Category Archives: recovery

Oh For God’s Sake, Lighten Up!

Grumpy-CatSmallMost of us addicts became isolated from others, unable to relate to them in healthy ways. We either tried too hard, or not hard enough. When we found ourselves failing to fit in, we turned to “in groups” who thought like we did. Those may have been genuine efforts to find a place where we belonged, but since they were nearly always based on some form of addiction — drinking, drugging, gambling and so forth — we were associating with other wounded souls who were grasping but not able to hold onto that same feeling of belonging. Our isolation continued, even in a crowd.

The value of humor in relieving the tension of situations and increasing the enjoyment of life has been recorded by poets, playwrights and others for thousands of years. Humor brings people closer, cements social bonds (people who laugh at the same things we do are accepted, others are kept at arm’s length), and defuses tense moments.
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Being Vulnerable

shameOne of the main reasons we have problems in early recovery is our inability to be open and honest with others. Most of us have spent a good part of our lives hiding one truth or another from the people around us. Telling the truth about our addictive behavior would endanger it, and we protect our addictions with everything we’ve got. We convince ourselves that no one knows what’s going on (wrong, in most cases) and that as long as we can keep them in the dark about our activities we can keep using and be okay.

But there’s another, deeper reason why most of us kept secrets: Continue reading

Human Being, or Human Doing?

In addiction we were always busy.   We were acting out,  recovering from acting out,  waiting for the next chance to use,  preparing to act out,  using,  etc.

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Life was hectic as we tried to keep all the balls in the air.   Then we’d drop them and things got even worse as we tried to salvage the situation while at the same time protecting our addictions.    Some of us became so accustomed to this stressful cycle that we became chaos junkies,  unable to relax and even notice the roses – –  let alone smell them.  If we were codependents, the pressure was just as great or greater,  since our addicts were our drugs,  and they weren’t even fun! .

For people with backgrounds like that,  recovery can be boring.   Our lives slow down,  and unaccustomed to having time on our hands,  we become uneasy.   We get into the “making up for lost time”  mode,  trying to get our lives back to “normal”  when we haven’t yet even begun to learn the skills we need in order to do so.  We’re living the same life,  just without our drug.  We’re like the codependent cowboy,  who jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions.

This is not getting over the madness!   It’s not what recovery is about.   We need to learn to slow down; to consciously embrace our down time and use it to learn how to relax.   The Serenity Prayer is a big help,  as are readings,  Journaling and meditation.  Perhaps the biggest factor is giving ourselves permission to take things a little bit slow,  a little bit easy.

Connecting with people in the program and having fun with them is an invaluable tool,  as well.  If we get phone numbers (and use them),  go for coffee after meetings, and get to know our fellows in recovery,  it won’t take long before we’re invited to take part in their lives.   These are people who have already learned how to slow down and have fun.   We can let them be our guides on this new journey.

And we can become humans being,  not just humans doing.

Recapturing Our Sense Of Fun

As our addictions progressed, we lost our zest for life. Some of us, depending on our childhood experiences, didn’t have much to begin with, but for sure as our need to feed our addictions at all cost became greater, we began to focus on that instead of the natural joys of living. We reached a point where we had no energy, felt sluggish, were unable to work up any enthusiasm unless we were high (sometimes).

We became self-absorbed. We withdrew from others when their attitudes toward our using began to threaten our disease. We became self-centered, and often convinced ourselves that we didn’t need other people in our lives. Eventually we denied ourselves one of the basic things that makes us human – – our sense of community and belonging.

Successful recovery demands that we overcome these feelings of isolation and unworthiness. The best place to do that is in our recovery groups, where people understand us and what we’ve gone through. Although those not in recovery may mean well, they don’t “get it” most of the time, and indeed will in most cases try to pass along to us a world view that we are not yet equipped to understand.

