Thursday, April 26, 2012

Getting to Recovery: If Something Can Go Right, it Will

WFS Statement Eleven:
Enthusiasm is my daily exercise. 
I treasure all moments of my new life.

Enthusiasm.  What does that word mean? One dictionary defines it as an absorbing possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit.  For many of us, the only enthusiasm we have shown for a long time is an enthusiasm for drinking.  When we stop drinking, we often find that enthusiasm is a more difficult concept to grasp than we first thought.  We can’t see how we can be enthusiastic about life when we are struggling to remain sober; after all, we used alcohol to create enthusiasm, and without it we feel lost.

It is true in early recovery that we often feel “dead” emotionally.  Our brains are focused on adjusting to the absence of alcohol, leaving little time for enthusiasm, or any other strong feeling.  The negative attitudes many of us held in our drinking lives can spill over in these first weeks, when physical symptoms of withdrawal leave us feeling that sobriety, quite simply, sucks.  What we often don’t realize is that the decision to become and remain sober is in itself a display of enthusiasm.  The definition of enthusiasm also describes it as an occupation, activity, or pursuit in which such absorbing interest is shown.  Sobriety is most certainly an activity and a pursuit, and we are dedicated to succeeding in it.  This leads to a discussion of the first part of Statement Eleven:

Enthusiasm is my daily exercise

Being enthusiastic about recovery doesn’t always mean behaving like a cheerleader and proclaiming our new-found sobriety to be the entry to nirvana.  We can have quiet enthusiasm, an inner knowledge that life is worth living and sobriety will allow us to embrace that life.  For the first days of our new lives we can begin the process of shifting our idea of enthusiasm away from something we must drink to achieve.  We can remind ourselves that sobriety itself is an expression of enthusiasm for life, and use that thought to sustain us while our brains adapt to our new reality.  We needn’t feel as though we aren’t really committed to recovery just because we aren’t shouting from the rooftops; knowing within ourselves that we are changing is proof enough that we are approaching sobriety with enthusiasm.

As early as the first day of our recovery, we can begin redefining our idea of enthusiasm with a simple exercise; when we open our eyes in the morning, we can begin our day with the knowledge that we woke up at all.  For many of us, even if we didn’t consciously realize it, during our days of heavy drinking this was never a given.  So when we say, “I woke up”, we create an appreciation for the simplest of things: being alive.  We can follow this thought with recognition that we are not hung over.  We are alive, and we are not miserably ill.  We can practice enthusiasm by allowing this appreciation of such a mundane event to carry through the day, lifting the ordinary to treasured status.

Statement Six gives us a clue as to how enthusiasm can change our perspectives.  Life can be ordinary or it can be great.   Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.  How can we change our lives from drab ordinary to shining greatness?  In a word, enthusiasm.  When we approach life with enthusiasm, that is, when we don’t take anything for granted, our lives do indeed become great.  Opening ourselves to a life of enthusiasm can be as simple as changing one thought; instead of saying, “anything that can go wrong, will”, what would happen if we were to say, “anything that can go right, will?”  Isn’t it easier to show enthusiasm when you believe things will go right than it is when you expect them to go wrong? Expecting good things and living life enthusiastically is a first, important step to understanding – and accepting – the second part of Statement Eleven.

I treasure all moments of my New Life.

For some, this part of Statement Eleven is a daunting challenge.  The idea of treasuring every moment of life seems too hard.  “How can I possibly treasure every moment for the rest of my life?” is a common response to this statement among those in early recovery.  It is easy to become overwhelmed when trying to visualize forever.  The simplest way to reframe these thoughts is to forget about forever, and practice enthusiasm for this moment, this breath.  If we do this, life becomes a pleasure instead of something to be endured.  Forever will take care of itself.

Gratitude can help us become enthusiastic about our daily lives.  If we practice being grateful for the basic things, treasuring that which we now take for granted, we become more enthusiastic about day to day living.  Imagine that, for one day, you were to treasure every moment.  Instead of complaining about the work you must do, be grateful that you have dishes to wash, that you have a home to clean, a job to go to, even the ability to do the exercise you want to avoid.   Be glad for the things you have, because if you didn’t have a home, a job, or food to eat, those are the things you would wish for.

Nobody likes to do chores.  We can usually think of a dozen things we would rather be doing than dishes or laundry.  “You can’t expect me to be enthusiastic about the dishes,” you might say.  The interesting thing is: you can be.  If you focus on the result of your chores, they become less difficult to do.  Think of washing dishes in this way: You are not washing dishes just to wash dishes; you are washing them because you were capable of getting them dirty in the first place.  If you hate doing laundry, remember the feeling of fresh sheets on your bed.  Reminding yourself of the positive reasons that you have chores to do will go a long way toward being enthusiastic in doing them.

How do we treasure the parts of our lives that are painful?  Surely we can’t treasure losing a job, breaking up with a partner, or having someone dear to us pass away.  We may not treasure those events, but we can treasure those moments.  If we never had negative experiences, we would be unable to be grateful for the positive moments in our lives.  Some negative events allow us to learn about ourselves, bringing growth that we might not otherwise discover.  Some remind us that we must live each day with joy, for we don’t know if it will be our last.  It is these lessons that we can treasure, and in doing so we may find the event  itself becoming less painful.

Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.  When we start each morning with gratefulness for being alive, we open ourselves to experiencing life as though things will go right, not wrong.  When we allow ourselves to treasure even the most mundane of daily activities, focusing on each moment, each breath, without worry about the future, we find enthusiasm growing within us.   The more we embrace that enthusiasm, the more easily we will find it.

Recognize that sobriety has given you the ability to find the positive where before you may have seen only struggle.  Allow yourself to open to a world where anything is possible, and each moment is a blessing.  Embrace each day of your New Life with enthusiasm and treasure every experience.  Your recovery will blossom as you do.

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