Making Decisions

by Bill

One of the skills we have to master early in recovery is that of making good decisions. In truth, recovery is mostly about making good decisions, and we alcoholics and other addicts tend not to be very good at it. It’s critical to remember that every decision we make changes us and the rest of our lives to some extent, and there is really no way of knowing how much, or in what direction. That’s why it’s vitally important that we do our best to ensure, as often as possible, that we’re doing “the next right thing.”

Changes are scary, and since decisions usually mean changes, they’re often scary too. It’s easy to put them off in the hope that time — or some imaginary force — will take care of things, but rarely does that pay off in the long run. (That’s not the same as tabling an issue until we’ve had time to think about it carefully; one postpones action, the other denies the need for action.)

There are some questions we can ask ourselves to clarify our decision-making somewhat. We can consider if we really want to do it, and often that’s the only thing we need to do. Sometimes, not wanting to do something is enough. Examples of this might be going to a social function simply because we were invited, or saying “Yes” to a request because we don’t know how to refuse it.

downloadWe can — and should — ask how it will benefit our lives, balancing out the negative and positive aspects. We don’t have to take a “What’s in it for me” attitude, but we certainly should consider the benefits versus cost, and remember that our time and effort is part of the cost. (We also need to remember, however, that decisions that benefit only ourselves are often not good ones.)

Is what we are contemplating realistic? Are we moving to Montana to work as a cowboy or cowgirl because we’re outdoorsy, skilled riders, relish hard work and don’t mind doing it in wind, rain, heat and sometimes sub-zero weather, or does it just seem like a fun thing to do? Do we really want to mortgage our condo to invest in our friend’s business selling cosmetic products? These things seem silly, but people do this sort of thing every day and folks in early recovery are especially prone to get-rich-quick schemes.  I know from experience.

What’s our gut feeling? Do we actually know deep down that our decision is a poor one, but choose to ignore that little voice, the tension between our shoulders or that queasy feeling when we think of parting with all that money?

And finally — have we talked to people about our plan, or have we been reluctant to do so because we are pretty sure they’ll try to shoot it down? If we’ve been avoiding the subject with the folks who care about us and wish us well, there’s a great likelihood that our secrets are going to get us into a heap o’ trouble, because that’s addict behavior, one hundred percent.

Bad decisions often focus on external things: pleasing others, money, power, prestige, excitement, feeling good, a quick fix to a problem, or running from something. We need to avoid that old impulsive, all or nothing thinking, talk it out, look at the “big picture”, pray and/or meditate, and only then trust our good sense and the outcome. To do otherwise is to court disaster, as much for us old-timers as for anyone else. We have to think smart. Ignorance and stupidity are treatable conditions. Look how far we’ve come already!

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