Gradually we begin to trust the people in our groups. As that trust increases, we begin to let them know who we really are, and as we do that we become able to let the child inside come out to play sometimes. Without the trust that we build with our peers in recovery, learning to appreciate and enjoy the world at large is difficult, if not impossible. Once we become convinced that we don’t have to check for a sniper behind every bush, we can relax and enjoy our walk through the park.

Book Larnin’

Sometimes intellect can be a form of denial. (Trust me on that, I know from experience.) Our intellectual pride can tell us that we have to know all the details about our addiction so that we can make the proper decisions about our recovery. But this is a simple program, and we really don’t have to know all that much. What we need is experience.

Knowledge is good, but insisting on knowing and neglecting the doing is bad. As Walt Disney is said to have commented, “If you want to get something done, stop talking and get started.” It’s easy to become too introspective and hooked on figuring things out, to the detriment of actually working a program of recovery.

The more we know about our disease the better, but reading the map isn’t enough. We have to dig in order to find the treasure.

Shades Of Gray

by Bill

A poor self-image is connected to low self-esteem, and self-image is one of the biggest negative issues in recovery.  In order to recover, we need to avoid defining ourselves in terms of our “character defects” and “shortcomings.”  Yes, when working on the 4th and 5th Steps we need to consider these things, but as any good sponsor will tell you, we also list and discuss the good things about ourselves.  It’s not all one-way.  We bring positives to the table as well as negatives.

To think of ourselves in terms of the things we need to change gives them power.  Constantly dwelling on them makes them seem insurmountable.  It causes us to live in the past, which we can’t change, or in the future, which we can’t predict or control.  In recovery, our goal is to live in today (“Yesterday’s history; tomorrow’s a mystery”), and that’s really hard to do when we’re focused on the “things we cannot change” rather than changing the things we can.

Skillful or Unskillful?

Everyone has made mistakes, is making them daily, and will make plenty more in the future.  It’s part of the human condition.  God is the only being who is mistake-free (we won’t mention mosquitos), and we aren’t him, her or it.  Rather than focusing on the things we’ve messed up in the past and worrying about whether we’ll be able to do better in the future, we need to stay in the present and concentrate on our good qualities.  We can appreciate our abilities, whatever they may have been, and also those we are learning.  If we are angry and are able to recognize it and deal with it, isn’t that a huge accomplishment?  Celebrate it!

A couple of nights ago I was explaining to a sponsee the Buddhist concept of “skillful” and “unskillful” thoughts and deeds.  Buddhists don’t think of things as right or wrong, black or white.  The idea of one act condemning an otherwise pretty decent person to perdition isn’t part of their world view.  Instead, they think of thoughts and behavior as being skillful or unskillful.

If I am skillful at something, I can appreciate my skills.  Others may be more skillful, and some days I may not be skillful at all, but if I blow it I have a world of opportunity to do it better the next time.  If I am unskillful (instead of — say — bad or sinful) I simply determine that I will do better the next time, make any repairs or amends that I need to, and get on with life.  I’m not bogged down in guilt, shame and recrimination, because I am able to admit to myself and to others that I am a human being, fallible but able to improve, not a god.

We can support this view of ourselves in a few simple ways: positive supports instead of critics; affirmations; journaling on our achievements every day, even the little ones (Getting the laundry done on time is progress, isn’t it?); we can make lists of our good qualities and resolve to apply them to the way we live, and so forth.  You can probably think of several more.

Self-image is largely a point of view.  We have trained ourselves to have a pretty low opinion of us.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  We can admit that we’re unskillful at some things, and resolve to try and be more skillful in the future.

This, then, is the Middle Way
Not black, nor white, but shades of gray.

 

 

Eternal Vigilance

By Bill

Someone once said that “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom,”  and nowhere is thateye more true than in recovery – –  especially in early recovery. Our addictions were full-time jobs,  taking most of our time,  attention and energy.   Were that not the case,  we would have felt no particular interest in escaping from them. Returning to reality takes all the time,  energy and commitment we can bring to bear on the project.   Our addict is unemployed, and as another old proverb goes,  “The devil finds work for idle hands.” Continue reading