Forcing Ourselves to Take Action
"This is of course a dance of balance, because there
are also times in which I need to force myself to take some action (which
is a very different thing from trying to force an outcome.)"
Taking action is one of the most valuable tools in the recovery
process and is very much connected to the principle of taking responsibility.
It is very important to become proactive in our own healing process.
That means that we need to align our will and our will power with healing
instead of with the disease.
In our disease we were reacting to life out of a dysfunctional belief
system. We were playing the game of life according to a set of rules
that do not work to bring us happiness, serenity, and fulfillment.
There is no happily ever after on this plane, in these bodies.
The goal is not to do life "right" in order to reach a destination.
True success is achieved by learning, growing, and enjoying the journey
- not by reaching a specific destination.
"Life is a journey, a process - it's not a destination.
Life is continuous and constant change and growth. We were taught
to fight and try to control the change, to resist the growth. We
were taught to swim upstream, to go against the flow. No wonder we
get tired sometimes.
We were taught that death is a great tragedy and
that we should spend our lives fearing and ignoring it. We were taught
to fear death and to never live life. That's backwards.
Death is a transition, a transformation, death
is a milestone in the longer journey. It is not a tragedy to be feared
- it is an eventuality to be accepted. What is tragedy is not enjoying
living while we are here."
Living can only be done one day at a time. Today is all we really
have. If we spend all of our time focused on the future we will miss
out on today.
We were taught to be human doings rather than human beings. The
ability to "be" here now, in the moment, is one of the goals of healing
and recovery. To be able to be present for, and live, in the moment
is a gift (a present) that we can give ourselves by aligning our will and
actions with healing.
That does not mean that being here now is the only goal. Some
people use "being in the moment" as an excuse to indulge in instant gratification.
Instant gratification is not bad or wrong, but if we are constantly empowering
instant gratification we are not taking responsibility for being co-creators
in our life. Because of our childhood wounds, the majority of the
time when we indulge in instant gratification, what we are doing is letting
the child's wounds run the show - the "King/Queen Baby" within us whose
mantra is "I want what I want and I want it now!"
Having grown up in dysfunctional, emotionally repressive societies causes
us to want immediate gratification that helps us repress the feelings and/or
nurture the wounded child inside of us. Substances like Sugar, alcohol,
drugs, etc., activities like isolating, obsessing, doing something (anything)
rather than being in our bodies and feeling our feelings, are ways of escaping
being in the moment.
What we are looking for in recovery is balance. What we are doing
in recovery is growing up so that we can relate to life as a mature healthy
adult who is able to have the choice to be in the moment at the same time
that we are owning our responsibility as the co-creator of our life.
We are learning how to be in the moment in a "stop and smell the roses"
type of way instead of out of instant gratification.
Taking Responsibility for Being Co-Creators
We are co-creators in this life experience we are having. That means
that there are some areas over which we have some power and control and
some areas that we do not. The essence of the dysfunction of the
condition of codependence, which is the human condition in my definition,
is that we were taught to try to control things over which we have no control
- and were not taught how to have healthy control over that which we can
"I spent most of my life doing the Serenity prayer
backwards, that is, trying to change the external things over which I had
no control - other people and life events mostly - and taking no responsibility
(except shaming and blaming myself) for my own internal process - over
which I can have some degree of control. Having some control is not
a bad thing; trying to control something or somebody over which I have
no control is what is dysfunctional. It was very important for me
to start learning how to recognize the boundaries of where I ended and
other people began, and to start realizing that I can have some control
over my internal process in ways that are not shaming and judgmental -
that I can stop being the victim of myself."
I cannot control other people. I cannot control life events.
I do not have the power to force a specific outcome in my life in a way
that will work to satisfy the need that I think it will satisfy.
It is possible to force an outcome. Someone with enough money
and/or power (political, physical, corporate, emotional, etc.) can sometimes
force other people to do what they want. It is possible to
bully, intimidate, rape, take over, force out of business, steal, lay on
guilt trips, etc., to get an outcome you desire.
It will not fill the hole in your soul however. It will not slake
the thirst you are trying to quench in a way that is lasting. It
will not ultimately meet the need which you fixated on that outcome to
It will not bring peace, fulfillment, and True Love into your life.
Forcing an outcome is ultimately dysfunctional.
Likewise, life events cannot be controlled. You can work and slave
to buy the dream house - and have it wiped out in a matter of moments in
a fire or earthquake. You can scrimp and save for retirement - and
have your life savings wiped out in a financial disaster, or die the day
There are no guarantees what tomorrow will bring. Focusing all
of our time and energy on the future is dysfunctional - not only because
it causes us to miss out on today - but because it simply does not work
to guarantee an outcome.
The out come (end result / destination) is what we are powerless over.
