Whether you’re brand new to sobriety or you’ve been around a while, you’ve surely noticed that we live in a remarkable time. Although twelve-step groups never take a stance on outside issues, it’s common sense to acknowledge that politics today are more divisive and turbulent than they’ve ever been in recent memory.

Last year’s election broke apart families and friendships. People who had never engaged in politics before became intensely involved. The rancor and excitement shows little sign of slowing down.

What the Political Climate Means for Those in Recovery

For people in recovery, the current political climate poses a special challenge—and an important opportunity.

First and foremost, we need to remember how dangerous anger and resentment are for us. The Big Book describes anger as the “dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics, these things are poison.” Obviously, you can substitute any addiction for alcoholism here.

Anger and resentment are everywhere in our political life today, on television and around the family dinner table. If anger poses a real threat to our sobriety or recovery program, how can we risk engaging in political discussions or arguments? Would it be better if we all tried to conduct our private lives like a 12 Step meeting, where politics are taboo?

Engage with the World, But on Your Terms

Though anger is poison for us, the Big Book of AA also says that we are to practice spiritual principles in “all our affairs.” Politics and public life certainly fall into the category of affairs with which we need to be concerned. We didn’t get sober just to hide from the world. Our friends, family, community and country need our involvement, but that engagement needs to be informed by the tools of our recovery program. There is a way to be engaged in both politics and sobriety.

Politics and Sobriety: Start Small

The basic principles of “first things first” and “one day at a time” are helpful here. Getting involved with politics doesn’t have to mean either defending or attacking everything the president does. Rather, it might make sense to pick just one issue that you really care about. While there are dozens of important causes, it might be wise to pick only one at first. Local school community issues? How voting districts are drawn? The possibilities are endless.

Pick a cause you care about, but one you can discuss without losing your temper or jeopardizing your emotional equilibrium—remember, anger isn’t for us! This doesn’t mean choosing to get involved in something you don’t care about. It just means taking baby steps.

As you find yourself able to engage in politics while still “practicing the principles,” you can start to move toward engaging in the more hot-button issues that grip our culture right now.

The world needs your perspective and your voice. But when it comes to politics and sobriety, your sobriety needs to come first.