Friday, August 14, 2015

Patience and The Art of Recovery



     I know that that it's so easy to want what you want right now. Every notice that? Ever notice how much that ties into the process of remission and recovery? How wanting is intrinsically tied to lapse and relapse? It's not just a matter of getting what I want, it's also a matter of not getting what I want. Either can result in lapse and relapse. 

     Actually it's a lot easier to want what you have. But I don't see many of us working on that one. We live in an age where deciding what you want and getting it has become the new way of life. It has become the new prime directive. 

     Having patience to me is the simple but not so simple process of choosing to not act on my thought structure or not being able to act on my thought structure and waiting without reacting.  I am more focused on the choosing to not act part because that's what drove so many of my addictions. Not doing something, of course, seems like the simplest thing in the world. Not doing. How hard could that be? Unfortunately I have, sigh, sustained a lot of damage by acting and reacting on my thoughts. A lot of times there was absolutely no thought structure that said "Perhaps you shouldn't do this." I had a thought and I reacted immediately. It comes under the old saying "If I had a nickle for every time I screwed up by acting immediately on my thoughts I'd have a million dollars!" (Or more.)

     Most of my addictions rely on me having no patience. Oh don't get me wrong. I have plenty of patience when it comes to waiting to fulfill any of my addictions. When I was using drugs I would wait for hours in order to obtain them. I would drive ridiculous distances in order to buy them. I had the patience of a saint as long as I could perceive a reward.

     But it doesn't work that way when I want to put a halt to my addictions because my addictions are the perceived reward. My default position says that if I don't "have" the focus of my addiction I will have nothing. My addiction logic says "Why would I try to be patient in order to have nothing?"

     Except it's a lie.

     Nothing about addiction is rewarding. It might be a lot of things but it's not a reward. And rarely actually improves the quality of life. A real reward is measured in things like feeling pretty good about ourselves from the overall perspective of living life. It comes with a sense of evolving in a direction of our choice not a default direction. Rewards are internal. I don't really absorb "rewards" from other people. Perhaps for a second or a bit longer. But then I never keep them because they fade. If I value rewards given to me by others I want more, and it turns into another addiction. That would be the well know "approval addiction" that our entire planet could do without. A real reward is one that you keep inside of you. It's yours.You "grow" it internally.

     You can measure you patience. When you have a thought that you don't want to react upon you can delay action and you can measure it. Do you give yourself credit if you delay an action and yet perhaps still act on it later? Do you just throw that earned patience away and feel you are starting over? You do yourself an injustice if you do and you are making change harder than it needs to be.
By practicing even a one minute delay you are developing your potential to delay longer. That's worth celebrating.

     Now humans don't like to think this way but if you were drinking heavily every day and finally narrowed it down to drinking once a day would you celebrate that as a success or feel you were "Still an alcoholic" and consider it a failure? Most people believe the latter. When actually that have set up a new default system and need to feel the internal reward of doing so. Do what you need to do to increase potential and celebrate it.

     Did you realize that a delay is a success? Or do you only see success as a total and complete change? The difference will be in how you treat yourself. Either as a success or a failure. It's crucial to see the difference.

    So next time you sit with a thought that is driving you to act on an addiction see if you can delay it by one minute.

     One minute by the clock.

     You may find at the end of one minute you don't want to act on the thought anymore. You may decide to wait another minute. And another one. And you may find that you will spend the rest of your life minute by minute being patient with yourself and celebrating life without the addiction.

     As always I look forward to comments and any feedback.

Bryan S. Wagner