By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. Life would undergo a change of appearance because we ourselves had undergone a change of attitude.” ― Katherine Mansfield
Initial Heightened Relief
Many people experience a heightened sense of relief when they first get into recovery. They are unnaturally grateful for being arrested, kicked out of the house, destroying a marriage, or losing their job. However, this heightened gratitude tends to be an emotional response that most people cannot sustain for more than three to six months.
Many people refer to these heightened positive emotions in early recovery as a “pink cloud”. William James wrote in The Varieties Of Religious Experience: A Study In Human Nature that there were four aspects of a mystical experience.
- Ineffability: meaning they don’t easily express in mere words
- Noetic quality: meaning they give depth of understanding previously not had
- Transiency: meaning they are short-lived, but with lasting effects
- Passivity: meaning they just occur
While there are certainly many positive emotions experienced in early recovery, the transience of these emotions makes it impossible to sustain them consistently.
What Happened to Your Attitude of Gratitude?
For some of us, the positive attitude and level of commitment begin to wane or lessen after withdrawal has subsided. The immediate consequences got our attention, but now we realize:
- Our families aren’t as upset with us.
- We aren’t going to jail.
- We’re starting to feel better physically.
Some people feel relieved that they are out of the vicious cycle of addiction:
- Where will I find drugs?
- How will I pay for them?
- Can I use and not get caught?
Unfortunately, this first relief, enthusiasm, and gratitude wanes if we are not making other changes, seeing favorable outcomes of our changes, and finding value in being in recovery. Instead of remaining grateful though, we get angry that people are suggesting that we give up friends who still use; give us directions for changes, and expect us to be happy, joyous and free.
Other times, we get complacent and think we’ve done enough. Some of us start resenting the people who are trying to help us. Rather than hearing their stories of change and awareness, we start filtering what they are saying as a lecture on how great they are and how we’re less than them.
We see a decline in our attitude and commitment to our recovery.
What Do Attitude and Commitment Mean?
Just what is an attitude or commitment? We usually throw out that a person has a bad attitude or that people are afraid of commitment, but beyond these pat sayings what are we talking about when we use these words? So that we are clear, here are the definitions.
- Attitude is the feeling or opinion that we have about a person, object, or situation. A settled way of thinking or feeling typically reflected in a person’s behavior.
In other words, what you think and feel about something or someone and how you show this attitude. Pessimism typically breeds unhappiness; optimism gives hope. Only you can decide which attitude to have, and you do have a choice in your attitude and level of commitment to your recovery.
- Commitment is a state of intellectual and emotional attachment to a particular action, practice, or person. It is your dedication and application of your attachment to something or someone.
When you commit to something, you are making a promise to do or not to do something. When you commit to someone, you pledge to him or her also. When you make a commitment, you are pledging to do or not do something.
Interested? But Are You Following Through?
“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses – only results.” ― Kenneth H. Blanchard
We all know people who discuss how interested they are in something. They’re going to get to it, planning to take part in it, try it, or will get to it next week. Interest wanes if you are not willing to put in the effort, or something new comes along, and you decide that’s more interesting.
Then we all know people who are doing it, whatever that may be. Big difference.
And that’s why attitude and commitment play such an important factor in our recovery.
Good Attitudes Are Not Always Grins and Giggles
Having a positive attitude towards your recovery and making a commitment to your recovery are both vital to the process. Some people think that having a positive attitude means that you have to like what is happening to you at this point.
The reality is that most people, who are successful in their recovery, would tell you that they felt scared and distrustful when they first got into recovery but were willing to cooperate to change their lives.
No one wants to see false grins and giggles, but an interest in making your life better, and acknowledging that you need some help to carry that out. A positive attitude is as much about being optimistic and hopeful as it is cheerful.
For The Recovery Process to Work
“Being grateful does not mean that everything is necessarily good. It just means that you can accept it as a gift.” ― Roy T. Bennett
When you have a positive attitude and commitment to recover, there are other aspects that will help you carry out your goal of recovery:
- Actions that Promote Change
When you entered into the program or called inquiring about help, your attitude and commitment was important. You probably had a positive attitude—perhaps scared, but willing to make an effort. You may even have stated that you would do “anything” to become and stay clean.
People will not ask you to do anything counterproductive to your recovery; however, they may ask you to do something that you have never tried before. They might ask you to:
- Write about your past life
- Examine your old belief systems
- Identify your self-defeating behaviors
- Recognize your strengths, talents, and limitations
- Change aspects of yourself that cause you problems
You may not like this advice. However, if you are going to change, you have to find those things that create barriers for you. You cannot expect your future to be different from your present if you do not review the past and make changes.
