Dealing with Doubt

By Ken Wells - 11/16/2021


Series 2: Blog 80

We’re our own worst enemy. You doubt yourself more than anybody else ever will. If you can get past that, you can be successful” —- Michael Strahan

I have attended over 3,500 meetings in my recovery life and have observed that some of the nicest people in group never learn to stop acting out while other more unlikely types figure out sobriety and move forward with their lives. Do you ever wonder why some addicts recover while other addicts wallow in relapse over and again?

Many addicts are dominated by doubt. The seeds of doubt are planted very early in life.  Thought shapers in their family environments purposely or innocently influence thinking with strong messages about what can or cannot be done. Like everyone, addicts must learn to deal with their doubt. Many people try to deny their doubt. Denial is maladaptive behavior embedded in addictive thinking. Ignoring the reality of daily doubt only minimizes reality in life.

I was the youngest of 5 boys in my family. I wanted to measure up to the many tests that my older brothers put before me. To be good enough, I had to go the extra mile to prove to my brothers that I had what it takes to fit in. I played tackle football on my older brother’s team who was the coach. To prove that I was tough enough, he made me play without a helmet which I did. I pitched a perfect game in baseball but was told by an older brother it was not good enough. Young and impressionable, over time I brooded with doubt that I did not have what it takes to be enough. In sports, I became a practice player. I was very good during practice when there was less pressure to perform. However, the anxiety of a real game triggered doubt in my ability to perform and I would miserably fail. Failure in school and many other endeavors reinforced my doubt about not having what it takes. It wasn’t until many years later in my adult life that I learned skills to manage self-doubt. Facing and overcoming self-doubt is a necessary step for addicts to learn in order to establish long term sobriety.

Here is a list of considerations that may help you address your own self-doubt.

  • Quiet the noise in your head. Be a ship passing in the night. Doubt triggers negative chatter inside your head. It can be overwhelming. You think God doesn’t exist. You wonder if you turned the lights off. You are convinced others can do what you cannot. You doubt you will ever measure up. Others are more attractive and you doubt that you will ever be enough! The negative chatterbox can drone on and on. Meditation helps to quiet the noise in your head. Begin with short interludes of calm. Establish a quiet place and time. Practice breathing from the bottom of your belly, exhaling stress and releasing uncertainty. It will center your thoughts and help you experience your situation with a more clear reality. Make your inner reality like a ship passing in the night, quietly moving through the waters of life with poise and calm.  In the midst of tumult and doubt anchor your reality by transforming your feelings and thoughts to become like the clouds and your awareness to be like the sky.
  • Once you come home to yourself, you will never come home again. This concept is unsettling which is the composition of doubt. Uncertainty triggers doubt. We long for the days of security and for times that seemed more sure and stable. Most of the time this is an illusion. There is no time more secure than the present moment. Coming home to yourself means to embrace the present moment full of ambiguity and confusion. It means to sit with the discomfort of not knowing the details of a bigger picture about your life or the destiny of others. In this troublesome skeptic moment, unconditional confidence begins to rise to the horizon of your awareness of thought. No matter what difficult circumstance you face you are able to grow and rise to the surface again. This is the birth of faith. This can only happen when you come home to what is real within. When you do this you can never come home to the same place again. It is like putting your foot in the river in the same place twice. It cannot be done. Growth and evolution in life is a dynamic that never leaves us the same. Doubt is the ingredient that pushes you to go deep within yourself. When you embrace the nature of doubt you won’t be able to come home to the same place again.
  • Dealing with doubt requires one big leap and a lifetime of small staggered steps. Like a white water kayaker who immediately rolls to get used to the ice cold water in a river run, you will need to leap each day into the reality of doubt. There are very few things in your life that are certain. You will need to stop defending what you know for sure and grip uncertainty. The rest of your days will consist of a series of staggered steps that lead from one uncertainty to the next. Faith is born in these small difficult steps. Dazed and confused, a betrayed single mom takes a staggered step to do the next right thing because it is the only thing she can do. This staggered step becomes like a lily pad, round and green, to hold her up while she grows. In time, this process creates a certain element of faith. Each step prepares her for the next leaf that she will land. This becomes the way she moves across the swamp of fear and doubt.
  • Doubt is best addressed by letting go and not trying to force what you want to be real. Doubt is uncomfortable. You want to force something different. However, when you let go and allow doubt to be, you create meaningfulness in the experience of doubt. You will gain clarity about why you do what you do. Addressing doubt in this way will pull you to a higher standard of excellence in behavior in all that you do through thoughtfully examining who you are. This process leads to letting go of what has to be in your life. When you do not force what you think is true or has to be, faith develops and truth will flow to you.
  • Doubt awakens every day choice. Your life circumstance will reveal the inward choices you make about your life. Doubt is part of the recipe of thought that determines the depth of who you are. Your life circumstance will reveal what you dwell on within. When you get stuck with fear and anxiety with doubt, it will manifest in the details of daily living. So, it is important to take care of how you manage doubtful thoughts. It is important to create a clear picture of what you want to manifest in your life and act upon that.  A clear vision of the picture you want to create will help you navigate through doubts that dominate. What you think about will expand. If you choose to think about what is missing that is what expands.  However, if you choose to focus on what you have that is what will expand. If you only believe what you see you will only see what is on the surface. Doubt presents a choice to go deep within. When you go deep within your thoughts you can choose to believe. When you believe you will see a vision of possibility that can transform your inward choices from doubt to gratitude and inspiration. You can choose to find meaningfulness in all painful experience.

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