I got married the first time because it was expected that I would when I reached a certain age. It was a lousy match, and ended in divorce — for good reasons. (I got two wonderful kids from that marriage and I don’t regret it at all, but it wasn’t exactly my choice — more a matter of the path of least resistance.) Continue reading
[I’ve been more-or-less absent from the blog for several months due to surgery in the family, among other things. All’s well there, and with any luck I’ll be back to my regular lackadaisical posting. Thanks for your patience.]
When we begin to “get on with our lives,” or “make up for lost time,” or study to become an addiction guru — whatever — we can easily drift away from our program. We feel good, our finances are becoming something like organized, and we’re generally busy and entertained by the stuff of our lives. We begin to think that we can handle it all.
The idea that we can somehow cure a chronic disease can be problematic and sometimes tragic. People feel better so they stop taking the medications that got them that way. We addicts stop taking care of ourselves in the ways that got us moving forward. We get stressed, lose focus on what’s really important, and begin the slide toward relapse.
When that happens (assuming that we survive) many of us are ashamed to go to a meeting and admit that we messed up — the worst possible decision we can make. We need to hit the brakes and return to the basics that brought our success to begin with, getting back on the path to sobriety with meetings, phone calls, fellowship, sponsor, Steps, meditation, daily inventory and so forth. Relapse is part of addiction, and everyone at the meeting has been there or come terrifyingly close. All we’re really doing is admitting to ourselves and other people that we’re no better than any other “bozo on the bus.”
Why did we forget where we came from? It’s because we are wired to forget pain. We automatically push such memories aside, and that’s why we are able to get back on the horse, or deliver a second child, or drag ourselves up and dive back into the scrum on the field of life. But those of us who made a habit of addictively suppressing pain in whatever way possible are even more likely to do it, and that’s why our “built-in forgetter” makes us so prone to backsliding.
Our programs are there to help us stay sane by keeping us in good spiritual, physical and emotional health. We put them on the back burner at our peril.
Happy birthday, 12 Steps, and thank you for giving me back my life!
First of all, I’d like to apologize for the two-week hiatus from What…Me Sober?. Moving from a big 2/2 apartment where you’ve lived for 25 years to a much smaller 1/1 is a complicated project, fraught with turmoil. But that’s a story for another day, perhaps.
The beauty and joy of life dwell within differences.
~ Answers in the Heart, April 1
Who wants to watch the same sunset every evening? Who wants to converse only with people who parrot our own thoughts and opinions?
Why do I imagine that I need opinions to begin with, or that they bear more validity than other people’s? Is it because I am afraid? Of what? Does being “wrong” threaten who I am?
And where did I get those opinions, anyway? Are they mine, or did I inherit them from others through lazy thinking — or due to rebellion?
What makes me so sure that I’m right?
We addicts are especially prone to magical thinking, particularly in early recovery. We have spent years — most likely decades — looking for easy answers outside ourselves: a pill, a drink, a romance, a new toy, a new restaurant or dish, a new person to take care of. We were drawn to anything that we thought might be a quick fix, anything that might cover up our feelings of low self-worth, fear of the world, lack of faith in the things we feel have failed us. When we are newly sober, with only our program to replace our mood-altering behavior, we are still prone to looking for the quick fix.
And why wouldn’t we be? Continue reading
Thought for the Day: “The most important freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.”
~ Jim Morrison
The Lizard King understood the problem, but didn’t seem to get the message about the solution. How are we doing at finding out who we really are and learning to love that person?
It’s New Year’s Day for most cultures, and no doubt many of us have painstakingly worked on lists of all the things that we are going to do to improve ourselves in 2016. Most of those will be focused on all the “good” things we are going to nurture, and all the “bad” habits we are going to cast by the wayside.
Inevitably, we will fail in most of them. The reason is simple: such resolutions nearly always focus on the worst things that we believe about ourselves — habits, compulsions, ingrained ways of behaving — that are by definition the things that are most difficult to change. I’m not suggesting that they don’t need changing, but that taking on the most difficult tasks of our spiritual development all at once is a recipe for disaster.
Black and white, rigid thinking comes naturally to addicts, whether we have been plagued by chemical or process addictions like shopping, overeating, sexual compulsions — whatever. “Wearing life like a loose garment” is hard when we have spent entire lives convinced that we are either “good” or “bad,” (often by someone else’s definition). We have to believe certain things or our entire legend will fall apart, and we come to believe them to a degree that makes it pretty hard to become flexible. A list of resolutions based on good and bad, right and wrong, healthy or unhealthy is going to be an incredibly tough row to hoe, and most of us will crap out on it. Then our self-esteem and shame will tell us, once again, that we don’t measure up.
I suggest that, instead of a big list of promises that will likely sabotage the whole project, we concentrate on one (or at the most, two) things that we want to change about ourselves. Second — but no less important — we’ll stop thinking of those things as “good” and “bad,” but rather as “skillful” or “unskillful” things that we can change gradually.
That is an extremely important change in perception. When we are learning a skill, we expect to make mistakes — to be more or less unskillful — for quite a period of time. When we’re learning, we’re allowed to make mistakes. If you weren’t allowed to make mistakes before, I’m giving you permission to do so from now on.
We start each project as error-prone, unskillful practitioners, but doing our honest best. When we make the inevitable slip-ups (hopefully not slips, but even so…), we forgive ourselves, resolve to work at becoming more skillful, write in our journals the things that we have learned, hit some extra meetings if appropriate, call our supports, and go about learning our new skills.
Changing the habits of a lifetime is a big job. We wouldn’t start on do-it-yourself re-roofing, plumbing, carpeting and painting the house all at the same time, and it doesn’t make sense to take on too many major self-help projects at once, either.
In fact, it’s pretty unskillful.
Have a Happy, Skillful New Year, and know that I wish for you those things that I wish for the people I hold most dear.