Who Gives Faulty Directions?
You will need to look at your attitude and commitment when you get directions or suggestions from others about how to recover. For example, repeatedly arguing about whether something has value before you complete the assignment is both arrogant and foolish.
If you have never done anything, you have no reason for the argument. You do not know the outcome as you have never even tried the directions.
Please try what has worked for countless others before you decide whether something will work for you or whether something is “stupid” or wrong.
If you think about this logically, why would someone give you directions or solutions that did not have a history of working for others? Providers of treatment, families, judges, sponsors, accountability partners and others in recovery all have reputations. Do you think that any of them wants the reputation as the ones that give “stupid assignments” or directions? How much sense would it make to give inadequate explanations or directions? Yes, they will make some mistakes in giving directions, sometimes because you did not give them all the facts about the situation. In general, they are not going to give directions that will make them look inadequate, or directions that they do not think will help to improve your life.
Therefore, your attitude about what people suggest for you do to change your life needs to be as positive as it can be. Even if your attitude is one of questioning how a suggestion or solution might help your situation, do them and then assess the results. You may be genuinely surprised at the outcomes for you.
Attitude and Commitment: They Are Ongoing
“A positive attitude leads to a positive action, which then yields a positive result. That’s how the cycle always goes. Nothing seems to be too difficult for people blessed with positive mindsets.” ― Kevin J. Donaldson
Early recovery is not the only time that an individual’s attitude and commitment to their recovery becomes the focus; some people become complacent or unconcerned later in their recovery.
If this happens to you, recommit to remaining chemically free and find that positive attitude again. To have and enjoy long-term recovery, a positive attitude along with an authentic commitment to recovery should give you better outcomes.
Do I Have To Like What Is Happening To Me?
You may have become angry that you have to be in treatment or attend Recovery Support meetings or gotten complacent or self-righteous now that your initial situation has changed. Or you’re simply afraid of acknowledging all the damage that you did in your addiction
Some people think that having a positive attitude means that you have to like what is happening to you at this point. Pretending to be happy, joyous and free is often a mask to hide our real attitudes about a situation.
Unfortunately, boredom, irritability at hearing the same words of wisdom, or becoming hostile or indifferent to their new life in recovery becomes the norm for some people at about four to six months.
Without sustaining a positive attitude, working on yourself by changing, and making a commitment to lifelong recovery, you are not likely to see favorable outcomes beyond your first ones.
Most people in recovery themselves would tell you that they felt scared, guilty, angry with themselves or systems, and distrustful when they first got into recovery but were willing to cooperate to change their lives. A positive attitude is as much about being optimistic and hopeful as it is cheerful.
Recovery gives us the freedom to choose what attitudes we have and the ability to follow through on our commitments. You need an attitude of open-mindedness, willingness, and interest. Learning about spiritual principles and admirable qualities means that you have added choices in how to process the situations in your life.
You show your commitment when you follow through with suggestions, solutions, or directions given to you by other people or through your efforts at learning new behaviors. These attitudes will help you be open to hearing solutions, suggestions, and directions that might improve your life. These suggestions will often mean that you have to change something about yourself in the process.
New Outcomes Start with a New Attitude
Although many people become fearful when they have to change, if you overcome your fears about change, you may discover that you like the outcomes of the actions. Getting new outcomes encourages us to keep making changes. This willingness to follow through on suggestions and directions shows your positive, hopeful attitude. It will also lessen the threats of relapse. It is possible to experience relief when someone or some information, gives you, the hope of a renewed life.
To have and enjoy long-term recovery, a positive attitude, an authentic commitment to remaining chemically free and making changes must become a life decision. When you find yourself bored, reflect on how chaotic your life was in your addiction – that may change your attitude and commitment.
Begin Each Day with Contemplation; Find One Moment of Jo
It is easier to stay in recovery than it is to risk not being able to start over from a relapse and that starts with attitude and commitment. Each day, we have a choice in recovery that we did not have in our use; we can decide what our attitude will be. We do not have to be driven by our addiction, but from the optimistic perspective of change in recovery.
Try reflecting on these four things each morning:
- Value how far you have come in your recovery
- Think about all the blessings of your new life in recovery
- Decide to Renew your commitment to your recovery for that day
- Share your experiences and find support from others as well
Then embrace the freedom that you’ve found in recovery.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart