Do you ever have difficult weeks where every walk seems uphill, every stroke of the paddle is upstream, and every ride is against the wind? I’m not much for complaining; it’s sort of embarrassing for me. I’m more likely to keep it to myself and quietly move forward. For me, it has been a week where my friendship wasn’t accepted, my motives misinterpreted, I didn’t get all my reports written, my friends bickered among themselves, my goldfish died, and I got caught in the rain. I’m just kidding about my goldfish, but you get my point.
Working to be Better not Bitter
In the treatment centers that I’m part of, the difficulties we regularly see include: people leaving treatment early, funding setbacks for a client, and finding out someone who was recently discharged has relapsed. These things and other hardships, struggles, and difficulties are inevitable, yet may feel like they are grinding against you in a way that threatens to defeat you. I believe this grinding can shape us into something better, rather than wear us down into nothing. Here are some guiding principles that have helped me live above my circumstances.
1. What happens in me is more important than what happens to me.
I focus on my character and not just successful performance. I try to get my eyes off of the immediate situation and the negative circumstances. My goal in any and every circumstance is to be kind, patient, and understanding. I don’t want to focus on the things that lie outside of my control, but instead, I focus on the things I can control like my attitude, disposition, and character.
2. The noise outside of me is best managed through the quietness within me.
I sometimes wish people would hand me situations where I would never be anxious, insecure, or unsure. Also, if they could create a world where I would never be frustrated, irritated, or upset, I would be happy. And likewise, if there were no scenarios that made me feel sad, disappointed, despairing or depressed I would be grateful. The truth is I am unable to control the entire world, reduce the chaos, decrease the stream of constant disturbances, or eliminate the noise of the outside world. The good news is I can choose to quiet myself instead. If my inner peace is only found when there are no storms or challenging things in my life, I would be in trouble; peace needs to be found in the midst of difficult things. And in this case, finding agreement and living in peace is better than winning a war.
3. My story isn’t over; the best chapter is yet to be written.
My positive nature allows me to take what happened and accept it as it is. I can do this knowing that tomorrow is another day, I’ll have more opportunities, and even through difficulty I am making progress. Focusing on my character, as mentioned above, keeps me from judging my life and happiness by circumstances only. I know that the future is bright and that even in the darkest night I am confident that morning is coming. I refuse to let dreary days or stormy nights dampen my mood. Instead, because my mood, attitude, and disposition are linked to my character, they can stay steady even when circumstances rise and fall.
4. I choose to celebrate my successes, and learn from my mistakes.
Perhaps you think that because I’m positive, I never make mistakes. That is, of course, not true. The point here is that I choose to focus on what goes right, not what goes wrong. I focus on my abilities and not on my limitations. Also, as I stated earlier, my goal is not perfect performance, my goal is positive character and an optimistic attitude. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow. This is not to say that I enjoy this process; but I have learned to appreciate growth in character and attitude. I have learned to enjoy life as it comes.
5. My strength is best demonstrated when I lift others up.
This helps me live above my circumstances because I am not focused only on myself. I desire to assist someone else in overcoming their struggles rather than solely concentrating on my own. If you compete against someone, especially if you are trying to tarnish them in some way, it only serves to demonstrate weakness, inferiority, and inadequacy. Instead, I can encourage, support, and build others up whether traffic is slow, the economy is down, or there is another storm on the horizon.
Being Peaceful Despite the Storm
Living above my circumstances allows me to live in peace, and not be upset by every wave of negativity that spills upon my shoes. For those of you who work or live with substance use disorders, this can be an essential trait, a skill to be honed. When things don’t go right for me, I will be okay because I am the one who chooses how I will respond. Even during the darkest night, I’m going to be standing strong and confidently waiting for the sunrise I know is coming.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!