Attitudes and Behaviors
I will be talking in the other articles in this series about how to change our attitudes and our relationship with our own internal process so that it is possible to overcome the childhood programming and emotional wounds. It is very important to do this work in order to take the shame and fear out of the process as much as possible. One of the reasons we have not been able to grow up and take responsibility for being co-creators in our lives is because of our fear of doing it wrong, making mistakes, not being good enough. Those fears caused us to swing between the extremes of putting all our time and energy into being in control, or giving up all responsibility and any semblance of control.
I can have some power over my own behavior. I can make choices about where to exert my willpower. I can take actions that are aligned with Loving myself instead of always taking action to repress the feelings and escape reality.
In order to get sober, I had to start taking the action of not picking up the next drink. I needed to take the action of going to meetings and calling my sponsor. I need to start reaching out for help from people who were in recovery instead of fellow alcoholics, addicts, and codependents who would enable my disease and endorse my excuses.
I had to force myself to take actions that were aligned with recovery in order to make any progress in my recovery. Sometimes, the action I had to take was to not take an action that I would normally have taken. Sometimes, I had to force myself to take actions that I had never taken before.
Often the action I needed to take was an action that would get me out of my head with all of it's obsessions and fantasies (nightmares) about the future - or regrets and recriminations about the past. My tendency has always been to focus on big dramatic events in order to avoid the mundane, common details of life. I would much rather fantasize about the future (in all it's glory or tragedy) than wash the dishes. I would rather think about taking action than take action.
I was very good at thinking about taking action. At a point when I was a couple years in recovery, I found some old journals from the days when I was still drinking and using. I was amazed to find that I had made the same to do (tomorrow) lists then that I was making in recovery. The only difference was that "stop drinking" was not on the list anymore. That was when I realized that in recovery I was still trying to reach a destination. I was still primarily thinking about taking action. I still had very little ability to be in the now.
"Many of us have pursued healing and Recovery just like we did the rest of our lives - as if it were a destination to be reached where we would find "happily ever after." We have gone to healers and psychics and therapists in order to learn the "right" way to do life."
"As I said, the goal of healing is not to become perfect, it is not to "get healed." Healing is a process, not a destination - we are not going to arrive at a place in this lifetime where we are completely healed.
The goal here is to make life an easier and more enjoyable experience while we are healing. The goal is to LIVE. To be able to feel happy, Joyous, and free in the moment, the majority of the time."
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
Taking action happens in the now. I may still think about the future while I am washing dishes, but the dishes will get done and I will feel good about that at some point later on. Taking action in alignment with being responsible for me and my life is a loving thing to do for myself. Making the choice to align myself with delayed gratification instead of instant gratification is an important component in the transition to having a more Loving relationship with my self.
There was a point early in my recovery where tragedy was looming, impending doom was swooping down upon me, everything in my life was going terribly from my perspective. I went to talk to a man I trusted and after hearing all of my woes, he had one piece of advice for me - make my bed every morning. I thought he was insane. But I started doing it. And as the process unfolded, and the potential tragedies in my life worked themselves out, I would come home and see my bed made and feel good about myself. I learned that taking an action for myself helped me to get through difficult stages in the journey. Life unfolds - this too passes - over the course of time. Worrying about outcomes does not serve to make my life easier today. Taking action can make my life easier today.
The concept of delayed gratification can - like any concept or principle - be taken out of balance also. Always focusing on the future and never being in the now is delayed gratification out of balance. Putting all of your priority on preparing for retirement and never stopping to enjoy life today is dysfunctional.
What we are seeking is balance. Balance comes from aligning our relationship with ourselves and life with healing and recovery. In recovery we are working on becoming our own best friend. The more times during the course of the day that I can make a choice in alignment with healing and Love, in alignment with my own best interests, the more I will be able to trust myself - the more I will be Loving myself.
When I am taking care of business and owning my responsibility as co-creator of my life, at the same time I am letting go of trying to control things over which I have no control, then I can find a balanced place where I learn how to relax and enjoy life more today. Sometimes taking care of business means forcing myself to take action.
