“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact! Everything we see is our perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius
One story in the life of a chronic drinker in addiction recovery is the complication of a disease of perception.
When “I think, I drink,” we often hear in the rooms of recovery. My disease of perception wanted me dead in a myriad of ways. Trusting no one, through my personality change of paranoia and delusional irrational thoughts, I became steeped in denial, with reality nowhere to be found, living, breathing and “thinking” only about how, when and where to get my next drink.
I refused to take orders and believed I had no culpability in anything. My perspective was that I needed no one and worked hard under the trance of addictions to make sure no one needed me. How could I let others get close to me? I was the familiar liar, cheat and thief. I who could not afford for anyone to see the mental incompetent I became, stuck in the middle of a debilitating and baffling assault of addiction.
The rest of the story is, even with many years clean and sober, that addiction hasn’t left me, and it never will. Only through a daily reprieve based upon, “the maintenance of my spiritual condition” am I under the grace of sobriety for these 24-hours. Those of us in recovery understand when they hear it said, “Our addiction is outside our door doing pushups waiting for us to slip and fall.”
Change Our Perception Changes our Perspective
I suffer from a disease of the brain, which directly and often negatively affects how I interpret my world. One drink or drug is too many, but one hundred is just never enough. In a meeting, someone snaps a pop-top on a can of coke, and my perception shouts, “Let the Party Begin!”
While leaving a dinner party of six with half-filled wine bottles and glasses, I cringe, and to myself I think, “Who in their right mind would ever do that? Meaning: walk away from half-glasses left with their drug of choice. It’s no wonder we keep coming back because we have quick forgetters!
On page 23, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind rather than in his body.” We were delusional, convinced our problems of living life belonged with someone or something else. OUR problem was we didn’t have enough of what we needed to get us through the day, and if people just left us alone, we would be fine!
A point driven home for many in recovery is how different we are from “normal” people. Our disease of perception survives with contradictions and false assumptions. Some, not addicted, consider addiction nothing more than weakness, something curable with a little more “self-control” or “self-knowledge.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Alcoholism is an all-encompassing disease–progressive and deadly. It affects its victims spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. While in the throes of our disease, we have a three-fold disease: (1) a psychological illness referred to as the phenomena of craving: a “thinking-obsession” combined with a physical compulsion to drink in the absence of anyone or anything greater than ourselves. This obsession begins long before we ever pick up the first drink or drug. (2) It was first hit or sip that got us wasted because we’ve engaged now 2 out of 3 of the phenomena of ccraving. We thought we needed no one or nothing at all, except our drug of choice; and (3) We especially didn’t need a deity, a Universal Savior of any sort. We were spiritually bankrupt.
Most of us believed we never fit in anywhere! On the outside, we looked normal. But we were never comfortable in our own skins, boasting an exaggerated ego that masked a deep lack of confidence and even greater, a poor self-esteem. We used to escape from ourselves.
Although respected among our peers, we are driven individuals with A-type personalities, often brilliant and more successful than many an overachiever in every other aspect of our life. But with alcohol and drugs, we were absolutely it’s slave. Alcohol became our solution: our confidante, lover, and only genuine friend. Stinking-thinking from our overexaggerated ego, insisted we deserve a drink, that we are normal, and can stop at will. This is greatest delusion of all. Jail, institution, or death became our future for most of us who refused to concede they could not beat King Alcohol.
But it was this love affair, entrenched so deeply in our psyche that we coveted, nourished and protected. All we needed here, we thought, was a change in perspective to change us, but we were wrong again. Without recovery, many took alcohol and/or drugs to their grave.
Faith in Recovery Helps Change Perspectives
Let’s face it: without recovery, who would dare to imagine they needed a change in perspective? Not me. My perspective was born out of my best thinking, (thank you very much,) and since they were MY thoughts–why would I change them? Well, because our own perception was slowly convincing us we weren’t good enough. Something was drastically wrong.
“We only have to change everything One Day at a Time,” we’re told. Continued faith, and a trust in the process of recovery shows this is possible along with action to help us see life and the people in it differently. Here are some of the actions we can take to begin a transformation from a glass half empty to one of half-, or even full:
Dispense with Stereotypes:
One of the easiest things we do is to point our fingers at others, regardless of race, creed, normal or addicted. Because this is old behavior hinged to denial, “This isn’t my problem!” or, “I wasn’t that bad!”
Instead of labels and judgments, we get to look at ourselves and ask, “How do we want to be seen by others?” In so doing, we trust our process of recovery and have faith that our Higher Power will take care of everyone else, beginning with our own family members. Blaming others, putting them in a neatly labeled compartment based upon things that have nothing to do with us today, is the excuse we use to keep us isolated us from them, as we set ourselves up as ‘special,’ or somehow better than everyone.
Be Mindful of Selective Perception: This is the process where we decide and observe others (including stereotypes) by taking what we need and leaving the rest in order to form an ‘opinion’ that we could live with. “That person’s disease isn’t as bad as mine: He/she hasn’t been to prison (yet); nor arrested (yet,)” The opinion is often incorrect. Who are we to know the depth and extent of someone else’s suffering?
These behaviors come automatic for most of us. Prior to recovery, we learned at a young age to interpret and trust our surroundings and the people in it. We learned at a young age to take what we heard at face value because we didn’t know better, even when it wasn’t true. So, we bought the lie and made it ours. Those of us from dysfunctional, emotionally toxic homes know full well how safe these self-sabotage behaviors were for us and at the time, helped us to survive in our environment. But that was then. So much of who we are today in recovery needs an overhaul in all of affairs. The 12-Steps provide that vehicle, but for more egregious core issues, many of us seek therapy to become aware of self-sabotaging behaviors, and with awareness, comes action.
When I focus on self-defeating, loathsome behaviors of self-sabotage, it is vital that I stick to a plan to short-circuit these old behaviors. These behaviors do nothing to enhance my greater good, and keep me emotionally insecure. They are detrimental to how you and others see and think of me, and how I see and interact with my world. My personal set of tools for you to consider should you need them are:
- Pause when agitated or doubtful: “Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?”
- I learn to forgive myself. I go through this little dance by dusting myself off, look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m sorry I said those mean things to me. Why me? Because change begins with me. Remember the ole adage of, “I’ll show you, I’ll hurt me?” It’s what we did to get even, when we didn’t know better. And now that we know better, we are charged with doing-better.
- I ask myself, “Why am I wanting to do this when it never got me anywhere?”
- What could I do differently to bring me serenity, freedom and peace?
- I deserve more, I am more than these negative thoughts. What can I do to show myself this truth? What is my real truth?
- Ask myself, “What can I do for you?” When I can get away from myself long enough to think of you, this is the beginning of saying no to self-defeating, self-sabotaging reactions.
- “What would Jesus (substitute anything greater than you) have me do?” If the God of my understanding were standing in front of me, what would I say or do?
- Ask myself, “Is what is being considered, old behavior, old thinking? If it is, I need to change it!
Journaling—the Power of You:
One of the greatest gifts I’ve learned to develop is a love of journaling. I have found that journaling, when done consistently, is a walk to the heart. It continues to be the closest most intimate way for me to talk to my God, to analyze and see myself in a truthful way because when I put pen to paper, I am most intimate with myself, but always when I reach out to my Higher Power.
If you visit https://harriethunter.org/jwap/ you will find instructions and details on this wonderful life-changing topic and admission to a six-module course that is personal, inspiring
Look at the Big Picture—This feels awkward to do at first. We don’t like to look at ourselves, let alone the other person. However, the more we write several gratitude’s, the easier it became to see the other persons’ point of view. We see that in order for us to connect the dots of our life, we first had to give ourselves permission to see and understand the greater good in all things, which included me and my reactions in the big picture.
None of this mattered how we felt about it, the point was getting to the bottom of the issue: our truth. The big picture begs we answer what follows. Putting pen to paper, ask yourself the following or create your own questions that make sense to you:
- What are the facts of the situation? (just what IS the big picture?)
- How is the other persons’ perspective different from my own?
- How does this difference in perspective affect me on a personal level? Does it affect me at all and if so, why, how, when, and so on.
- Is it possible that I personally, own some part, some responsibility for an interaction?
- Is it true that the other person, including me, has their own agenda? What was my agenda and how did my interactions sound to someone else?
- What would it look like, feel like, to admit that “just like me, they are sick too?”
- What effect would this new acceptance have on changing my perspective?
Fill Your Day with Positive Messages
One powerful tool that goes far to consistently change our perspective is the ability to stop and listen to messages and instructions that we give to ourselves, even in silence, throughout the day. It’s important to make a pact to never talk down to ourselves (is that what we do to other people?) We must let change begin with “me.”
- When I stop and re-evaluate what, and how I speak to myself, I nurture and show love to who I am with self-care.
- When I talk to myself with loving-kindness, what and how I say gives me permission to be kind to you. And when I can be kind and gracious to you, I’m cutting myself some slack in the name of forgiveness.
- Practice writing five things every single day that you are “worthy” of receiving, or what things you believe you “deserve.” Use the word that feels more powerful for you and get to work. The results of doing so will amaze you.
- Make a list of wonderful, affirming words and put them separately in a God Box, that special place for intentions. Each day pick one of these loving words and make them work for you. Look in the mirror and use them on you. Do this for 30 days and you will find a kinder, gentler person looking back at you.
Letting go of Perfection‑‑I don’t know about you, but the myth of perfection granted me my seat in recovery.
Before recovery, I worked hard to be that perfect wife, work associate, daughter so no one would never know I was wrong, because if I made mistakes, I thought I would crumble and die in my tracks.
I could feel the guilt, shame and worthlessness in my own heartbeat. My perception was that everyone was talking about my me and how I could never measure up to the rest of my peers. Today I know that perfection is the lie that wants me to die.
Just like you, I know now I am a spiritual being on a physical journey of change every single day and, as a result, nothing I seek to attain is about perfection. Today I have become more conscious and considerate of myself and in turn, others, though the act of forgiveness. I will forever be a work in progress, not perfection.
Now as I make a mistake, I can stop long enough to apologize to that child within and to you, then keep going. My world no longer feels subject to the sky falling with each mistake I make. My imperfection is testament to the fact that I’m human, trying to do the best that I can, just like you.
Miracles of Recovery is the solution we’ve waited for: 365-daily positive, compelling inspirations that reach past our failures and behaviors to demonstrate only our own goodness and truth: that we are changing, deserving to be heard, that we are worthy of being loved, and be a courageous functioning part-of our world.
Harriet remains clean and sober, having celebrated one day at a time now for over twenty-one years. You can find her through her website at www.Harriethunter.org. When she’s not helping others to recover, she continues to write, and facilitates her six-module journaling course, “Journaling with a Purpose.”