Day 8 of 12 Days of Emotional Sobriety
Many addicts suffer from ‘fantasy functioning’. We come by it honestly, if we have grown up with a lack of healthy, positive role models for life. In attempts to compensate for low self-esteem, we push ourselves relentlessly to be some unrealistic version of perfection. We believe that life should be easy and that we will meet our soul mate and live happily ever after. When that doesn’t pan out, we beat ourselves up or we drink again.
Being realistic about life is about accepting what is possible. We may all be created equal in God’s eyes, but that doesn’t mean we are all the same. Knowing your limitations, especially when it comes to accepting your addiction, fosters contentment – a feeling that is elusive to addicts.
Perfection is a concept that doesn’t exist. It is a debilitating strategy meant to cover up shame. Being willing to cut yourself and others some slack for your humanness is a quality that will foster greater happiness. There is a recovery slogan: “Live and Let Live” which I love. It sounds simple but is tremendously deep in meaning. It means living our lives and not expecting others to follow suit. It means finding compassion for others so that each person can decide for him/herself what is best.
During the holidays, many people may want you to join in with activities that don’t support your recovery. Letting yourself live by your own principles and priorities, while not judging them for their choices, will go a long way in creating more emotional sobriety for you.
Tip for Today
Take stock of your day and ask yourself if you are being realistic about what you want to accomplish. Are you doing too much? Or not enough? Are you judging someone who has made different choices than you would make in the same situation? If so, see if you can ‘live and let live’, allowing space for everyone to walk their own path in life. Notice what happens when you make this shift or if you are struggling, what is blocking you from this change in perspective.
Share this with your friends and family who could benefit from 12 tips to keep you emotionally sober this holiday season. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if this resonates with you or if you have tips of your own you’d like to share. See you tomorrow for tip #9!
Day 7 of 12 Days of Emotional Sobriety
Many addicts have extreme and contradictory emotions. Passivity in relationships means you allow yourself to be walked on and later feel used by others. This ‘resentful compliance’ is toxic to emotional sobriety as it leads to a seething resentment that builds over time. Most addicts don’t take responsibility for their part in this dynamic and instead blame the other person for treating them badly. Emotional sobriety means learning to be honest with yourself and others about how you are really feeling. This is something you can deliver in a clear and direct way and with kindness and consideration.
On the other hand, you may have learned to find your power through aggression. Maybe resentment has been festering so long that you can’t hold it in any longer. Maybe you are just doing to others what was done to you growing up. In any event, uncontrollable anger and hostility are traps that keep you stuck in your addictive cycle. It is never acceptable to use anger as an excuse to verbally or physically abuse someone else. Anger is a feeling and has a purpose in helping us to set healthy limits. Abuse is a behavior that is violent in nature. They are two entirely different things.
Tip for Today
Do a spot inventory by writing down any resentments you may have. Make sure you know what caused each one and how they affect you emotionally and spiritually. Once you complete the list, go back through and write down your contribution to each issue, asking yourself how you set the ball into motion.
Next, write down any harms you have caused others by being emotionally inappropriate. Be honest with yourself – look for the self-serving motive that may underlie a misleading surface motive.
Discuss this with your sponsor or spiritual mentor and be willing to take any corrective action to make peace with yourself and others.
Share this with your friends and family who could benefit from 12 tips to keep you emotionally sober this holiday season. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if this resonates with you or if you have tips of your own you’d like to share. See you tomorrow for tip #8!
Day 6 of 12 Days of Emotional Sobriety
Addiction is a disease of isolation. I can’t stress that fact enough. A lack of emotional sobriety is often caused from a lack of social engagement with others who support your recovery. Many addicts are ‘pseudo-independent’. Pseudo-independence is an adaptive survival strategy, rather than a healthy way of life. It develops because there was insufficient support in our early years. I know it well because I had it. I was proud to admit that, ‘I can do life alone, thank you very much’. It’s why asking for help seems like a sign of weakness, rather than strength. This maladaptive belief trips up every addict in early recovery unless they are willing to challenge this ‘old idea’.
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to heal an addict. Neuroscientific research has shown that connection is the most powerful antidote to overcoming addiction. When our primary attachment relationship is to a bottle, a pill or a device, rather than to another loving human being, we are incredibly lonely and profoundly out of sync with what is best for us. Our task in recovery is to get ourselves into a group of like-minded people who understand and have found a solution to our problem. Within that group, we need to select one person who we are willing to tell everything to. Going it alone will not suffice. It’ a recipe back to relapse.
Tip for Today
Think of the saying: “The power of the wolf is the pack and the power of the pack is the wolf”. What does it mean to you? What can you do today to strengthen this in your own life? In the hierarchy of human relationships, interdependence is the goal. That means that you can stand on your own two feet and you can lean on others. If wolves can figure that out, surely we can too! Find a way to practice interdependence today with someone you trust. You could: tell them something you have been keeping secret about yourself; ask for help; let them know how much they mean to you. During this holiday season, give the gift of authenticity, vulnerability and transparency in your quest for greater emotional health.
Share this with your friends and family who could benefit from 12 tips to keep you emotionally sober this holiday season. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if this resonates with you or if you have tips of your own you’d like to share. See you tomorrow for tip #7!
Day 5 of 12 Days of Emotional Sobriety
Having strong emotional boundaries means knowing yourself – where you stop and others start. So many addicts get caught up in ‘emotional contagion’ – a concept that describes how you get sucked into someone else’s mood. Through this process, you merge into an unhealthy symbiosis. Let’s say your spouse comes home after a tough day and although you had a great day and you were feeling happy, as soon as you hear she is in a bad mood, you immediately begin to feel the same. This is different from ’empathy’ which develops from healthy differentiation.
Having strong boundaries means holding on to your truth and getting curious about someone else’s experience, especially when it is different from your own. Contrary to what you may have learned growing up, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to human beings. While variety may be the spice of life, an inability to tolerate differences, makes life feel unbearable.
Some of us have never contemplated the fact that “no” is a complete sentence. The idea that our value and worth as a friend and/or confidante demands that we be ‘all things to all people’, blurs our boundaries. Life ought to be a choice, not a burden. Make sure you are staying within the bounds of acceptable choices, that support your emotional sobriety.
Tip for Today
Remember a time when you got sucked into someone else’s negative feelings. See yourself holding up a see-through shield that allows you to stay both protected and connected with your own good mood. Imagine saying to the person, “I’m sorry you are feeling that way. Do you want to talk about it?” As you imagine the discussion, keep holding the shield and stay connected to your own self, allowing the other person to have their feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they seem. Next, remember a time when you said ‘yes’ and you meant ‘no’. Replay the scenario with your shield in place and imagine being true to yourself, with a kind but firm authority. Imagine the other person respecting you for it. Do this with as many examples as you can; feel the inner strength it creates when you build pathways for strong boundaries.
Share this with your friends and family who could benefit from 12 tips to keep you emotionally sober this holiday season. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if this resonates with you or if you have tips of your own you’d like to share. See you tomorrow for tip #6!
Day 4 of 12 Days of Emotional Sobriety
Addiction can be thought of as a destructive habit that continues despite the negative consequences it creates. It’s possible to change addictive habits but it requires commitment and ongoing effort to find a healthy balance in life. I once heard it said that if you stop drinking without replacing it with something better it would be as painful as watching paint dry. Boredom sets in quickly and drinking becomes a good option. Those who struggle with relapse often lack a solid set of good intelligent habits that replace the multitudes of behaviours that supported and justified their addiction.
It’s so important to have a routine of positive habits to replace the negative lifestyle of addiction. Whether that involved criminality or just plain laziness when it came to showing up for life, emotional sobriety is about cultivating inner peace & usefulness. This is a lifelong process and starts with each new day and each new challenge.
Many addicts grew up in families that created negative beliefs about themselves and the world. This negativity translates into self-loathing, self-doubt, learned helplessness and a loss of hope. These attitudes and outlooks on life are part of the addictive habit. Being committed to challenging and changing your limiting self-talk, is the first step to creating a solid foundation of good, intelligent habit formation. This will be followed in action by healthy, life-sustaining activities, that give back to the world in meaningful ways.
Tip for Today
Challenge yourself to a 24-hour ‘negativity fast’. This will require a great deal of attention to your thoughts and feelings. Having a negative thought or feeling is not the problem – giving it energy by embellishing it as truth is the problem. Each time you think negatively of yourself or someone else, quickly replace it with “I chose love today” or, “I suspend judgement for now”, or whatever sounds like a simple, positive antidote in the moment. Then immediately decide to do something useful. It could be attending to a chore, or calling a friend who is going through a tough time or taking care of some outstanding business. Make a conscious effort to lay down good, intelligent pathways for health. Emotional sobriety is an inside job – that gets manifested in your (outside) world.
There is no better time than the holiday season to create a positive habit of giving to others, to help yourself and your emotional recovery.
Share this with your friends and family who could benefit from 12 tips to keep you emotionally sober this holiday season. Don’t forget to leave a comment below if this resonates with you or if you have tips of your own you’d like to share. See you tomorrow for tip #5!