By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Neither situations nor people can be altered by the interference of an outsider. If they are to be altered, that alteration must come from within.” ~Phyllis Bottome
Recovery: Altering the Insides to Present a New Outside
My mother was an excellent seamstress and alterations were something that most people didn’t like to do. She did. Taking a garment that was slightly too big or small and then custom fitting it to the new shape pleased her as much as creating something from scratch.It’s like that for us; some of those pieces of our old lives just don’t fit us anymore. We need to get rid of the people, places, and things from our addiction that might harm us today. We don’t have to include them in our new life in recovery.
Those character defects we used with complete abandon in our addiction, well, we can cut them out or at least not use them anymore. Those admirable qualities that we didn’t use much in our addiction, now command more attention, so we use them.
The concept of altering or modifying something is just another blessing of recovery. It’s the freedom of choice, something that was lacking in our addiction. This ability to choose allows us to change our old behaviors, attitudes, and actions and begin the process of inner recovery.
Altering One Aspect
I think about all the character defects and negative aspects I operated from in my addiction and I’m surprised that anyone had anything to do with me. I was self-centered in the extreme, arrogant in that I would not listen to the caring advice of family and friends, I justified all of my actions and if I didn’t get the outcomes I wanted from manipulation, I blamed others for my lot in life and felt sorry for myself. When I entered treatment in 1988, I was not certain that I could give up drugs and alcohol and be successful in my recovery.
A caring counselor said to me, “Can you not use today and make an effort to change one aspect of yourself?”
One Simple Alteration Each Day
I decided that I could make and honor that small commitment. We discussed what one negative aspect I would work on that day. I knew there were people in my group that were struggling with their written assignments, so I volunteered to read with them, and help them by writing their answers to some questions. It was a small gesture on my part, but for those who had difficulty reading and writing, I could tell that they were appreciative.
When we had a large group that first night, two people cried when they talked about me helping them. One talked about the fact that I had not belittled them because they couldn’t read and write well. I realized by helping them, I was truly helping me get out of myself. In showing some compassion, I was less self-centered.
Granted, not everyone has a counselor that can direct them early in their recovery, but the idea of examining our self-serving and self-centered actions is something that anyone can and should do in their early recovery.In changing that one aspect that day, I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride – two feelings that were sorely lacking in my addiction. Over the years, I’ve tried to continue using that simple concept from early treatment: