I have had one of those weeks. You know the ones. The kind of week where, even if things are still going well, it feels as though everything else is falling apart. Part of the problem is my own damn fault. With all the time and energy I have found since quitting drinking and nicotine, I have taken on many more responsibilities. With responsibility comes a certain level of stress and with stress comes, well, you know. The other part of the problem is out of my control. Some things we just have no control over and the only thing we can do is endure. How we endure, of course, is the difference between success and failure; growth and loss; joy and sorrow; and it certainly determines how we view ourselves and the world around us. The bottom line is this: when the shit hits the fan we generally have two options. We can choose to endure or we can choose to fall. Obviously, for addicts, the latter choice carries with it severe consequences. When people in recovery crumble, they run the risk of losing everything for which they have worked.
I am simply immersed in the sober community to such a level,
I cannot help but pay attention to these idiosyncrasies
Reflecting on my tumultuous week thus far, I could not help but stop, at one point, and point out to my partner something I could not help but notice. With everything going on around me, there was not one single moment of doubt surrounding my ability to remain on my chosen path. Now, this is a little interesting because my general response to something like this might be, "Yeah, but you were thinking about it so there must have been some level of doubt." To this, I would respond with certainty, "No, I am simply immersed in the sober community to such a level, I cannot help but pay attention to these idiosyncrasies." I notice when my experiences are vastly different from many of the people with whom I surround myself online, in person, etc... One of the most common posts I see in the sober community is a post of distress following a stressful situation in which a person is afraid of relapse. When the shit hits the fan, what allows some people to handle the stress better than others? I believe the answer to this question can be layered and multifaceted, however, I believe it can also be quite simple if we let it.
Let's look at the more layered answer, first. Every person is different and we all deal with problems differently. This is a known fact and something not too surprising. Some people naturally have the ability to work through problems with ease. The way they see the problem, the way they sort out the problem, and the way they deal with the emotions associated with the problem all stem from a place of confidence and certainty. These people actually look forward to challenges because it allows them to engage with a part of themselves they know to be strong and successful.
We clung to it because we did not yet understand there were
other options available to us
Others are not so lucky. We were absent the day the emotional academy taught the stress management course. Stress for us is not only difficult but loathed, and we avoid it like the plague. We avoid it because we know the limit of our capabilities and our capabilities do not inspire immunity to the emotional problems associated with stress. Most of us found, not so positive, ways to deal with the inevitable stress life throws at us on a seemingly daily basis. As addicts, we found something we believed helped us through those excruciating times. Regardless of the medium, we chose to "save" us, the medium we chose felt like a lifeline and we clung to it with all our strength. We clung to it because we did not yet understand there were other options available to us. Even if we were aware of those options, we were not yet proficient in using them, which made them feel useless to us.
Regardless of whether or not we have the necessary background and tools to properly deal with life-related stress, there are other factors at play too. Over years of "failing" to deal with stress, we tend to build core beliefs that begin to drive our emotions in directions not necessarily accurate to reality. The longer we allow these core beliefs to dictate our reactions to life, the harder it becomes to make positive changes to our learned reactions. As long as we carry our negative core beliefs with us, the potential exists for them to be a trigger, especially for an addict. The only way to change our negative core beliefs is to change our perceptions about those beliefs. This requires a lot of positive self-talk and belief in ourselves. Once we do change our core beliefs, however, the easier it becomes to sustain a more positive thinking mindset. This is one of the most profound differences in whether or not we are able to properly handle stressful situations.
How we choose to view events directly affects how we react to them
When we look at the more layered reasons about why we struggle to properly deal with stress, it begs a question. How could the answer to the question of why people handle stress differently be simple? The simple answer lies in our perception of the events happening around us. Once again, choices are available to us for each and every situation that occurs. While it may not have been our go-to answer for dealing with stress in the past, changing our perception about a negative situation can shift how we handle the situation emotionally and physically. A positive reaction toward a negative situation affords us the positive mindset necessary to properly deal with the situations. How we choose to view events directly affects how we react to them. If we choose to see an event as stressful and all-consuming, we will undoubtedly experience precisely those feelings. If we choose to see a situation as a minor setback and something from which we can quickly recover, then we will undoubtedly experience those feelings, as well. "What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve." - The Secret
This is all fine and dandy, but what does all of this have to do with the stressful and overwhelming week I have had and the reason why I wrote this blog? What it has to do with is my perception of the events taking place and my perception of how I will handle them. While I write this blog, I can feel the stress bubbling inside me. I know I have over-extended my time. I know I am worried about the way a few scenarios are going to play out. With all that said, there is also one other thing I emphatically know, and I know without a doubt. There is no scenario possible where alcohol will help the outcome, ever. Knowing that, no matter how bad things may seem, I know they will only get better when I am able to remain present both physically and emotionally while I deal with them. The only way I am able to do that is to continue to refrain from introducing alcohol back into my system.
As time rolls on, so too does the feelings of stress
When I mentioned this to my partner, we both felt a sense of joy and pride in our new outlook on life. There is truly nothing more freeing than the realization we can, in fact, deal with life on our own and free from negative outside influences. While I am still feeling the discomfort accompanying the stress of the week, I am confident in my ability to handle it without leaning on the negative behaviors of my past. As time rolls on, so too does the feelings of stress. By the time I finish writing and editing this blog, I will certainly feel better. Lack of hangovers and intoxication allow me to take small yet productive steps toward combating the origin of the stress. I have learned from experience, it will not be long before I feel well again and ready to continue down my path of achieving goals and living well.
When (sh)It Hits the Fan, get out of the way and turn off the fan. - J.W. Collier.