Series Three: Blog Thirteen
I wonder about dogs. Our dog Addie is a plott hound. She weighs about 65 pounds. Addie thinks only about food. If food is an addiction, she is a recalcitrant counter surfer. Breaking the habit requires constant validation from my wife and me. We have to bark nonstop commands of “Sit and Stay” in the presence of food that does not belong to her. Then we have to flood her with affirmation, validation, and a treat. Left to her devices, she has consumed in record time 3 steaks, 12 cupcakes and 2 Christmas streusels that a friend sent which we never even tasted because of Addie’s unabated cravings! She gives no indication of self-validation when deprived or constrained from her lustful appetite. There is only regret.
Addicts can be this way. They not only crave their drug of choice but also have an insatiable need for validation from others. Their yearnings are always focused on sources that are unavailable, usually a romantic partner, family member or friends. They can never get enough validation from others. Addicts chase the illusion that if others are pleased with them, then they can be happy. But, they act out or behave in ways that trigger criticism. They keep trying to please, hoping to receive a smile of approval from others. This pattern of behavior becomes a vicious vortex whereby an addict tries harder and seemingly screws up more in desperation for validation from the outside. In exhaustion, they realize that happiness and peace come from validation within.
Cultivating inner validation is an art that every addict must master. If you don’t, your life becomes like a pinball bouncing between bumpers. You never get enough of what you can’t depend upon—outside validation. Inner validation calms the spirit and clarifies perspective. Listed are a few considerations to guide your quest for inward confirmation.
- Don’t depend upon someone to validate you when they are unable to give you what you must give yourself. Addiction always involves broken trust and betrayal. You wouldn’t expect someone with a broken foot to be a reliable anchor to your relay team. So why would you depend upon your partner to be a reliable source of validation for your recovery efforts? You just broke their heart with addictive behavior, for heavens sakes! Besides, healing validation must be anchored from the depths of your heart. You must be the one to tell yourself what you need to hear. It takes commitment and practice to do this. There is a great temptation to reach out to the one least available to validate you. Let go! Go deep within and let God whisper the truth about your efforts and base your actions from that place.
- Be resilient and don’t wallow in your mistakes. It’s true that in recovery you can sometimes act like a bozo. You will make the wrong choice and act like a jerk. You will absolutely blow opportunities for growth and recovery! This doesn’t mean you have to relapse but it does mean that you are human. You will screw up. The key is to be resilient and rebound. Rather than to wallow in the feelings of failure and shame, bounce back and do next right things regardless of how you feel. Act your way into a new way of feeling, not the other way around. Wallow in gratitude. This exercise will help you increase self-validation. It will enable you to move beyond your mistakes. You will be able to take valuable wisdom and insights from your every mistake or bad attitude.
- Change your mindset. How you manage a bad attitude or wrong choice will be determined by what you believe about yourself. Inner validation requires a proper mindset. Without self-validation, you will become paralyzed with navel gazing. You will ruminate “if only I had not done this behavior or said this thing”. You will become paralyzed with negative self-criticism. What you think about yourself is what will expand in your behavior. You must interrupt this negative spiral with affirmation and action. Don’t allow this kind of self-sorrow to increase. Nip it in the bud. It will accelerate self-sabotage. Don’t compare yourself to others. Let the wrong choice speak its message to you. Then, extract the wisdom of a lesson learned and cooperate by bringing your mindset in alignment with your destiny. You change your mind set by raising your standards and acting on rituals that reinforce what you choose to believe about yourself. These are the actions necessary to build a foundation for self-validation. When you create your own self-validation, in time the validation that you so desperately desired from outside sources will come to you in spades. The difference is that you no longer need it to sustain your recovery.