Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Getting to Recovery: Statement Four

Note: This is the fourth in a series of essays on the 13 Statements of the Women for Sobriety program. These statements are copyright to WFS and I encourage you to see their website for more information.

Statement Four: Are You Bothered?

There is a British comedic actress, Catherine Tate, whose signature character’s favorite line is, “Are you bothered?” She asks this usually after she has riled someone up to the point that they are, in fact, quite bothered. During our active addiction, it usually didn’t take much for us to become ‘bothered’. Any problem, real or perceived, could send us into a frenzy of anger, frustration and worry. There seemed to be no volume control on our problems; they were all blasting at us on the highest level possible.

Once we become sober, we don’t automatically find the off button for our problems. It is a truth of life that difficulties will arise from time to time. What we do gain is the ability to change the volume on our problems, to choose how we react to them and how much power to give them over our lives and our recovery. Statement Four in the Women for Sobriety program is about dealing with those bumps in the road in a positive manner.

“Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to”

Many times, a problem is only as major as we make it. When we were drinking, we tended to make everything into a top-level issue, something to keep us awake at night with worry. Whether it was a leaking faucet or the threat of losing a job, we treated everything as though it could mean the end of life as we knew it.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In the first place, not everything has to require a reaction from us. There is no law obligating us to spend the rest of the day in angry thought because someone was rude to us in the morning. We can learn to simply let it go, to recognize that we control how others' behavior affects us. Being cut off in traffic may be annoying, but it needn’t ruin our day.

One thing we tend to do is worry about things which are or may become problems. Worry can consume a great deal of time and energy, often without any real result other than lost sleep. I have said before that worry is action without direction. We spin our wheels worrying about what could happen, instead of applying our energy toward finding a solution.

The degree to which a problem bothers us is directly related to our sense of powerlessness over it. If we tackle an issue head-on there is no need for us to worry about it, as we are being proactive in our approach. It is when we allow ourselves to fall into the victim role, the “I can’t face this or fix this” mentality, that we find problems bothering us to a greater and greater extent.

“I now better understand my problems”

Only 8% of what we worry about actually happens, and we only have any control over half of that. Almost half of our worries will never happen, and a full third have already happened. In other words, for every 100 things we worry about, we are needlessly agonizing over 96 of them. One of the biggest steps we can take in applying Statement Four is to begin letting go of those 96 pointless worries. If we can do this, we eliminate a huge amount of negative energy and open ourselves to the positive joy that can replace it in our lives.

If you find yourself worrying, ask first; “Has what I am worried about already happened?” If it has, gently remind yourself that the past is gone forever, as Statement Nine tells us. Allow the worry to melt as you know that the future is yours to create. Next, you may ask; “What are the odds that this will actually happen, and if it does, do I have any control over it?” Be realistic in your answer. While there is a chance you will be struck by lightning tomorrow, the odds are so remote that you aren’t likely to stay inside out of fear. Use the same logic with what is worrying to you. If you decide that what you are worried about is both likely to happen AND is something you have some control over, then you need to take action, not sit and worry. Remember, worry is action without direction. If you take action, you won’t need to worry.

In sobriety we can see beyond the immediate and recognize what role we play in our problems. Often, we are not blameless in the issues that arise in our lives. Part of taking responsibility for ourselves, as Statement One says, is to acknowledge what part we play in how these situations affect our lives. Once we do this, we can see what changes can be made to solve problems before they grow beyond our control.

The addictive voice usually counsels us to run from problems, to hide from our responsibility in alcohol. Once we become sober, this same voice urges us to ignore things that discomfit us, to pretend they don’t exist instead of meeting them head on. If we listen to this whisper in our ear, we find that not only do our problems not go away, but the whisper grows ever louder until it may become a roaring demand that we return to drinking as the only solution to the things that go wrong.

“And do not permit problems to overwhelm me”

Often when a problem arises, we slip into a cycle of worry where we envision increasingly disastrous results which leads to even more worry, while not actually doing anything about the situation until we have allowed ourselves to become overwhelmed by “what ifs”. At this point, things often seem hopeless, and hopelessness can be a powerful trigger. It is when we become overwhelmed that drinking becomes so attractive. Statement Four gives us a powerful weapon against that feeling of overwhelmed hopelessness; self-empowerment.

Self-empowerment is the enemy of fear. Fear seeks to paralyze us with images of disaster. Once we acknowledge our ability to choose how problems affect us, and choose to face them with an “I can solve this” attitude, we often find that the fear associated with those problems fades dramatically. It is when we decide that we will face our problems squarely that we take control of our reactions and truly embrace the concept this statement represents. The truly wonderful thing about finding this inner power is that it feeds itself with each success; every time we face a problem head-on and solve it, we feel our sense of self-worth grow.

By putting an end to the cycle of worry and avoidance, we begin to allow our true selves to flourish. We start to see that we really are the capable and competent women the New Life program talks about, that Jean Kirkpatrick was referring to us when she said, “We can change our lives radically by believing that thoughts are everything. What we think happens … We must realize that our thoughts create our worlds for us.” By refusing to be ruled by our problems, by utilizing Statement Four – along with the other statements – when faced with difficulties, we create a new, sober world full of happiness and contentment. If we are asked, “Are you bothered?” we can hold our heads high and answer confidently, “No.”

1 comment:

  1. There is a lot to be said for taking a walk and putting some perspective on the problem.

    I drank most days and fantasised about what I would drink when I was at work.

    So I stopped drinking and it has changed my life. But it wasn't as extreme as say, losing my legs in a car crash or getting cancer. But it did have a total rebuilding effect on my life, nonetheless.

    Appreciate your work, thanks for sharing.