The Secret Life of Long-Term Sobriety -Part Two

By Ken Wells - 07/20/2021


Series Two; Blog Forty-Eight

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” – Joseph Campbell

Recovery from relapse is about finding the secrets of every-day brilliance in the experience of stumbling and personal failure. Listed are further insights to deepen this understanding.

6. Developing the skill set to bring yourself back to center: Bringing yourself back to center in recovery is as important as embracing sobriety in the first place. Most addicts relapse in some form or another. Some participate in lapse behavior, which is a way of re-engaging high-risk patterns that if left neglected will lead to full-blown relapse. If you were to go for a long hike and needed to pick someone to go with who either was a veteran hiker who boasted that she had never been lost or someone who knew how to read a compass and was experienced with orienteering, who would you pick? I would choose the one who knew how to read the compass and could orienteer just in case the other hiker lost his way for the first time.

Recovery is about orienteering your way back to center. Many life experiences trigger someone to lose their way in recovery. Daily frustrations, losses, disappointments, resentments, failures, etc can all spark lapses or relapses. Knowing how to find your way back to living in the center of your values is crucial.

Shame triggers lapse and relapse more than any other feeling dynamic. Learning to not beat yourself up when you go against values but to bring yourself back to your values when you engage lapse or relapse behavior is to practice a great secret in long term recovery. This skill set requires great discipline and daily conditioning and training.

7. Keeping your feet to the fire. This simple reality is so necessary to much of life experience. It certainly is true in recovery. It is a mindset. When you attend a recovery meeting you do this by openly sharing the last thing you want people to know about you. Why? It is because this is the way we grow and develop healthy intimacy. It is important to put yourself on the hot seat in group and other relational experiences. Most people will attempt to avoid the discomfort of the hot seat. Yet, those who do keep their feet to the fire will be rewarded with continued growth. Life expresses growth and development. Sometimes you will endure misperceptions by other people who will judge you or give you feedback as if you don’t know what you know. Yet, you will experience continued growth by putting yourself on the hot seat and keeping your feet to the fire in recovery.

8. Practice velvet steel. This daily practice is an essential and staple tool for recovery. Addicts tend to be velvet (gentle) where they need to be tough, and steel (tough) where they need to be velvet. Embracing this important life skill accesses the wisdom of consideration. This skill is an art form that is learned through training and practice. Knowing when to apply the strict letter of the law and when to be gentle requires ongoing application and conscious discipline. The rewards are balanced living and long-term sobriety.

9. Overcome partial truths with rigorous honesty. Addicts are great at compartmentalizing truth about behaviors. It is amazing the high-risk behaviors that addicts are able to rationalize as essential. One sex addict relates that his quandary is that on his way home after work he travels down an avenue where there is a strip club that lures him into the parking lot. He presented himself as helpless, not knowing how to resolve his high-risk problem. When it was suggested that he simply drive down a different street that would avoid temptation, he responded in surprise saying “it’s just out of my way” so I never thought about it.

Compartmentalizing behavior must be overcome with rigorous honesty. Many times addicts put themselves in harm’s way because they do not want to face the penetrating responsibility of rigorous honesty about the thoughts that are going on inside their head. As a result, addicts get stuck in living out partial truths with vague awareness of the danger that propels them toward relapse behavior. Partial truths create vague awareness about high-risk behaviors. As a result, addicts will hover around temptations that eventually will be rationalized into reality. This is where the old saying “if you hang around the barber shop long enough you will get a haircut.” Rigorous honesty removes the fog of uncertainty and eliminates the breeding ground for relapse. It promotes long-term sobriety.

10. Believe that you are the leader that you have been looking for. Steps in recovery are scary propositions to consider. They are radical and require profound paradigm shifts in thought and behavior. As a result, most addicts initially approach recovery in fear and trepidation. It is understandable that in beginning recovery you look to a sponsor and others to be the guru in recovery. Certainly, in the early stages it is necessary to lean heavily upon others to show you the way. The problem is that addicts can get stuck in looking outside and not inside for guidance while navigating the difficult pathways for recovery. Most addicts are needy and tend to look to others to tell them what to do about recovery and almost anything. Yet, the truth is there is no guru: you are it. You can cultivate and maintain respect toward those who are authors, speakers, or mentors. This is the way of mutual respect. Yet, when you put those same people on a pedestal, you will become dependent and your own capacity to grow and develop becomes stunted. Believing means that what is needed in your life and in the world for you to successfully remain sober and become an influence for healing is inside your heart. Looking outside will only stifle your capacity to resource yourself. Asking for help is necessary for all in life. Relying upon others to be your wisdom and your strength will sap your own energy and creative insight to be all that your destiny calls you to be. The truth is that you are the leader that you are looking for. When you truly believe this, you will connect to your own brilliance with awareness to resource without dependence on others. This is the way toward long-term sobriety.

11. Develop a spiritual lifestyle of affirming yourself. Daily affirmations are one of the most neglected skills in the world of recovery. Addicts have learned and practiced mistaken beliefs about themselves since they were young impressionable children. These beliefs that sabotage and undermine destiny became entrenched during young impressionable stages of life. They become so embedded that if you ask an addict where or who taught you that you don’t matter or that you are not good enough, they will say it is my voice and my belief. While this is true, the origin which needs to be addressed came from primary caregivers. Addicts marry themselves to their mistaken beliefs in such a way that they become synonymous with the distorted thought. Long-term sobriety requires that these mistaken beliefs be unlearned and replaced by positive affirmative beliefs that support the transformation that yields sobriety and serenity. This can only happen through training and conditioning. It is an unheralded practice that many addicts gloss over. But, just as the athlete performing under pressure must focus on a positive belief about results with disciplined practice, so too must the recovering addict discipline thoughts that influence behavior with disciplined conditioning and training. This comes through immersing your spirit and soul with positive inspiring affirmations. You must practice bathing yourself in positive affirmations in the same way you practice hygiene. Daily or regular washing your awareness with positive affirmation is an absolute must for establishing long term sobriety. As you deepen this skill set you will discover what Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” The secret to long-term sobriety is found in the discovery of brilliance posited deep within your own heart. It is the only place you will ever find it and the only place it will ever be.

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