We ask ourselves questions all the time. Some are important, some not so. There seems to be a pretty constant mental dialogue going on all the time. We are aware of certain unimportant questions such as “Does this look good on me?” or “Would I rather have a hot dog or hamburger for dinner?” We make decisions on how we answer these self-generated questions. That’s how we decide on this or that. But some time after you have decided on the hot dog, a split second later, we find ourselves saying, “I’ve changed my mind, I want the hamburger.” We’ve all done that. What is that about? It is common and unquestioned and strange in many ways because we do not have an answer as to why the sudden about-face. Maybe the answer is simple or maybe it is complex, but we do not pay too much attention to what transpired. We just know we want the hamburger.

Some questions are due to the circumstances we find ourselves in or perhaps about future concerns. And we know there are some questions important enough to have us pause to reflect on the answer. These are the questions that require purposeful thought. Usually these are the more important questions. Where should I live, go to school, apply for a job? So these questions are mindful, purposeful; they matter in some way that is more important than the questions that randomly just seem to pop up. Certainly more important than if you want a hot dog or a hamburger.

Being in recovery means asking the right questions and most certainly requires the right answers. The interesting thing about starting to pay attention to what we think is that it leads to thinking about how we feel. Feelings are the result of information our brain receives, which in turn gives our mind and our bodies instruction about how to feel. Maybe your mind just got instruction that there is a reason to feel anxiety. If that were the case, you would feel your heart start to race a bit, or maybe you would feel sweat on your palms, and you would have feelings of discomfort. The instruction that told your mind there was a reason to feel anxiety would actually have instructed your body to do the most incredible things. Adrenaline would increase, and cortisol would enter your bloodstream. At the same time, your liver would be sending surges of glucose to prepare you to face whatever this possible or imagined threat was. It does not matter if the thought was real or imagined. What mattered was, information was received and it caused the thought.

Since this is not a science lesson, and I am not a qualified teacher anyway, I will not go into all the rest of the incredible changes your body goes through. All I want you to see is that a thought is a real thing that creates real physical events.

When you are in recovery, undoubtedly you will be faced with the dynamic duo of temptation and opportunity. There is a real epidemic of substance abuse going on, and it would be foolish to not acknowledge this is so. So here is one of the things you can do to remain in a lasting recovery. You can ask yourself what I call the most important question in the world. If you seriously give this question its proper consideration, you will realize this question will serve you well in all areas of your life, but for right now, it is the most important question you can ask in the face of temptation and opportunity regarding relapse.

If you have started to think about how you think and have started paying attention to how you feel, you will come to see that when you ask this question, you actually sense an answer. You know it when you are doing something wrong because you “feel” it. You do feel it. Most times, we do not listen to ourselves and do whatever it is anyway, but in truth those things never turn out well. We have an inner intelligence that tries to guide us. Learn to listen.

So here is the most important question in the world:

Is this good for me?

Pause here for a moment, and take this opportunity to reflect that this really can be the most important question in the world for you.

There have been many people in recovery who have told me they were able to stay in recovery because of asking this question of themselves. Time and again, I have had the privilege of hearing how this simple question has given a person the strength to stay straight or sober.

Is this good for me? Please put this in your mind. Practice in small and large ways. You will “feel” an answer. Trust yourself.