from addict 2 advocate

Just When You Thought You Were Unique

By: C.W. Stratton MS, CASAC
 
“Just remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everybody else.” ~Margaret Mead
  

from addict 2 advocate
The Beginning of the End of Unique Thinking

Reflecting on the recovery process and my interactions with hundreds of people over the years has allowed me to come to some simple conclusions.  We come into the process with a set of beliefs and ideas about ourselves and others involved in the recovery community. Consulting with others about their initial thoughts and feelings when entering into the recovery process, I realized that my negative self-talk was just like theirs. As a result, the following were thoughts that remained in my mind:
  • You don’t belong here.
  • You are better than these people.
  • There is no way you’ll connect with anyone here.
  • Don’t raise your hand because they don’t care about what you have to say.
  • Be quiet because you’ll sound stupid.
  • They can’t help you because they don’t know you.
  • You’re much smarter than this.
  • I don’t need help. 
  • Those people do crazy things.
  • These people can’t help me.
  • They don’t understand my situation.
  • What’s the use?
  • They’re not where I’m from, how can they understand?
  • They can’t be as bad as I am.
  • There’s no hope.
  • I’ll never see my children again so I may as well keep using.

You Mean I’m Not the Only One?

The negative self-talk was quite damaging as I look back on it.  With an assessment of myself and those within my network who battled addiction, these thoughts were more common than I acknowledged. However, when I first got into recovery,  I thought I was the only one who thought along those lines, but I found others who admitted that they thought as I did. While they seem foolish now, I firmly believed the following about myself and others in early recovery: Many of us, including myself, have heard or even conveyed these messages to ourselves at some point during our recovery.

Think about the first day we entered a self-help meeting or even a treatment setting.  Some of us were full of doubt and suspicions about the experience even before we entered the room.  We flooded our minds with all kinds of negative thoughts and messages.  However, deep down we knew that we needed to do something about our current circumstances because it would, if not already, result in some significant losses in our lives.  During active addiction, many of us verbalized how much we loved our families, jobs, homes, spouse, and children, but our behaviors consistently dictated otherwise.  In identifying this we can clearly see how cunning, baffling, and powerful addiction is. 

Unique Messages

We created barriers right from the start.  These obstacles prevented some of us from fully embracing the opportunity to resolve many of the issues we were experiencing.  Although we came into recovery with these preconceived ideas, many of us eventually grasped the concept of recovery.

However, some of my ideas were more ingrained than I realized. It wasn’t just about the shame and guilt regarding my addiction, some of it came from my environment and those I associated with, those people who imprinted beliefs on me.  The mottoes were:

  • Be strong.
  • Don’t tell people your problems because they don’t really care anyway.
  • It’s mind-over-matter.
  • Never talk about what goes on in your home or with your family.

Very early in my recovery, there were many difficulties with allowing people in and letting people know who I was.  It was as if I wanted to keep myself secret.  However, we know that we are as sick as our secrets. 

Finding Common Ground

For some time, my goal was to find out why I maintained those thoughts for so long.  I began to dig deep and became gut-level honest with myself.  My active addiction allowed me to transform into someone else because I was unhappy with who I was.  I kept many masks available depending on the situation.  Some days I wore the mask of the leader, the educated person, the overachiever, and the tough guy to name a few.  The conclusion over the years was quite simple to me after doing the inventory.   The realization was that I covered up many of the true feelings within, and tried to numb the unwanted feelings. When I was honest, I knew I felt:
 
  • Afraid
  • Ashamed
  • Envious
  • Guilty    
  • Inadequate
  • Insecure

Identifying many of the negative thoughts and feelings is the first crucial step.  Doing the work to relieve yourself of the negative self-talk takes time and sincere effort.  Although it is frightening to uncover our distorted messages, once we do, we obtain a sense of freedom from those damaging messages.  We begin to replace those self-defeating messages with positive affirmations.

Examples of Positive Affirmations

The recovery process has granted me and many others the opportunity to grow into individuals that we may have been desperately seeking to become for most of our lives.  We no longer have to live in secret or a vacuum as we have.  Just when we thought we were alone about our thinking and feelings, we soon realized that we are not alone.  The basic concepts of recovery have such an enormous impact on our lives. here are some affirmations that helped me heal. 

  • I’m a worthwhile person.
  • My life matters.
  • I am capable of doing anything that I put my efforts towards.
  • I can succeed in this world.
  • I have a voice.
  • I have the courage to let go of control.
  • I am surrounded by caring people.
  • I have the courage to be open to new opportunities.
  • I am not alone.
  • I give myself permission to change.
 
 
The one that stands out most today is, “focus on our similarities, not our differences.” 

 We’re All Uniquely the Same

The process of recovery works when the similarities are our focus. We have come together for a common cause, and that’s what keeps us connected, caring and supporting each other.  So, when you are feeling that you are experiencing a UNIQUE feeling, thought or circumstance, there is someone who has gone through the same dilemma.  We are not as unique as we sometimes lead ourselves to believe.  Especially, when it comes to addiction.


 
 

 

 Writing, and recovery heals the heart

 

 
 
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