I want to take a moment to ensure everyone, including those who are new to this blog, understand what it is I am attempting to do with the core belief series. Remember, core beliefs are the beliefs we develop over time from repetitive learned behavior which affects how we perceive the world around us. Some of our beliefs are accurate and some of our beliefs are not. The more important aspect of this concept is not the accuracy of our beliefs, it is the level to which we believe those core beliefs to be true. If we truly believe something at our core, hence the name core belief, then that belief is true for us whether or not it is accurate to the outside world. That said, I start these blogs with core beliefs I believe to be detrimental to the overall potential success of an addict in recovery. The aim is to bring to light the core belief's origin and then look at how we might shift the way we see that belief in an effort to restructure our thinking. When this occurs, we can then change the core belief into something more beneficial to our recovery and ultimate sobriety.
I am not a good person
I would be shocked if there was any person on the planet who at one time or another did not feel as though they were a bad person. We all make bad decisions, mistakes, bad judgment calls, act from the wrong emotional state, and or do any number of things throughout our lifetime that could be considered questionable, depending on the circumstance. The difference for the addict is that, unlike our more emotionally stable counterparts, we do not always learn from those mistakes. What happens if we do not learn from a mistake? We tend to make that mistake again, and again, and again. It is a level of insanity, and what is insanity? One definition is this: extreme foolishness; folly; senselessness; and foolhardiness. Does that describe us while in a state of use? Pretty much.
On the bright side, this does take a little pressure off our core belief. We are not bad people, we are good people under the influence of a bad substance. But, we will not use this as an excuse because the goal here is to change our core belief and the way we see ourselves. We can then interact in the world as the good people we know we have the capability of being. Unfortunately, the longer we have used the deeper this core belief has solidified itself in our psyche. For some of us, it may not be that difficult to let go of, for others it may be extremely difficult. The first step, either way, is forgiveness. We have to remind ourselves that the evidence we are holding on to that supports our core belief about being a bad person is mere actions from our past. Those actions do not define who we are in the present or the future as long as we do not continue to repeat them. Learning, after all, is the essence of living.
I am a good person
This core belief is an easy one to shift semantically, which makes it a little easier to incorporate into our daily routines. Start by saying, "I am a good person" when you wake up, when you eat, and when you go to bed. At the bare minimum, you will have reaffirmed your belief five times every day. I promise if you keep it up, you will begin to feel it, and it feels really good. Now, feeling good is awesome, but once we start to believe it, that is when the real magic begins to occur. When we feel like a good person, we begin to do more good things. It is one of the reasons the sober community touts the idea of helping others so much. It is not out of obligation, it is from the change in our perception of ourselves that we begin to feel a need to reach out and help. That is why I write, host meetings, and do podcasts. I just want to help.
Another aspect of this shift in the core belief that is kind of cool and unique is the idea that there is no correct answer to the question of what makes a good person. We either have our own definitions based on our upbringing, religion, and beliefs or, if we want, we can redefine what it means to be a good person based on what we know, what we have learned, and what we want to put out into the world as a sober person. That is a gift if you think about it. Here is a piece of paper, write down all the attributes of what you believe makes a good person. Now, go be that person. It sounds overly simplified, but is it really all that far fetched? I don't believe it is.
Will we continue to make mistakes and do things that make us feel like a bad person? Yeah, unfortunately, we are still human as sober people. However, as we begin to see the positive qualities in our lives, we also begin to see that we can learn from our mistakes. So, when we slip up and do something we are not proud of; instead of chalking the experience up as evidence to support our belief of being a bad person, use it as a learning experience. What did I do? Why did I do it? What did I learn? Then go out and put the new learning into action. I have had to do this myself recently and it does work. If other people are involved, we can only hope they see our growth and forgive us, but if not, that too is part of the learning.
We are all good people, as long as we believe it to be true.