Addicts (and many others) seem to be convinced that we know The Way Things Ought To Be, and we become annoyed when others don’t see things our way. “If he’d just done it the way I said, it would have worked out better!” “Why in hell is she so stubborn?” “If I were running that company….”
If we expect others to follow our suggestions all the time, it’s a good bet that we’re going to end up frustrated and usually angry. The belief that we have the right answers may be accurate often enough to allow us to feel superior, but the fact is that regardless of how right they may be for us, they aren’t necessarily right for other people. When we begin to feel that overpowering need to control what someone else is doing, or the way they’re doing it, we need to step back and take a look at ourselves. Continue reading
Some don’t realize it consciously, but all of us addicts have one thing in common, a feeling, deep down inside, that we want to be different people from who we are. Regardless of the reasons for that, the desire to change what we perceive as our reality, to overcome the feelings of worthlessness, to feel worthy of love, to feel safe in loving – to be whole human beings – is common to all addicts.
I changed who I was in a lot of ways. Continue reading
An overpowering need to be right is born of perfectionism, pride and fear. Some people would risk a relationship, rather than admitting they were wrong, or that someone else’s point of view might be valid – at least for that person. Those of us who carry around that character defect – and the writer is most assuredly in recovery from know-it-all-ism – are often (or often have been) so unable to admit that there are two sides to most things that we have been willing even to alienate loved ones: We’d rather be right than loved.
Without getting into the pathology of overbearing parents who expected too much and all the other developmental nightmares, let’s just say that always having to impress our opinions and facts on others is pathological. It is self-righteousness in disguise, and stems from a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy that causes us to want to prove to ourselves that we’re one up on everyone else. (No one else cares!) “Standing up for our principles” is, in reality, simple mental and emotional inflexibility. There are always two points of view to any discussion, and I suspect that people who are unwilling to listen to others’ positions really don’t understand the issue well enough to have strong opinions about the accuracy of their beliefs. Because this shortcoming bears so directly on our low self-esteem, it’s hard to admit and harder to let go.
And that’s a shame, because it’s such a relief to let go…to learn where others are coming from and why, and to appreciate the ideas that we share, rather than emphasizing the differences. Keeping an open mind, hearing the “other side’s” rationale, accepting their right to hold opinions and the fact – OMG! – that whether we like it or not, there’s a good chance that many if not all of them are valid, to not insist on being right, brings us closer to others and expands the human spirits that we are reclaiming in our recovery.
“You have to be your own wind. No one will make decisions for you. No one will create opportunities for you. If you stay the status quo and you’re happy, stay. Don’t change for change sake. But if you want more, if you crave more, you have no choice but to muster the courage, gusto and sheer will to make it happen.”
Sometimes we try too hard. It’s possible to try so hard to “work a good program” that we forget to relax and be us. We forget that the world has many things to offer in the way of both material and spiritual sustenance, but when we take the time to look around we see not only opportunities for improvement, but also ways to enjoy ourselves that support our recovery rather than our addictions.
When we first came to recovery we already had a Higher Power. We worshiped it, followed its every command, and spent many hours a day in its service. It was the first thing we thought of in the morning, and the last at night. We were faithful to a fault — and usually beyond a fault. We obsessed on our Higher Power to the exclusion of family, faith, common sense and self-preservation. Finally, after it failed us one time too many, we ended up at the end of the line: treatment, the rooms of the recovery fellowships or whatever refuge we were able to find from our devotion to our addiction.
So why do so many of us have this problem with “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and the other references to a higher power “as we understood” it in our twelve step fellowships?
The principle behind the Second Step is hope, not religion. It says “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” [Emphasis mine] If I believe that the only power greater than me is God, then I’m really a sick puppy. If we wish, the “God” in the program can be considered metaphor for the people in the rooms, our support system, and the program itself — surely all higher powers than we, for purposes of recovery and learning a new way to live (and how other people choose to think of it is none of our business).
Our business is recovering from a chronic, deadly disease, and we’d better use all the tools available! Our best efforts got us where we are today. No one is saying that we have to believe in a God or gods, but we’d darned well better be able to admit that we aren’t him, we can’t recover from our addictions alone, and that we need the guidance of a “higher power” that knows more about recovery than we do.
There’s a word for addicts who try to recover on their own — who use the word “God” as an excuse to avoid the work needed to change our lives and stay sober.