“Resentments are like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
Program wisdom contains lots of annoying clichés. The reason they sound so hackneyed and are so often repeated is that they are true. False aphorisms abound, but most of those in the recovery community have survived because of the old “test of time.” These two are among them.
There are “good” and “bad” expectations (I prefer “skillful” and “unskillful”, but for the purpose of establishing a binary distinction here, either will do). The difference is in communication and intent.Continue reading →
The idea that limits exist only in the mind is as ridiculous as the assertion that proper positive thought will make you rich. Nonetheless, these concepts, promoted by self-help “gurus,” do attract money — to them.
Without exploring the magical thinking that underlies these sorts of ideas, it should be clear to any rational person that there are, in fact, all sorts of limits in the real world. Even in my prime, regardless of my determination, I was never going to bench press half a ton. People who don’t understand the basic concepts of government simply can’t discern what is possible and what is bullshit, and so forth.
Not only do physical and educational limits exist, there are also emotional and intellectual limits. Codependents are unable — at least initially — to discern boundaries between themselves and those to whom they are addicted. They can’t detach and let them find their own way, regardless of the price they are paying by attempting to sustain a failing relationship. Some folks will simply be unable to fathom mathematics beyond simple arithmetic. This has nothing to do with intelligence; some people’s brains work that way, and some don’t.
And there is such a thing as willful ignorance: purposely avoiding critical information because it would require us to exchange comfortable ideas for concepts that threaten our world view. People who do that are often more confirmed in their beliefs the more they are exposed to contrary evidence.
Finally, there are limits that we impose on ourselves,usually out of fear. Continue reading →
No one like us has ever existed before. There are similarities with others, and some of those may be more important than the differences — such as our identification with and understanding of other addicts. Nonetheless, the combination of elements, molecules, electrical charges, life experience and consciousness that combine to be “us” has never existed before and never will again.
Even identical twins begin to diverge from the instant the first group of cells divides into two individuals. The part that we consider “identical” is, in fact, only descriptive of superficialities. Inside, they are unique, irreplaceable like the rest of us. Furthermore, neither they nor we are the same from moment to moment. All of the factors mentioned above — and even the subatomic and quantum conditions that make up our “unique” selves — are changing so rapidly that they are impossible to measure with any meaning. We aren’t the same people from instant to instant, regardless of how precisely we measure the instants.
So it’s really pointless to compare ourselves to others. My siblings are unique. So were my parents and their ancestors. My relatives, friends and every other human being — living or dead — possess the same uniqueness in abilities, drive to succeed, interests and motivations that I have. I may admire others (or the reverse), but comparisons are ridiculous! I’m comparing myself to a standard that literally no longer exists.
I can’t be someone else, nor they me. I can only be myself. I decide what’s next. That’s not to say that I can’t learn from others, but I need to be sure I’m making my decisions based on what’s best for me. I need to build skills — like those of recovery — that make it possible for me to make decisions and move in directions that put me at peace with myself.
At a recent meeting, a newcomer was bemoaning the fact that his significant other still doesn’t trust him not to act out when her back is turned, and doesn’t seem to get that he has an addiction and acting out “isn’t his fault.”
Addiction is fear, compulsion, denial, low self-esteem and many other things, but it is not without volition. Every single time I acted out, I made a choice to do so. I may not have realized that I had other choices, but it was still a choice. Furthermore, when I continued to act out out after finally discovering that there were other choices, I was certainly making conscious decisions not to act in my (or others’) best interest.
There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. A reason involves taking responsibility; an excuse is about avoiding it. So yes — I chose to act out, and it isn’t unreasonable for someone who doesn’t understand the compulsions that plague addicts to recognize only the choice. Nor is it unreasonable for them to fear and anticipate another breach of trust. What is unreasonable is for me to fail to recognize that my behavior was the cause, and only my behavior can change that perception.
I’m reminded of the old AA saying, “Don’t expect a medal for doing something you ought to have been doing in the first place.” Nor should I expect an immediate return of trust and understanding, just because I said “I’m sorry.” I have no control over what’s happening in someone else’s head. The only way I can influence it is by showing that I can be trusted, and that can take a long time.