New Year's Introspection: About Taking Stock of Our Progress
The coming of the New Year naturally leads us to reflect on the recent past and to consider the year ahead. In the context of recovery, this pursuit is fraught with pitfalls. As the adage cautions: "It's all in how you look at it."
Growth in recovery results in increased clarity. This can be disorienting and emotionally draining. Things that once seemed benign now seem painful. Things that once seemed a great injustice now seem like they're no big deal. Assessing ourselves and our experiences is therefore problematic.
Most of us have yet to become fair judges of ourselves. Before reflecting on our past, we must consider what we hope to discover:
We don't often find what we're not looking for.
Don't Should on Yourself
Most of us have a tendency to be overly self-critical. This leaves us minimizing our successes and exaggerating our shortcomings and failures. I caution folks when they express ideas about where they should be or shouldn't be because these are rejections of where they are and how much it took to get there.
More importantly, if we can't accept how things are, then we're not going to move toward how they could be. Rejecting ourselves leads to shame, which leads to beating ourselves up. It's far better to judge our progress as though it belonged to someone else. If a friend or family member experiences even the smallest success, we would never turn to them and in effect say, "Is that all you've done?"
Pick Up the Pace
If we find that we are dissatisfied with the rate of progress in our recovery, our best investment is to set measurable goals for the coming year. New Years resolutions are usually just nice ideas that lack follow through. Better to develop conviction regarding what we will and will not do. Increasing the amount of support we solicit and the amount of accountability we demonstrate are paramount to our success.
We need feedback from trusted others to ensure that we continue to strive. We need reality checks and for folks to call us out when we're being too hard on ourselves. Recovery still hinges on the degree to which our lives are manageable. Moving away from all or nothing thinking and approaches makes success more attainable.
If we find that we have achieved a great deal in the past year, there is cause for celebration. There is also reason to be vigilant. Complacency is one of the most subtle forms of self destruction. It's never sustainable nor fulfilling.
Counselors refer to it as "plateauing." Mountain climbing is a good analogy for recovery. We climb until we reach a new level. We rest and enjoy a greater view. Then we start climbing again. We never reach the summit but we never settle for less than we can attain.
Gratitude & Attitude
Gratitude is a powerfully spiritual force. Looking back on the past year we can ask ourselves, "What helped me get here?" We can consider the impact of grace and good people and what it's made possible for us. Showing our appreciation enhances connection to both our support system and to our Higher Power.
Patience and Tolerance
We are not patient people. To be patient is to be kind and accepting. This is exactly why we struggle. We were not taught to value ourselves. I share with folks the slight modifications to the Serenity Prayer that help me focus my time and energy:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (others)
Courage to change the things I can (myself)
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Be of Service
Taking pride in what we've overcome and incorporated shows us how much we have to offer to others in recovery. Knowledge creates responsibility. We are not required to tell others the answers, only to share what worked for us. The best way to keep it is to give it away.
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