By: Craig W. Stratton MS, CASAC
“Life is a juggling act that sometimes requires that you drop everything.” ~Linda Poindexter
How Many Responsibilities are You Juggling?
Life is full of transformative experiences. Many of us may not realize this, but even at this very moment, as you read this, the beginning of a transformative experience is occurring. We have experiences in our lives where we are not fully present or totally involved. Living in our modern society where rushing is the norm; many of us need to be Master Jugglers. We think the more responsibilities we juggle, the more important and accomplished we are.
Unfortunately, we end up trapping ourselves when we only judge our worth by our responsibilities.
In recovery, we must take a healthy risk by stepping away from these things, for a moment, to see what we are actually doing. Others can see us juggling and they may applaud us, or even go as far as throwing something more into the mix to see if we can continue juggling. We become so excited by the applause and cheers, about how good of a job we’re doing, many of us are incapable of saying “enough” or “it’s too much.”
When We Feel Overwhelmed
In many instances we don’t talk about the overwhelmed feelings because we are fearful of letting others down or we may feel if we were to stop juggling, everything would “fall” apart or we’re afraid that we’ll return to the destructive behaviors we have worked so hard to stop. Remember that in recovery, the promise is “freedom”.
In this sense, we define freedom as the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. Typically, we equate being imprisoned or enslaved to active addiction. Now that we’ve made a conscious decision to be a part of the recovery process, our continued efforts should also show other ways in which we imprison ourselves.
When You Juggle, It’s Hard to See Anything Else
Going back to the analogy of the “juggler”, he/she seems poised and focused on the task at hand, even as spectators throw more objects for them to continue juggling, still, the person is locked-in, and experiences, “myopia”.
This is a term usually referenced medically; on the eye. In this case, it’s the lack of foresight or imagination. Meaning, we don’t see anything beyond what’s in front of us, just like the juggler.
Juggling and Busy Are Not Recovery
Dangers can arise if we continue this process in our lives, using it as a way to protect us from returning to old behaviors. You know the thinking, “If I stay busy, I’m good” or “I don’t have time to think about using or not.”
These are the messages we convey to us that can inevitably have a negative impact on our recovery.
Staying busy doesn’t equal recovery, just like treading water doesn’t mean you’re swimming.
We feel we are in a safe zone when we have many responsibilities that we hope will distract us from the real fears that exist within us. We juggle things, people, responsibilities, and our recovery to feel productive, like:
- Job (s); some of us work multiple jobs.
- Being a wife or husband
- The voice of reason for friends who are struggling
- Going to meetings
- Personal recovery
These are just a few. In many cases, we are trying to juggle them all at once. This seems like a heavy load to carry, but we feel this is essential to our continued efforts to stay clean/sober. We can juggle all these things for a time, but we will have those moments when we are alone and realize we have a lot on our hands.
However, we wouldn’t dare say this to anyone because we have become so attached to the responsibilities that it begins to define us and our recovery. We have moved further away from the freedom that we seek.
Mixing Up and Juggling our Perspectives
Stepping away for a moment is essential to obtaining a better perspective on our lives and on our recovery. Acknowledging the need for reflection in our lives can bring about a transformative experience. Speaking to people who have multiple jobs has always been interesting. When I’ve asked if they need to do extra work for financial reasons, many have stated that they just enjoy work.
Is it actually a joy to work 12-16 hours a day and not leave time for self-care?
Eventually, they go back to the statement, “I like to stay busy”. This isn’t to say that every person who works multiple jobs in addition to other responsibilities will fall short in their recovery, this is about awareness and being honest with ourselves about who the Master Juggler really is.
Me Time and Letting Go
“Letting Go” has been a statement used in the recovery process. We try to leave the other person or situation and allow them to experience what they must. It’s true when we try to juggle too much, as well. Sometimes we have to let something fall to gain something greater. Me Time is a significant tool to use in our recovery. The transformation occurs when we get the courage to “let go” of the thing that has burdened us and not allow us to grow in the recovery process.
We may not know exactly what that thing is, but we must, once again, step away to see our circumstances clearly to fully embrace the transformative experience. The experience is enlightening and it even takes a huge weight from upon us. It’s like the “Ah ha” moment. This isn’t something to fear, it’s something to embrace. When we do this, we will truly begin the path to Freedom.
Juggle One Thing and Day at a Time
Most jugglers begin with a couple of things to see if they can handle it, or to get a rhythm to keep going. Over time, the juggler adds items, after they feel they have mastered the first things.
As recovering people, we tend to take the opposite approach by beginning with the most difficult. As a result, a number of things occur:
1.Things are taken away from us (not by choice).
2. We lose certain responsibilities due to neglecting them.
3.We burn out and just give up.
4.We become too overwhelmed and drop everything.
5. We say “what’s the use” and return to the destructive behaviors.
A true Master Juggler knows how many objects they can effectively keep in the air, and then catch. We have to have the same awareness in our recovery. What can we reasonably carry out on any given day?
Just because the other juggler has eight items in the air, doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
It’s like the old saying; what got me clean, may get you high. An important aspect of the transformative experience is to acknowledge what you can handle and embrace it. This is not a competition or a race, our goal is to live life to the fullest and experience with every fiber of our being.
One Day At A Time. For us Master Jugglers, One Object At A Time.
DON’T USE, NO MATTER WHAT!
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
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