by Patrick Meninga
Is it possible that your attitude in recovery is created exclusively based on your actions? Or is it the case that your mood and your attitude must come first, and therefore however you are feeling will help to dictate your actions? Or is it a bit of both?
In my opinion it is all about taking the right actions first and foremost. Don’t sweat the attitude at first – you don’t really get to choose your mood anyway.
Think about it: If you are upset and unhappy, and you realize that you are upset, can you just instantly make a decision to change that so that you are suddenly happy? If you can do that then my hat is off to you; I would say you will have a very easy recovery! Good for you. But most of us don’t have this magical ability to just change our moods, attitudes and emotions at the drop of a hat. We may realize that we are in a bad mood at times but that does not mean that we have the power to instantly change it. So what are we to do in such cases? How are we to live in recovery if we randomly become a victim of our circumstances? Sometimes life just happens, and we are caught in the mix with bad results.
I believe that the answer is all about action. We take action and it changes our lives. We take action and it changes our attitudes.
They have a number of sayings in traditional recovery that reflect the ideas that I am presenting here. One of them is “you can’t think your way into good living, instead you have to live your way into good thinking.” In other words, you can’t just change your thinking or your attitude on a whim. You can’t just magically make your mind change permanently, just because you want it to. If you want to see that kind of change then you are going to have to work for it. And that means taking action.
How to live your way into good thinking
My suggestion to the newcomer in recovery is pretty simple actually: Go ask for help and then follow through with the suggestions you are given.
Simple advice, but very hard to actually do. Humility is a tough pill to swallow.
But you can’t think your way into sobriety. I’m a smart dude and if you could think your way sober, I promise you … I would have figured it out! You can’t think your way into good living; instead you have to find a way to get out of your own way and start living a better life through action. That is the only way to make changes to your attitude in the long run.
Ignore your own ideas about what is best for you. Believe me, I know that this can be hard to do. But if you are truly miserable based on your addiction then it should not be too big of a leap for you to disregard your own ideas for a while. Really, what have your own ideas got you lately, other than chaos and misery? Addiction has not worked out well for you. Time to try something different.
The way to try something different is to take advice from others. If you try to take your own advice then you will just sabotage your own efforts and go back to drinking or drugging.
This is a blow to the ego if you do it right. You have to push your own ideas to the side and hand over complete control to someone else. Put your life in their hands and just go along for the ride.
And I’ll give you another tip – this ego squashing will not last forever. Eventually you get to be in the driver’s seat again. But early recovery is not that time. Early recovery is the time when you want to totally squash your ego, get out of your own way, and take advice from others.
Take a step back and look at yourself from the outside for a while, and consciously make yourself let go of everything. Turn your decisions over to other people. But this is not to say that it is an easy thing to do. Some people are so stubborn that they will die from addiction before they allow themselves to let go of their own ego. But it is not tricky. Just follow advice from others on a consistent basis for a while. Ignore your own ideas and live by someone else’s. Things will get better.
If you happen to take positive action in recovery (such as by embracing treatment, meetings, solutions, etc.) then things will get better and better. This will create a positive feedback loop and your success will start to build on itself (provided you keep taking positive action).
Unfortunately the inverse of this is true as well: if you take negative actions then you will get negative results and your mood and attitude will start to reflect that new reality. This is the downward spiral of addiction. Things just keep getting worse and worse if you continue to self-medicate as an alcoholic or addict. They even have a technical label for this phenomenon. They say that the disease of addiction is “progressive.”
So if you take positive actions in your life then you can expect that your attitude will naturally reflect those actions over the long run. This is what makes it possible to “live your way into good thinking.” Your actions beget your attitude in the long run.
Therefore you can “trick” yourself into healthy thinking, without having to figure much of anything out for yourself. Simply take suggestions and follow through with positive action. Your thinking will take care of itself.
If you want to change your attitude, then go do something about it … don’t just sit there! Positive action yields positive results.