We can take action towards an outcome, but then we need to let go of the
results. We can plant the seeds of the garden we wish to grow but
we cannot guarantee that the results will be what we envision - or will
satisfy our underlying need.
Our job as co-creators is to imagine the garden, plant the seeds and
nurture them, and enjoy the process that we are involved in today.
We are ultimately powerless over the outcome. We do have the power
to be present for the journey no matter what the destination ends up being.
If we are always focused on the destination, we are not living today.
I spent most of my life feeling like my life would begin when ____ - I
got the money, or the success, or the relationship, or whatever.
That is dysfunctional and codependent and sets me up to be a victim of
life and other people.
In order not to be the victim it is necessary to own our power to make
choices. It is necessary to exercise power in the areas that we have
some power and control.
The things that I have the power to control to some extent are my own
attitudes and behaviors. I have the power to choose what actions
Attitudes and Behaviors
I will be talking in the other articles in this series about how to change
our attitudes and our relationship with our own internal process so that
it is possible to overcome the childhood programming and emotional wounds.
It is very important to do this work in order to take the shame and fear
out of the process as much as possible. One of the reasons we have
not been able to grow up and take responsibility for being co-creators
in our lives is because of our fear of doing it wrong, making mistakes,
not being good enough. Those fears caused us to swing between the
extremes of putting all our time and energy into being in control, or giving
up all responsibility and any semblance of control.
I can have some power over my own behavior. I can make choices
about where to exert my willpower. I can take actions that are aligned
with Loving myself instead of always taking action to repress the feelings
and escape reality.
In order to get sober, I had to start taking the action of not picking
up the next drink. I needed to take the action of going to meetings
and calling my sponsor. I need to start reaching out for help from
people who were in recovery instead of fellow alcoholics, addicts, and
codependents who would enable my disease and endorse my excuses.
I had to force myself to take actions that were aligned with recovery
in order to make any progress in my recovery. Sometimes, the action
I had to take was to not take an action that I would normally have taken.
Sometimes, I had to force myself to take actions that I had never taken
Often the action I needed to take was an action that would get me out
of my head with all of it's obsessions and fantasies (nightmares) about
the future - or regrets and recriminations about the past. My tendency
has always been to focus on big dramatic events in order to avoid the mundane,
common details of life. I would much rather fantasize about the future
(in all it's glory or tragedy) than wash the dishes. I would rather
think about taking action than take action.
I was very good at thinking about taking action. At a point when
I was a couple years in recovery, I found some old journals from the days
when I was still drinking and using. I was amazed to find that I
had made the same to do (tomorrow) lists then that I was making in recovery.
The only difference was that "stop drinking" was not on the list anymore.
That was when I realized that in recovery I was still trying to reach a
destination. I was still primarily thinking about taking action.
I still had very little ability to be in the now.
"Many of us have pursued healing and Recovery
just like we did the rest of our lives - as if it were a destination to
be reached where we would find "happily ever after." We have gone
to healers and psychics and therapists in order to learn the "right" way
to do life."
"As I said, the goal of healing is not to become
perfect, it is not to "get healed." Healing is a process, not a destination
- we are not going to arrive at a place in this lifetime where we are completely
The goal here is to make life an easier and more
enjoyable experience while we are healing. The goal is to LIVE.
To be able to feel happy, Joyous, and free in the moment, the majority
of the time."
Taking action happens in the now. I may still think about the
future while I am washing dishes, but the dishes will get done and I will
feel good about that at some point later on. Taking action in alignment
with being responsible for me and my life is a loving thing to do for myself.
Making the choice to align myself with delayed gratification instead of
instant gratification is an important component in the transition to having
a more Loving relationship with my self.
There was a point early in my recovery where tragedy was looming, impending
doom was swooping down upon me, everything in my life was going terribly
from my perspective. I went to talk to a man I trusted and after
hearing all of my woes, he had one piece of advice for me - make my bed
every morning. I thought he was insane. But I started doing
it. And as the process unfolded, and the potential tragedies in my
life worked themselves out, I would come home and see my bed made and feel
good about myself. I learned that taking an action for myself helped
me to get through difficult stages in the journey. Life unfolds -
this too passes - over the course of time. Worrying about outcomes
does not serve to make my life easier today. Taking action can make
my life easier today.
The concept of delayed gratification can - like any concept or principle
- be taken out of balance also. Always focusing on the future and
never being in the now is delayed gratification out of balance. Putting
all of your priority on preparing for retirement and never stopping to
enjoy life today is dysfunctional.
What we are seeking is balance. Balance comes from aligning our
relationship with ourselves and life with healing and recovery.
In recovery we are working on becoming our own best friend. The more
times during the course of the day that I can make a choice in alignment
with healing and Love, in alignment with my own best interests, the more
I will be able to trust myself - the more I will be Loving myself.
