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 control.
"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
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 you retire.
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 before.
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
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; etc.)
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 Chapter 4