Forcing myself to get out of bed and go to work. Forcing myself to go to a meeting when I just feel like getting ice cream and watching videos. Forcing myself to clean the house instead of worrying about the outcome of an event in the future. Forcing myself to take a walk instead of zoning out in front of the tube.
This does not mean to "should" on ourselves. It does not mean to shame ourselves into healthier behavior. If we do that we will end up rebelling against the shoulds. When I say "should" it usually means "I am not going to do this and then I am going to beat myself up for it." That is aligning with the disease.
Aligning with recovery means thinking an action through to it's consequences. Choosing to do something because we know that we will feel better later if we do it now. Or choosing not to do something because we know there will be unpleasant after effects in terms of how we feel about ourselves.
Aligning with healing and Love also means to remember and accept that we are human. We will never do life perfectly. Recovery is a process of making progress, not one of achieving perfection. We are trying to increase the percentage of the time that we are making choices in alignment with Love. It is not Loving to judge ourselves for being human.
Life can be very hard sometimes. Being in recovery in a dysfunctional culture full of wounded people can be very difficult. Working on getting sane in a world full of insanity is crazy making. There will be times that we go for the instant gratification of getting a pizza and a bunch of videos. Doing that once in a while is part of coping with life in the best way we know how. Doing it often is out of balance. (It also a reality that we sometimes have to have rigid boundaries for ourselves in certain life threatening areas - i.e. it is acceptable for a recovering alcoholic to choose the ice cream but it is not all right to drink; it is not all right for a diabetic to eat sugar; etc.)
We are trying to make progress in the percentage of the time that we make the choice that is for our highest good. We will not be able to do it all of the time. The goal is progress not perfection. That there will be times we have to force ourselves to take action that is healthy for us is a natural normal part of the recovery process. It is a vital tool in learning to be our own best friend - just as not judging ourselves for being human is a vital part of learning to Love ourselves.
Sometimes the action that I need to take is to do some positive affirmations to counter the negativity of the critical parent voice. It is vital for me to take action to counter the victim messages of the disease, to be proactive in the process of not letting the inner child's feelings dictate my perception of reality. Taking action is part of working the third step - and a very vital component in learning how to have some internal boundaries so that I can start taking some responsibility for, and control over, my own internal process. Starting to have some Loving control over my own inner process is how I start to own my power to make choices about my own attitudes and behaviors.
"A turning point in my recovery came when I realized that the third step is a step of action.
The third step (CoDA version) says: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. What I learned is that making a decision is not a passive process. I need to make the decision and then take action based on the decision. Turning my will and life over to God does not mean saying "You got it God. I'll hang out here and wait for you to tell me what to do."
Working the third step is all about taking action. Once I decide to try this new way of life in which I believe there is a Higher Power that Loves me - then I need to start taking action based on that belief. I need to align my will with the will of a Loving Universal Force. There is nothing wrong with will power, or self-will. It is self-will pointed in the wrong direction that is destructive. Once we admit powerlessness out of ego-self then we start accessing power out of Spiritual Self. Spiritual Self is the part of us that knows we are connected to everyone and everything
I have to use my will power to get myself to meetings, to pray, to take inventory and be honest with myself, to ask for help, to not pick up the next drink, etc., etc. It takes an act of will on my part to get me in motion. Once energy is placed in motion then the Universe responds.
" -1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3 - The first three steps - article in Joy2MeU Journal
"Now, as I look back, I can see that internal boundaries were the key from the beginning. Internal boundaries could also be described as self-discipline or taking responsibility or growing up. They are what is necessary for any real growth to occur. It is necessary for an alcoholic to start having internal boundaries in order to stop drinking - for anyone to stop any addictive, compulsive, or obsessive behavior. In order to start changing our behavior it is necessary to have an internal boundary with the child in us who wants immediate gratification/immediate relief from the feelings. In order to change what we are doing so we can change what we are getting - it is necessary to start having some internal boundaries with ourselves.
Terms like self-discipline or responsibility carried for me the shame and guilt of the dysfunctional society I grew up in - whereas internal boundaries was a much cleaner term, and a much more accurately focused term. I came to focus on internal boundaries in my private therapy practice and in my personal recovery - and found application of the concept to be powerful and effective in starting to help myself and others become more integrated and balanced."
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls