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Recovery & Rising Above the Way We Were Raised

When I’m looking for accountability from a Recovering addict or alcoholic, I’ll most often ask, “WTF are you doing?”

He doesn’t hesitate, “I’m procrastinating.” Right. He’s procrastinating because he’s afraid. Sooner or later he’ll be honest with himself and feel ashamed because once again the fear stopped him from doing what he wanted to do (self limiting choices). He will then reason that it’s been too long and that there’s no point in even attempting it now (justification). Everything gets perpetuated – the shame, the fear, and the lousy self concept.

Everything is circular. Everything is Fear. Avoid, Hide, Run, – we come back to the same places, the same realizations, and the same answers. The Truth is the Truth no matter how we feel about it.

There’s no way to win this way and he knows it. I ask who keeps putting him in these lose/lose scenarios? “I do.” He finds something to study on my floor. Shame is a Recovering addict’s worst enemy.

There’s nothing in this world more self defeating than addiction and even when we stop using, we’re still brilliant in our ability to paint ourselves into a corner. We are paralyzed when we don’t know how to be. The rules we were learned growing up don’t work for us (they never did). The rules are:

–          Don’t Feel

–          Don’t have Needs

–          Don’t ask for anything

–          Don’t admit you don’t know

–          Don’t make mistakes

–          Don’t be in the way. Don’t stand out. Don’t just stand there.

–          Don’t talk back. Don’t just stand there and not say anything.

–          Don’t be smart. Don’t be stupid.

–          Don’t cry. I’ll give you something to cry about.

–          Don’t mumble. Don’t raise your voice to me.

–          Don’t forget – You’re going to fail no matter what you do.

Add up everything we’re not supposed to do and there’s no room to breathe. That’s why we stay in the shadows. That’s why we stay a part from when we desperately want to be a part of. We’re the kids who got picked last for gym class in 40, 50, and 60 year old bodies. You can’t imagine how badly we want someone to choose us unless you’re one of us.

Ultimately, we choose Recovery and the good people in those halls choose us because we are one of them. We ask for what the Solution is and they tell us to “keep coming back.” It takes a long time to understand that that is the biggest part of the solution. For the first time ever we have a place we Belong and we have people who not only understand us – they Choose us.

When we come to see that there are millions like us, we become free to change. Changing the rules means we have to break patterns of circular thinking and inaction. We start by doing the opposite of what we were taught. Instead of hiding our fears; we expose them. Instead of denying our lack of understanding; we seek insight and tools.  Most of all – instead of being held prisoner by our insecurities, we reach out and share them with others. This allows us to be human – to get our needs met, and to learn the Truth about ourselves. We become free to receive and free to fill the emptiness.

At first we feel guilt when we move away from who and how we were taught to be. Through the course of Recovery we come to understand that we’ve spent a lifetime trying to be and do what we’re supposed to. These expectations were taught to us by unhealthy people. We step back and we see that living this way would make anyone miserable and we choose healthier paths. In this way, we move from simply Surviving to Living.

Resource: Karen Drew is an Affected Other and Amazing Woman who blogs on her experiences of change at:

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