Series Three: Blog Fifty-Six
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” –Vincent van Gogh
Addicts stop believing in themselves. In many cases addicts never had anyone who ever believed in them. So they give up and succumb to mistaken beliefs about themselves that are not true. They live a life of self-sabotage and self-fulfilling prophesy. Unless they learn to believe in themselves they will die an addict without recovery.
I learned to stop believing in myself when I was a little kid. The only thing I had going for me was that I was pretty good in sports, but was never noticed for the goals I achieved. My older brothers expressed a lot of false bravado and lived a false self. When I competed with them they would rig the game so I would not win. If I still was able to figure out how to win, they would destroy the game so it would not happen again. I surrendered to believing I was not good enough and slumped to accepting ordinary results. Later in childhood I stopped trying out for sports. I was average at best in academics at school. I was chided as not being special and buried deep in my soul that I was not good enough to go to college or be successful in life.
Even though I completed college and engaged in success in my professional life it was never enough because I learned to not believe in myself. I had this push within that I had to be more to keep from being less. In very early childhood I learned to masturbate to numb out the pain from not believing in myself. Looking back, I thank my lucky stars that at least I had something I could resort to which would anesthetize the emptiness and pain of misbelief.
I got lucky when I met and married my wife Eileen. She believed in me. When I was a pastor, I never preached a sermon she didn’t like. As a professional counselor, she always believed in who I was and what I did. As an addict, she never gave up on me. She refused to believe that my acting out was about her. She believed that I would overcome the mistaken beliefs that drove my addiction. She believed in me. In time, it became infectious. She says I taught her to believe in herself. As a codependent I probably did. In our 46 years of marriage there has been a slow sunrise of awareness that has emerged that I could believe in myself. Of all the addiction interventions I have experienced, none is as profound as learning to believe in me.
Belief is an Anglo-Saxon word that means to live in accordance with. I am so glad it does not mean to feel in accordance with. Throughout my life, my feelings have been all over the map. If I only acted on what I felt, I would be an inconsistent mess.
Feelings are paradoxical. In recovery, I learned to recognize and listen to my emotions which helped me to identify important needs and address them in healthy ways. I also learned to not allow my feelings to define who I am or how I would behave. Through conditioning I learned to recognize my feelings and thoughts while controlling my actions to create what I wanted in my life—like early morning runs. Often, it took a mile or so for my feelings and thoughts to settle into acceptance of the action of exercise that I wanted to do. It all hinged on the action word of belief.
Recovery is the same. Addicts must learn to recognize their affect, and resource themselves through healthy self-parenting skills. This takes time and hard work to achieve. They must learn that what they feel does not determine who they are or how they behave. In learning to resource themselves they must recognize that incongruent behavior is an aberration to their belief of who they are. Even though everything within tells them they have failed and will never get it right, they must bring themselves back to their center of self. This will only happen through practicing and strengthening belief in self. In the presence of lapse or relapse an addict must act on what they believe is their true self. They must condition themselves to ignore the mistaken beliefs that scream they do the opposite which always results in more self-sabotage and destructive behavior.
The secret to long term sobriety and the creation of serenity is to believe in who you are. There is no greater gift that a parent gives a child than to believe in who they are. It is taught by the way you role model your own self-belief and not through your words. I am grateful for those in my life who believe in me. However, sobriety and long-term transformation require that I believe in myself. I think of myself as a late bloomer in self-belief. It is never too late for an addict to believe in who they are in recovery.
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