When I am taking care of business and owning my responsibility as co-creator
of my life, at the same time I am letting go of trying to control things
over which I have no control, then I can find a balanced place where I
learn how to relax and enjoy life more today. Sometimes taking care
of business means forcing myself to take action.
Forcing myself to get out of bed and go to work. Forcing myself
to go to a meeting when I just feel like getting ice cream and watching
videos. Forcing myself to clean the house instead of worrying about
the outcome of an event in the future. Forcing myself to take a walk
instead of zoning out in front of the tube.
This does not mean to "should" on ourselves. It does not mean
to shame ourselves into healthier behavior. If we do that we will
end up rebelling against the shoulds. When I say "should" it usually
means "I am not going to do this and then I am going to beat myself up
for it." That is aligning with the disease.
Aligning with recovery means thinking an action through to it's consequences.
Choosing to do something because we know that we will feel better later
if we do it now. Or choosing not to do something because we know
there will be unpleasant after effects in terms of how we feel about ourselves.
Aligning with healing and Love also means to remember and accept that
we are human. We will never do life perfectly. Recovery is
a process of making progress, not one of achieving perfection. We
are trying to increase the percentage of the time that we are making choices
in alignment with Love. It is not Loving to judge ourselves for being
Life can be very hard sometimes. Being in recovery in a dysfunctional
culture full of wounded people can be very difficult. Working on
getting sane in a world full of insanity is crazy making. There will
be times that we go for the instant gratification of getting a pizza and
a bunch of videos. Doing that once in a while is part of coping with
life in the best way we know how. Doing it often is out of balance.
(It also a reality that we sometimes have to have rigid boundaries for
ourselves in certain life threatening areas - i.e. it is acceptable for
a recovering alcoholic to choose the ice cream but it is not all right
to drink; it is not all right for a diabetic to eat sugar;
We are trying to make progress in the percentage of the time that we
make the choice that is for our highest good. We will not be able
to do it all of the time. The goal is progress not perfection.
That there will be times we have to force ourselves to take action that
is healthy for us is a natural normal part of the recovery process.
It is a vital tool in learning to be our own best friend - just as not
judging ourselves for being human is a vital part of learning to Love ourselves.
Sometimes the action that I need to take is to do some positive affirmations
to counter the negativity of the critical parent voice. It is vital
for me to take action to counter the victim messages of the disease, to
be proactive in the process of not letting the inner child's feelings dictate
my perception of reality. Taking action is part of working the third
step - and a very vital component in learning how to have some internal
boundaries so that I can start taking some responsibility for, and control
over, my own internal process. Starting to have some Loving control
over my own inner process is how I start to own my power to make choices
about my own attitudes and behaviors.
"A turning point in my recovery came when I realized
that the third step is a step of action.
The third step (CoDA version) says: Made
a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we
understood God. What I learned is that making a decision is not a
passive process. I need to make the decision and then take action
based on the decision. Turning my will and life over to God does
not mean saying "You got it God. I'll hang out here and wait for
you to tell me what to do."
Working the third step is all about taking action.
Once I decide to try this new way of life in which I believe there is a
Higher Power that Loves me - then I need to start taking action based on
that belief. I need to align my will with the will of a Loving Universal
Force. There is nothing wrong with will power, or self-will.
It is self-will pointed in the wrong direction that is destructive.
Once we admit powerlessness out of ego-self then we start accessing power
out of Spiritual Self. Spiritual Self is the part of us that knows
we are connected to everyone and everything.
I have to use my will power to get myself to meetings,
to pray, to take inventory and be honest with myself, to ask for help,
to not pick up the next drink, etc., etc. It takes an act of will
on my part to get me in motion. Once energy is placed in motion then
the Universe responds."
1, 2, 3, and a 1, 2, 3 - The first
three steps - article in Joy2MeU Journal
"Now, as I look back, I can see that internal
boundaries were the key from the beginning. Internal boundaries
could also be described as self-discipline or taking responsibility or
growing up. They are what is necessary for any real growth to occur.
It is necessary for an alcoholic to start having internal boundaries in
order to stop drinking - for anyone to stop any addictive, compulsive,
or obsessive behavior. In order to start changing our behavior
it is necessary to have an internal boundary with the child in us who wants
immediate gratification/immediate relief from the feelings. In order
to change what we are doing so we can change what we are getting - it is
necessary to start having some internal boundaries with ourselves.
Terms like self-discipline or responsibility carried
for me the shame and guilt of the dysfunctional society I grew up in -
whereas internal boundaries was a much cleaner term, and a much more accurately
focused term. I came to focus on internal boundaries in my private
therapy practice and in my personal recovery - and found application of
the concept to be powerful and effective in starting to help myself and
others become more integrated and balanced."
Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light