I Know What the Future Holds If I Keep Using
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could travel into the future, see where you messed up, and then go back in time to rearrange things to make your future better? You can. If you can foresee regret, you can mind travel to the future. If you can train yourself to mind travel effectively, you can intentionally affect your future by doing something about it today.” ~Richie Norton
In my addiction, projecting outcomes into the future meant that the observations would be a mirror image of my past – failed promises, missed opportunities, near-death experiences, and yes, regrets.
My future wouldn’t change unless I did.
I didn’t know how to stop using or change myself, my behaviors, or the outcomes.
When I entered treatment in 1988, one of the first questions my counselor asked me was, “What do you regret the most in your addiction?” My responses centered on my family relationships and the consequences of my addiction to our relationships. I felt ashamed and guilty about my behaviors; how I had used friends and family, neglected my children, missed opportunities, and squandered resources.
When We Don’t Use, We Can Act Differently
Her follow-up question was, “If you were not using, would you know how to behave differently?”
I thought about that and said that parents, teachers, and friends had taught me right from wrong. Therefore, I knew what to do, yet part of me was afraid that I wouldn’t act differently. I told her that I had acted from self-serving, self-defeating, and self-centered behaviors for so long that they were the natural way to behave, and I was afraid of change and afraid I wouldn’t be able to change.
Recovery: Examining the Behaviors
She asked me to set aside my fears for a moment and weigh my guilt versus my fear. When I did this, I discovered that the guilt outweighed the fear. Since I did not like feeling guilty, I decided that changing my comfortable self-defeating ways might offer me some relief and create a safeguard against relapse.
Rather than a future picture of remorse and regret, I saw that I could look at and change my behaviors and couple that with my commitment to remain abstinent.
If I made changes, I could see that there were opportunities for a different future, and frankly, I was tired of missing opportunities. Click To Tweet
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Being in treatment meant discussions of all of my shortcomings, self-defeating behaviors, and self-centered actions. I felt vulnerable, looking at my past. Part of that vulnerability was that I would have to be responsible for my actions that had nothing to do with my use.
These evaluations also exposed my better qualities. I realized that I could choose how to act, think, and feel. I could cherry-pick the behaviors I would leave treatment with, almost like going to the beauty shop with long unkempt hair and leaving with a perky new short do.
Several of the men in my group kidded me that they could not relate to that example, so we created before and after examples for them.
The point was that we were adopting an attitude of welcoming the opportunity to create a different picture for our future. We knew we would have to adjust to the new behaviors, or as one of the men put it, he would probably grind gears while he adapted to a new transmission.
We, women, kidded him that we could not relate to that one.
Imagine Your Qualities and Use Them
However, we all imagined:
- What behaviors would be beneficial to our recovery
- How we could overcome our fear of change
- What positive outcomes we could experience
- A better and different future
I’ve celebrated thirty-two years of abstinence-based recovery, yet the process of overcoming fears, changing, and creating a different future is still the same. I firmly believe that:
- Recovery offers me opportunities.
- My future depends on today’s actions, thoughts, and feelings.
- I would face a different and bleak future if I relapsed.
Face Your Fears and Trust that The Future Will Be Different
Instead of giving into fears and self-doubt, take this opportunity to face your fears. You may still sit on the fence and be afraid to choose recovery over addiction. There will always be some hesitation about what behaviors to adopt.
But when you learn what to change and how to change, it’s less scary.
However, none of us made changes without the support, guidance, and understanding of others who had already changed their future.
Writing and recovery heal the heart.