“If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” – Clint Eastwood
This evening we’re celebrating my granddaughter’s seventh birthday. It will be a small family gathering at an outdoor amphitheater performance of Beauty and the Beast. It looks to be a hot and humid summer evening. I’m anticipating the family fun and pleasant moments as much as my grandchildren (maybe more). We checked the weather, no rain is predicted until later tonight – after midnight, but one never knows for sure. We live in an uncertain world.
That’s the way it is with picnics, weather, people, relationships, politics, the economy, and your job. Many things are uncertain, unpredictable, and come with no guarantees. These uncertainties cause worry, doubt and insecurity.
Uncertainty in life causes a ripple effect of insecurity and sometimes feelings of inadequacy. The way doubt and fear too often cascade into emotional calamity is worth talking about. For example, in 2009 I traveled with my daughter and niece to South Africa to speak at a conference. Our flight from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Atlanta, Georgia was delayed causing us to miss the only flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa. We found a hotel near the airport in Atlanta and planned to catch the next scheduled flight 24 hours later. That evening we walked to dinner at a restaurant and stopped to pick up a couple of things at a convenience store. After purchasing our items and exiting the store, I realized I didn’t have my wallet. In an almost instant panic, we returned to search for it. Frantically, I asked the clerk, thinking I left it on the counter on the patron side of the glass and barred divider that protected her. She said she hadn’t seen it.
Fearing the Worst
Let me explain the seriousness of not having my wallet. I was carrying, in my wallet, all three passports, all the airline tickets, all contact information, $800 cash, and my credit cards. Without my wallet – I had nothing. My point is, this loss triggered an avalanche of insecurity, doubt, and cascading negative thoughts. “Why wasn’t I more careful; how will I replace the tickets; what about the passports?”
Living in an uncertain world is difficult enough – yet this often leads to distorted, exaggerated, and inaccurate thoughts which can make almost any bad situation, worse. “I can’t do anything right, the trip is ruined, I let everyone down.”
I returned and searched the store once again. Nothing! I left the store and walked 20 yards, upset, muttering self-deprecating remarks, when I glanced down toward my shopping bag and opened it. There inside, I found my wallet that I had hastily stuffed in the bag with my purchases.
Making it Worse
Being unsure, losing something, and experiencing anxious moments can be threatening to your recovery. Stressful situations like the loss of my wallet, are made worse by our perception of the problem. We have a choice to make in the way we think about a difficulty. Too often, we exaggerate the problem, distort reality, and overstate our fear and worry. Our misperception of the situation drives our negative emotional reaction. We become too quickly overwhelmed, frustrated, and irritated. We see a difficult situation as impossible, view an inconvenience as a major disruption, and perceive an unknowable doubt as a fact.
Making it Better
You cannot prevent every negative situation or manage every difficult circumstance, but you can change the way you think about it. Focus your attention on what you have, not what you have lost, on where you are going, not where you’ve been, and who you can become, not who you use to be. Your sobriety and recovery are strengthened, not by the situations you face, but by the way you control your attitude and manage your disposition as you face them.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!