What Does It Mean to ‘Look at Yourself’ in Recovery?


By: Marilyn L. Davis

If I Look, I Won’t Find Anything Good

from Addict 2 advocate What Does It Mean to 'Look at Yourself' in Recovery? marilyn l davisPeople in my recovery support meetings said I had to look at myself when that was the last thing I wanted to do. I disliked what I saw in a mirror, let alone go within to discover that I was like the Picture of Dorian Gray, presenting favorably to the world, but full of self-serving, self-centered, unhealthy characteristics inside.
It was difficult to face, that much like Dorian, I had sold my soul to my addiction. There didn’t seem to be any redeeming qualities in my life, so I was sure I’d only find more negativity. Because of those limited beliefs, I chose, for a time, not to look at myself. 
At about 10 months in recovery, I met Gray Hawk, a Native American, with 34 years in recovery. This meeting would change my life forever.  One of the first things he told me was, “What you did in your past was right, proper, and justifiable then, because that was all you knew to do. However, recovery will mean that you cannot use those excuses anymore; it will teach you better ways.”

People Look at Us from Their Perspective

from addict 2 advocate marilyn l davis What Does It Mean to 'Look at Yourself' in Recovery?Often the people around us will point out a negative aspect of us. We might come across as arrogant, rude, judgmental, complacent, or a host of other unhealthy characteristics. We often find these qualities embarrassing and don’t want to acknowledge them.  
When someone asks us to look at some aspect that we find objectionable, we often become defensive, angry, embarrassed, or impolite.  If we’re embarrassed or defensive enough, we might even become hostile to them when they point out our shortcomings.
This hostility is a clue.  The immediate question we need to ask,  is, “What am I defending?” __
Our defensiveness or hostility might be our ego surfacing, or we think that someone may shatter our illusions of what we’ve projected to people all these years, or we still judge particular aspects of our behavior as so “bad” that we absolutely refuse to acknowledge that they are part of us. 
Becoming defensive, argumentative, and combative, will not allow you to look at anything. Part of the responsibility of other people in recovery, is to pass along what’s worked for them. They are seldom judging, although it may feel like they are. If we listen closely, we’ll often hear them talking about the negative aspects they found in themselves and can see it in someone else. 

Criticism And Compliments: Both Helpful

from addict 2 advocate What Does It Mean to 'Look at Yourself' in Recovery? marilyn l davis
Notice that you are usually eager to hear the statements that you judge as compliments.  You like to hear praise for some aspect of yourself.  You swell with pride, you feel stroked, and you think you have made some progress in changing. We don’t take offense when they give us compliments because they can see them, also, but let them seem critical, and we’re irritated.
These people can help you see where you’re denying, justifying, or minimizing. They realize that they will also be, or have been, in a place at some point where someone asked them to look at something that they too might have judged as objectionable.
The reality is that when you learn to take both “criticism and compliments” as mere comments on aspects of yourself to look at; you will have made great strides in seeing yourself from multiple perspectives. There has been much written about our blindsides.  One reference is the side away, from which one is directing one’s attention.  There are times that we would prefer that everyone in the room had their attention directed somewhere other than at us! 

Look at Yourself and then Change What You Don’t Like


When you look at the negative aspects and accept that they were a part of your thoughts, feelings, and actions in your addiction, you can decide if you still want to use them, or adopt Spiritual Principles. One way to make this decision easier is to assess your outcomes.
Say you manipulate people. Are you losing family and friends due to this behavior? If you can answer that you honestly want to change this behavior because you don’t like the costs, then you can learn to accept, “No, I can’t do that now”, from family and friends, and still keep their support. Isn’t that better than manipulating to get them to do something for you?

Better Qualities are Within You

You might be surprised that admirable qualities and positive aspects are within you. While we seldom used them in our addiction, they are present nonetheless, we just have to look within to find them.

from addict 2 advocate marilyn l davis What Does It Mean to 'Look at Yourself' in Recovery?___

When you find them, try using them and see if you don’t find yourself smiling when you look in the mirror.

Writing, and recovery heals the heart

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