Category Archives: self-esteem

Communication In Recovery

Relationships in recovery are difficult, especially when we are in a continuing partnership that has been shaped, at least in part, by our addictive behavior. Remembering our part in the resulting mess and developing good communication skills are essential to our recovery, and that of the relationship.

Some questions to ask ourselves about our relationships.

First of all:

    • Am I using the tools of my recovery program to maintain a healthy relationship with myself?
    • Do I regularly check my behavior for fairness in my relationships with others? Do I evaluate them, and apologize when needed?
    • Do I further my recovery program by continuing to attend meetings, help others and share what I have learned and hope to learn about myself?
    • Am I using a relationship/relationships to replace another form of acting out — to “fill the hole” that I was trying to fill with substances or other behavior?

If I’m doing all of the above, living an active program of recovery, do I give the same attention to my personal relationships? Continue reading

Thinking For Ourselves

Truth is a pathless land….We have built in our images a sense of security – religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these dominates thinking, relationships and daily life.

These are the causes of our problems, for they divide us from each other in every relationship.”

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)


We are self-determining. We make up our own minds. We think for ourselves. We cut through other people’s b. s. and discern the way things really are. Right?

Wrong. In fact, these concepts are almost completely bogus.

Our attitudes toward life and self are built on our life’s experiences. We are influenced in our thinking and reactions to events by other things that we may not even recall. We did not paint our own picture of the world and reality. In large part, it was shaped by things out of our control: other people’s ideas that they passed on to us verbally and by example, trauma (physical and psychological pain or harm), and the experiences that we have viewed through those questionable filters throughout our lives.

 

Shooting From The Hip

Like it or not, to a huge degree our thought processes are based on experiences that probably have little or no actual relationship to what’s happening in our lives now. These are the “images” that Sri Krisnamurti spoke of: the unconscious acceptance of the “symbols, ideas, beliefs” that were shaped by our perception of them, which were in turn shaped by things mostly outside of our control.

 

In short, unless we have learned to discern the difference between these ideas that have been colored by our beliefs, prejudices, and fears and the reality of what is happening, and unless we make a concerted effort to apply reason to our observation of the world, we aren’t really thinking for ourselves at all.

The Buddhist teacher Charlotte Joko Beck taught of a man who decided to take his little boat out on the lake one foggy morning. He really loved his little boat and took great care of it. Having just finished a careful paint job, he was quite proud of his work.

As he rowed through the mist, he suddenly felt a bump. Looking around at the bow, he saw that he had collided with another boat. He was immediately enraged: his new paint job had probably been marred, there might have been other damage, and who was that careless jerk who was paddling around on the foggy lake? [I know – but that’s the way we think, isn’t it?]

On closer inspection, he saw that the boat was empty, a line dangling into the water from the front.

Oh, gosh! Someone’s boat got untied and drifted out into the lake. I’d better tow it to the marina for safekeeping until the owner can be located. Nice little boat; I’m sure the owner would hate to lose it!” In a few heartbeats, he realized that the facts were nothing like he’d thought and his perception of reality shifted.

How often do we fly off the handle when confronted with things that fail to conform to actual reality? How often do we react to our perceptions of fact, instead of considering other possibilities? How often do we disregard out part in something and seek immediately to shift the blame?

Obviously we can’t take the time to analyze every little thing that happens and causes fear or confusion (and aren’t they really the same thing?); but when we do have time, why not move out of the comfort of our pre-judged ideas, our fears, and the things we take for granted and look at life from a different angle? Are we afraid that we might find that we were actually wrong? Is it easier to float along in other people’s mental rut, or is it better to work at really thinking for ourselves?

Slinging It Around

I went to an anniversary meeting last week. Generally speaking I love anniversaries, especially the one and two-year recipients who are still more or less in awe of their sobriety and their fellowships. This one was pretty great too, except in one respect.

The first recipient was a one-year guy who’d had multiple relapses, both prolonged and short. Apparently – not by his account – he’d known the man who presented his medallion some years ago in another state, and then re-connected with him locally the previously year. Those sorts of coincidences occur pretty often down here in Florida, where it seems that old alcoholics and other addicts come to die the same as other folks. We’re also loaded with newcomers from the dozens of treatment facilities in our area. Generally speaking, our fellowships are the richer for it. Anyway, the celebrant seemed to think it was working for him. Continue reading

How Do I Measure My Recovery?

Many of us say stuff like “My worst day sober was better than my best day acting out” (definitely hyperbole, but whatever). If asked, most of us could make a list of the things that we’ve gained from recovery, and perhaps list some of the things we’d like to improve.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a checklist that we could use to measure our progress and help guide us in the future? Well, as it happens, those exist. You just don’t hear much about them in most or our fellowships. So I’ve presumed to look at a couple and herewith present an amalgam that I think works pretty well for me. Your mileage, of course, may vary. Continue reading

Change (I’ve heard this tune before)

This is the initial entry in my pocket journal from this morning. Believe me, it was not for the purpose of having an interesting illustration for this post.

I retired last week. I’ve been working, full- or part-time, more or less constantly since I was about eleven — more than 60 years. So I took a week off to just fool around and rest. But now it’s time to look at the road ahead, the one I’ll be following for the next stage of my life. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m about as far from a workaholic as one can get and remain a productive member of the human race. Taking it easy — and not feeling the least bit embarrassed about it — is a skill I mastered a long time ago, and that’s the real danger now.

It’s easy to adopt the refrain, “Hey, I don’t have to do that right now; it can wait, I’m retired!” as an anthem. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen people younger than me retire and seem to think it means stop giving, stop producing, stop thinking, stop whatever and become a human quitting instead of remaining a human being,  doing, evolving. They don’t seem to last long, and they often seem terribly unhappy. I don’t want the last decade or so of my life to be like that. I’ve worked too hard to get here.

So, it’s time to make some plans: not hard and fast plans, but a rough map of Where Do I Go From Here.

There is a theme that runs through most of the world’s belief systems, that our lives proceed (or ought to proceed) in roughly defined stages. The concept goes back to at least the 5th Century B.C.E., and likely much farther. These stages are, (and this is only my interpretation):

Childhood and education, where we learn the basic skills of life, play, building relationships and so forth, and of living in a world full of other peoples, groups and values. In other words, we build the foundations that will guide us and allow us to become healthy, productive members of society.

Then we reach a period of application, of exploration and self-discovery, where we move away from our nuclear family and familiar things and learn to function as individuals. This is a time of adventure, of applying our previously learned skills and learning new ones. We may work away from home, in the military, on a pipeline in Alaska, as a teacher of our native language in a foreign land. We are reaching out, developing our ability to function as individuals, and learning about ourselves and the world at large. We become adults.

As adults, we move into the realms of marriage, kids, family, steady work and responsibilities. We mature, become stronger and wiser. As time goes on, we become aware of its passage and become contemplative, considering the things we have accomplished, the things left to do before we move into our “senior years.”

As elders, we enter into a role of wisdom and benevolence. We become mentors, volunteers, and sources of wisdom. As time passes, we consider more actively our mortality, the legacies — skilled or less skillful — that we are leaving behind, and what we can do to prepare for whatever may come when we pass out of this world.

It’s this last role that I’m facing, along with the questions of how best to fulfill it. I’ve no doubt that the answers are out there if I look for them. However, I need to avoid the trap that so many seniors fall into: the idea that my responsibilities to myself and others are over. It ain’t over until the fat lady croaks.

In writing the above, I was struck by how the stages of life also describe, with slight modifications, the stages of recovery: sponsees, then sponsorship, then old-timers who gently guide but do not decide the directions that our fellowships take. In a sense, recovery is an opportunity to learn and get right some of the things that we realize we may have handled less skillfully in our lives.

Where do you fall into the recovery continuum, using the criteria above as a general guide? I’m going to think about that too.