that will help us strive to our greatest potential will do two things for us. It will keep us in a state of humility as we will be able to recognize our shortcomings in the face of the ideal, and two, it will keep us striving to be better than we thought we could be. This may seem like an unreasonable standard to try and meet but I believe that is the point. Life is not about ever becoming the proverbial Michael Jordan, it is about working as hard as the people who we look to in order to influence us so that we may become whatever version of the “the best” that we can be in accordance with our own abilities. Everything we experience influences us in one way or another meaning that we must apply wisdom when choosing our influences, especially when walking the path of recovery.