Monday, March 26, 2012

Expectations: Honesty and Accountability

Statement 13: I am responsible for myself and for my actions

We all have expectations. Every day we expect things to happen, from the sun coming up to going down again. Usually our expectations are perfectly reasonable and things happen just as we think they should. Sometimes, however, our thoughts of what is to come turn negative. These expectations, too, can come to pass; often though, they don’t and we have spent needless time and energy in worry.

Expectations can become self-fulfilling prophecies. An example is the common expectation in pre-recovery that we will fail, that we “can’t do it”, can’t get sober. So convinced are we that we will be unsuccessful in changing our ways that we talk ourselves into failing, often again and again. This reinforces our inner belief and our expectation of failure.

To combat this, we need to change our expectations. We must expect to succeed, not to fail. We must believe that we have a life-threatening problem. We are no longer to be slaves to alcohol. Even if we are still drinking at this point, recognizing that we have a problem and making a plan to be able to say that it ONCE had us is to start moving from drinking to sobriety. With our plan we take that first vital step of not taking another drink.

It is difficult to make that change in belief when we are accustomed to failure. Here is where reciting the statements daily becomes important. We must take them to heart, especially Statement One. Once we believe that we have a problem that is life-threatening, we can say, ENOUGH. We can begin to expect to succeed.

On the flip side of this, if our expectations are unreasonably optimistic, we also set ourselves up for failure. If we ignore the realities of fighting our addictions, we can fail to make a plan that will allow us to succeed. We expect our path to be easy, and so don’t do the work needed to ensure success.

I am responsible for myself and for my actions. It is up to us to plan for our success. We can’t find a formula in any book or copy it from any other person. The statements provide a framework, but the details are up to us. We are all different, with different paths leading to sobriety and into recovery. Our plan must be as individual as we are; it is only then that we have provided the best opportunity for success.

The key is to create reasonable, positive expectations in our pre-sobriety that we can carry into early recovery. The first expectation that we can reasonably plan for is that our path is not going to be easy, though not by any stretch impossible. We can then plan to overcome the bumps in the road calmly and with compassion for ourselves.

This may seem like a major step and in fact it could be described as “THE” step between pre-sobriety and early recovery. That it is the foundation upon which our sobriety is fashioned underscores the importance of being reasonable about it in our expectations. Without being realistic in this area our sobriety and recovery become a house of cards which can tumble at the first stir of wind signaling trouble.

So how do we know if our expectations are reasonable? The first test to be passed is that of honesty. Are we being honest with ourselves about our abilities and commitment? It is easy to delude ourselves that becoming sober will be a simple process. We have been deluding ourselves for so long that it is second nature; we have to dig deep to find the honesty to face our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to getting sober.

The next test is that of accountability. We must be accountable for our actions in recovery. This is often difficult for us in pre-sobriety because we have used alcohol to keep us from being held accountable for ourselves. Do our expectations provide accountability? Even if we are accountable only to ourselves, we must accept responsibility for our own plan and sobriety.

If we expect to succeed without being accountable for our actions we set ourselves up for the situation of “cheating”. We can slip or relapse more easily because we don’t consider ourselves responsible. It is the “Imp” leading us; we are not in control. The intent was good but we just “slipped”.

We can also use our expectations as an excuse when we don’t have accountability for our actions. “Of course I failed, my expectations were too high.” If we take responsibility, and our expectations are reasonable, there is no excuse. We alone control our plan for our sobriety. Statement 13 - I am responsible for myself and for my actions - is a very powerful one. Making sure our expectations take this into account improves the likelihood of success; honesty and accountability are the base upon which our plan is made.

Expectations can be very helpful in our pre- and early sobriety, but they also offer pitfalls that should be avoided. Ensuring that our expectations meet the tests of honesty and accountability will help us in creating a plan that will assure our success.

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