In my many years as a substance abuse provider, I have had my share of both good and bad experiences. With the bad, I have seen too many people fall short and return to their destructive lives. However, I consider myself very fortunate to have experienced that even during those bad times, the glimpses of positive changes are priceless. And with the good comes the greatest feeling when you are able to see positive transformations and lifestyle changes which impact the individual, their families, and their communities. The interesting thing is that, I have learned some of the most powerful lessons about life through the eyes of the individuals that I treat.
1. Change Shame Into Courage
In addiction, individuals continue to live in their destructive ways because it is familiar, and often are too afraid to take a step into the unfamiliar. Continuing to remain in the familiar only cultivates low self-worth, isolation, failure, and emotional instability. They continue to use drugs or alcohol as a means of dealing with life's issues and do not make any changes because of shame. It is when individuals are able to face their demons, be vulnerable, and have courage will they be able to make positive changes and transform their lives. Dr. Brené Brown has explained in her book I Thought It Was Just Me, that addiction and shame are the same. Shame will make us feel powerless, isolated, and humiliated. It is when an individual is willing to change the shame into courage that recovery is able to happen. Courage moves them forward in their lives to nurture their sobriety.
"I consider my journey in recovery to be one of the greatest gifts of my life." -- Brené Brown
2. Cultivating Compassion
Individuals in their addiction are often egocentric, they only care about themselves, they lack compassion for other's feelings, and they isolate themselves from the world. Compassion is defined as a sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. When an individual begins to accept their flaws and feel compassion for others they will be able to be happier in their life and it also gives them the ability to be grateful. When you are able to help someone it helps you broaden your perspective beyond yourself. Martin Seligman, a pioneer in the psychology of happiness and human flourishing, suggests that connecting with others in a meaningful way promotes improved mental and physical health and speeds recovery.
"One of the secrets of inner peace is the practice of compassion." -- Dalai Lama
3. Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude is an attitude, a positive outlook towards life. It is a reminder of where we have been and provides an opportunity for individuals to reflect on how they have overcome challenges in their lives. In addiction, it is often easy to be fixated on the negative, however, when individuals have an attitude of gratitude it promotes humility, helps individuals maintain their successes and is a reminder of the destruction of their addiction.
"Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings us, but by the attitude that we bring to life." -- Wade Boggs
4. The Power of Humility
Accepting our imperfections, listening to feedback, and keeping an open mind provides us opportunities for humility. Humility is admitting to your wrongdoings, overcoming pride, and asking for help. Pride keeps people in their addiction and often causes relapse.
"Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right." -- Ezra Taft Benson
Although it is very challenging for individuals to make amends and forgive others, it is even more difficult for individuals to forgive themselves. Guilt and shame will often perpetuate negativity and it becomes a vicious cycle, which keeps people in their addiction. When individuals are able to forgive themselves and not dwell on their past, they become empowered, gain a sense of control over their behaviors and they become more accountable.
"Confront the dark parts of yourself and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing." -- August Wilson
Often life's challenges offer us opportunities to sink our feet in fertile ground and get rooted into the potential for incredible growth. It becomes a matter of perspective. What are we willing to see? Just as weeds are sometimes just misunderstood flowers, some of life's thorniest situations yield the most beautiful blossoms. As we move into the New Year, I wish all of you health, peace and the courage to take hold of opportunities for positive growth.