By: Marilyn L. Davis
“… It’s why we have this second chance, and we can’t throw it away. Besides, you were the one who said we’re not exactly the same as we were back then. If we’re not the same, then things can turn out differently.” ― Michelle Madow
This Feels Familiar
But, like the adolescent who has to give up childish things, I was going to have to make significant changes and make better choices. While there were doors ready to open, I needed guidance on which to choose.
Recognizing that if I continued to make poor choices, relapse, or revert to old behaviors, my outcomes would also continue to be negative. My mentor told me that if I found myself in a similar situation, reflect on my earlier choices. If I got a sense of “I’ve been here before,” then I probably had enough history and could make a more informed and better choice.
A Second Chance to. . .
If you continue to get the same outcomes, even with different people and situations, then it is time to look at the one common denominator – you.
The first time my mentor said that to me, I took offense at his comment. I thought, how dare he; he has no idea what I have been through in my life.
But, 30 years later, I’m saying the same thing. I’m asking you to check your choices and second chances. It’s not to irritate you or criticize you; nonetheless, some of you will feel resentful. However, if you get beyond the feelings, think about it logically, if you do not like the outcomes of past situations, what can you change about you?
Change: From – To
Realistically, there will be similar situations in your early recovery. For instance, someone in your office asks you to check a report. In the past, you would have brushed them off, complaining about all that you had to do. You hoped that they did not inconvenience you so you could meet friends at the bar as soon as possible, or rush out to pick up those drugs.
Then you needed some help with some of your work, and no one was willing, or they were all too busy.
Get Specific with Your Changes
I like specifics, how to do something all neatly arranged, “who done it and how” and tidy packages. So when I received the vague, “You need to change” to get different outcomes from my mentor, my first response was the irritation at him being vague.
Finally, I ask if there were three essential categories of things to change within me to affect outcomes. I got this list:
- Communication Style
I still thought the response was too general, so I asked him for definitive aspects to change. He gave me a list of common self-defeating attitudes and said I should pick four that applied to me. He asked that I use the ones that I knew resulted in less than favorable results and outcomes.
Looking at the Changes I Needed to Make
Your negative attitudes might be different, but learning its opposite, points you in the right direction. This simple exercise worked for me twenty-nine years ago, and I believe it will work for you today.
What’s Your Attitude about a Second Chance?
Next, I looked at how my attitude influenced my behaviors. I was looking for patterns of reactions to change for the opportunity at something different.
Rather than compare mine to yours to find differences, think about how your attitude causes and drives your behaviors to help you structure this exercise specific to you.
Why Did I Think, Act and Communicate As I Did?
Some of us speak in ways that will elicit adverse outcomes; we might come across as condescending, a know it all, rude or unkind. Often, our impatience to get to the bar showed up in our conversations with people. On the other hand, we wrongfully assumed that family would automatically tolerate our outbursts.
Here too, reflecting on how you communicate with people gives you another opportunity to change. With these other changes in communication style, you will reduce the times that your outcomes are negative.
A Second Chance to Change
There were no benefits when negative attitudes and feelings fueled my behaviors. Mainly, my motive for my use was to change the way I felt. I could not be bothered to be responsible, show a satisfactory work ethic, or take other people’s opinions or needs into account. Consumed with fears, I was anxious the majority of the time; primarily about people who questioned my use of pills and alcohol. These fears and other motives made dealing with me difficult and created my negative outcomes.
When I isolated the attitudes, behaviors, and communication style, I knew that I was the problem.
If I was going to be successful in my recovery, I should change more than not using drugs and alcohol.
Since I was uncertain what else might need changing, I looked at the available resources. I went to some co-workers, made amends, and asked for their advice and guidance.
How Do Successful People Handle This?
It felt strange, to begin with, asking the same people I’d dismissed, if they would share with me how they were successful in life.
I was embarrassed when I acknowledged that I had not paid attention to their attitudes, behaviors, and communication styles before, but I wanted to change.
I was pleasantly surprised that when I demonstrated interest, the majority of the people were willing to help.
Learning how to do things differently was going to be a priority in my recovery as I did not want the same negative outcomes.
Failure – Then a Second Chance
Also, I asked my mentor what he did to create a meaningful, fulfilling, and rewarding life in recovery. He laughed and said that success usually comes after a failure.
He also believed that successful people did the following when they don’t like their outcomes. They tend to:
- Process and test what has transpired and look for patterns.
- Look at why something wasn’t successful.
- Check for their self-defeating thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.
- Do something differently at the next opportunity.
When we are looking for self-defeating aspects of ourselves, what we discover is embarrassing, and for the most part, we do not like what we see in our early recovery. We may think that not looking at ourselves means we can avoid the embarrassment; but we can’t, it’s obvious.
Using the charts as an example and inserting your attitudes, behaviors, and communication style will help you check your past outcomes and change. This can help you resolve your embarrassment because you are going to do something differently.
Second Chances Aren’t Forever
“…but second chances aren’t forever. Even miracles have an expiration date.”― Robyn Schneider
If you find that you are still reluctant to look at yourself and change, answer these questions, they may help you turn that embarrassment into encouragement for change:
- What can you expect if you stay the same?
- What would prompt you to look at yourself – the opportunity to change or the threat of staying the same?
- Are there lessons to learn from looking at your life?
- Would you benefit from this you in this type of examination?
- Might an examination of yourself help you change?
- Can you expect to feel proud of yourself if you bring about these changes?
I knew that changing attitudes would start the process of changing behaviors and communication styles. What attitude changes can you make today to influence your outcomes?
Sequels and Second Chances Can Be Better
When you’re ready to talk about your second chance, consider a guest post.
People need hope and encouragement.
Writing, and recovery heal the heart