One of our biggest problems as addicts is that we pursue solutions that we like, rather than those we need.
Many times the best solutions to problems do not produce the outcomes that we want. Members who have been around the fellowships for awhile have seen it again and again: newcomers (and sometimes those not so new) who flail around and exhaust themselves trying to fight what more experienced folks see as inevitable: the need to make changes that we don’t like.
Usually, no one is saying that they need to be made all at once or right away. In fact, program wisdom indicates quite the opposite. In most cases not involving situations dire and immediate, we recommend that any changes be made slowly, with careful consideration of all factors. Since we’re all addicts and codependents, however, we tend to want to sweep things under the rug and ignore them indefinitely, or take the broom and beat them into submission. In either case, we want what we want and we want it now, and we want it the way we want it.*
It pays to remember when dealing with problems and decisions that our wants are usually what got us into trouble. That sudden infatuation “across a crowded room,” that desire to drive our own car home instead of Ubering, that need to have our say despite the fact the boss said otherwise, the need to express our “rights” instead of keeping our mouth shut and showing a little humility and common sense–all of them relate to wants, not needs.
One of the most valuable things the program teaches us is to discern that difference and put the needs first. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with wanting stuff within reason, but we need to use a little uncommon sense. Isn’t it better to learn to love ourselves before looking for love in another wrong place? Is it better if we marry (or not) and have a child at 22, or 32, as opposed to waiting until we are actually healthy enough to raise one? Do we have to start “making up for lost time” (feeding our feelings of insecurity) right out of treatment instead of taking our re-entry into the workforce slowly while continuing the work on ourselves that we’ve barely begun?
Withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal can last for months and months. Do we want to deal with the old grind at the same time? How did we handle pressure like that before?
Probably the most important lesson we can learn in early recovery–a lesson that some of us never seem to learn–is that we really don’t know how to live our lives in a thoughtful, effective way. We may have been really good at what we did “before,” but at what cost to the rest of our lives and the lives of those around us? As addicts and codependents, we have problems by definition, and we need solutions for them. Considering our past performances, do we perhaps need to reevaluate our systems–and maybe take a suggestion or two for a change?
We might want a drink. Is it worth it? We might feel lonely. Is another messed-up relationship going to help our recovery, or is it just going to distract us from working on ourselves? MacDonald’s doesn’t pay as much as selling used cars, but we don’t have to lie and cheat to make our paychecks at Mickey D’s. It’s suggested that we live in a halfway house for a while; do we really need to go back to the place where we were so miserable, among all our triggers, instead of surrounding ourselves with the program for a while longer? And so on…
Wants got us here. The solutions may be hard, but they’re solutions–not just the same old problems in new clothes.
*Codependency is addiction to control. No? What would you call it?