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Supporting Ourselves in Recovery

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I have spent a good portion of my career unpacking the therapeutic forces operating in the recovery experience. One thing that stands out as extremely important in establishing long term, stable recovery, is our ability to support ourselves.

What do I mean by supporting ourselves? Supporting ourselves has to do with our ability to endure discomfort and see the things about us that need to be changed – I guess we could refer to this as being honest with ourselves and seeing who we are not.

Giving ourselves support is as important as getting it from others. Let’s look at what it takes to support ourselves.

The first thing we need to do to support ourselves better is to deal with the part of us that undermines our self-esteem. We have to learn how to manage the side of us that expects us to be perfect or to be better or more than we are. I like to think of this as our Top Dog or the Critic or Perfectionist. We need to learn how to deal with whatever part of us takes this role in our lives. I’ve often told my patients that it’s hard to be on your own side when you are constantly on your backs.

So what makes us listen to this part of ourselves and even worse, to define who we are by the standards set by this bully? The answer is that we mistakenly believe that we need this part of ourselves to ensure our development. We falsely believe if we don’t beat ourselves up, we will accept the unacceptable – mediocrity. This is nonsense. There are much better parts of ourselves to use to motivate us to self- actualize. We don’t need this part of ourselves to want to improve, to grow, to strive to be better. This is hard wired into you and me. This growth force is innate and is constantly active in our lives. It is a part of our basic nature.

So put that part of you in it’s proper place. Let it inform you but not run you. Let it counsel you but not have the authority to run you. Let the best in you guide your life. The desire to self actualize is a very powerful force in our personal development. What ultimately makes us sick is ignoring our basic nature, not our basic nature perse. It is what is right about us that we ignore is what makes us sick or addicts, not our basic nature. So what I am trying to say is that you can let go and have faith that you will want to grow along spiritual lines. You don’t have to stand over yourself as a task master to ensure your progress.

Having faith in yourself and in your ability to grow is just one of the ways that you can support yourself in recovery. After all, isn’t this the Ninth Step Promises are telling us after all.

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