The Recovery Bus: A warning about addiction

South Africa

An article for use with clients who need some roundabout straight-talking

For this article, I’d like to use the metaphor of the recovery bus. As in, you’re either on it or you’re not. Sometimes we’re running alongside it. Time to hop on. When we’re on the recovery bus, we’re driving away from addiction to substances, rescuing, gambling, social media, work, love, sex and suffering (there’s a book title right there). We keep our eyes on the road. Yes, occasionally we hit the shoulder and sometimes the bus runs out of fuel or even gets a flat or worse a burst tyre and we come to a grinding halt. We stay on the bus. We call our sponsor. Then we get going again. Note our sponsor is not the AA (no pun intended). They do not come tow us. They kick our butt to turn the key in the ignition again. We do it ourselves, with help from a power greater than ourselves – for the purposes of this elaborate metaphor, the sky.

Now we’re driving along, and we see someone weaving in the traffic. It’s a little red Fiat Uno (sue me) and the driver is clearly not okay. We roll down the window. They’re slugging a beer at the wheel. “Hey,” we shout, “Get on the bus! It’s dangerous out there!” The other driver waves back good-naturedly. He seems like a friendly sort. Attractive even. If he were on this bus, you two would have lots to talk about. After all, you used to drive a Fiat Uno too – till its engine ceased and you took it to the mechanics (the AA again). That’s where they told you, ditch this car. Overhaul your life and drive a Porsche out of here. One with a soft top. So you can literally touch the sky. Okay, you said. Sounds good. At the time you had no idea how much work that would be. It sounded worth it. Guess what, it was. Your Porsche is purring in your garage at home and you’re driving this recovery bus because the 12th Step says go out and do service. No problem with that. The road looks equally good from a Porsche, a bus, or an Uno. Unless you’re using. Then your vision is blurred.

You whistle at the other driver to get his attention. Can he not see that what he’s doing is endangering him? He looks you in the eye. Big, soft, soulful eyes. You see the Good in him. You see Yourself. He jack-knifes his wheel and drives into you. You both go screaming off the road. Perhaps you are both dead. Or, if you’re lucky, you can get on the bus again.

Yes, on your Journey you need to wave at other drivers. But don’t get distracted. As Mary Oliver said:


"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

… as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do --

determined to save

the only life that you could save.


As you drive deeper and deeper into the world, as you live, remember that rescuing others is suicide and manslaughter in one.

I’ll end with a quote from my Rumi partner. Go park your bus in a field and look at the wild geese. Regularly. Touch the sky. Keep your eyes on the road. Protect your recovery. Addicts who are using endanger it, they endanger their own lives, and they endanger yours. Literally.


Gamble everything for love,

if you’re a true human being.

If not, leave this gathering.

Half-heartedness doesn’t reach into majesty.

You set out to find God, but then you keep stopping for long periods at mean-spirited roadhouses.

Don’t wait any longer. Dive in the ocean, leave, and let the sea be you.

Silent, absent, walking an empty road, all praise.


In memory of AB


© Dr Jana Lazarus 2021


Dr Jana Lazarus, AKA Dr Zizz, is a compassionate Clinical Psychologist with a special interest in transpersonal therapy, children, teens, addiction and recovery. She writes medicine books like I Can Fly that inspire children for life and picture books for adults like Bits in a Basket, for the child in us all. Her Conscious Living psychotherapy practice is entirely online so you can reach her all over the world and she’s contracted into South African medical aids because pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

With thanks to Miranda Wannenburgh, who taught me.


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