Sobriety is not a magic wand. Unfortunately some of us thought that it was when we came into the program. While we were active we faced a myriad of problems often the result of our own doing. We were so excited when we entered the program. We really thought that it would be smooth sailing now that we gave up our drug of choice. No doubt things were better. Many of the situations caused by our addiction no longer took place. However, to our dismay there were many other challenges in our lives that now occurred totally unrelated to alcohol, food or drugs. We embarked on new challenges and sometimes met failure. Of course while we were active, we had encountered failures as well. We thought we could chalk these up to our addiction. Now, we were still encountering failure, and could no longer blame a substance as the cause. Listening in meetings to other people share we gained new perspectives on these failures. One of them was that failure kept us humble. In the past, part of our modus operandi was to be arrogant and full of pride. Usually this was bravado or our denial of what was really happening. In sobriety, failures acted as a reality check for us. We were not perfect and would continue to make mistakes and fail sometimes. What was also now different is that we got up, dusted ourselves off and moved forward.
Personal Reflection: How do I deal with failure?
During our drinking or using career, we experienced many disappointments and failures. We invariably railed against the people or organizations who had “caused” our problems. It was always because of someone or something else. During that time period, we did not have the capacity to accept any type of personal responsibility. We were the victims of all the perpetrators in the world. If we had only gotten a break we thought, we would have soared forward.
In sobriety we started to learn about personal responsibility. We began to move away from that victim mentality. In reviewing our past we acknowledged that many of our failures were of our own cause. We were also able to admit our role in failures that occurred in sobriety as well. Then we began to encounter an interesting phenomenon. We seemed to do everything right, and still didn’t get the job, the raise, the date or the loan. We racked our brains and couldn’t figure out what we had done wrong. With time we came to understood that we had done nothing wrong. It was just another life lesson of emotional sobriety. We could do everything right,and still not achieve what we wanted. The universe was just choosing not to satisfy our want in that moment; but was meeting the need of someone else. We were able to let go of our attachment because we knew that our Higher Power would provide for us in the future.
Personal Reflection: Am I still attempting to open the wrong doors?
Early on in sobriety we began to work the steps. Often our sponsors had us read from The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. It didn’t matter if another substance was our drug of choice. The wisdom of the Twelve and Twelve was universal. Most of us went through the steps in the first year or two. Sometimes however a person would spend years on a particular step and be unable to move forward. When questioned, they would often claim that they were stuck because “it wasn’t good enough” or “not complete”. Part of the problem was that their perfectionism and fear of failure had carried over from their days when they were active in their addiction. In the past, they had exhibited the same type of behavior. They had often avoided challenges because of their fear of failure. If they did finally push themselves to take a risk, and they failed, they would fall into depression or turn to their drug of choice. In sobriety, we have learned that we can drop our perfectionism. That when we do take a risk and fail, there are many other options open to us. And as far as the steps are concerned; they need not be perfect. We will make the necessary changes the next time around when we do them again.
Personal Reflection: How do I react to failure?
In sobriety we’ve learned to walk the middle road. It wasn’t always that way. In the past, we were practitioners of extremes. When we failed at something, we would immediately give up. We were the ones who after repeatedly falling down learning how to ski, walked down the mountain and spent the rest of the weekend in the ski lodge. When asked about it, we made up an excuse. We were too embarrassed to admit that we were less than perfect. As a result of this attitude, we missed out on a lot that life had to offer.
We often treated success in the same way in that we had unrealistic expectations. When we achieved success at something we basked in the glow of that success. Unfortunately, it was a bitter pill for us to swallow that these feelings were transitory. With the fading of the success, we often reacted with anger, resentment or depression. Just as we were finally having a good time, it was snatched away from us.
Today, our lives are much more in balance. We are open to trying new things, even when there is a steep learning curve. We are also blessed with many successes. We enjoy them for what they are, and let go when it is time to move on. For we know they will visit us again.
Personal Reflection: How do I react to failure and success?