The most dangerous pitfall in any form of recovery is becoming trapped inside our own minds. Not only do we have an uncanny ability to get in our own way, we also at times succumb to the idea that the same mind that created a problem (that may or may not actually exist) will be the mind that solves it.
It’s a red flag when a person in recovery says that they need to “figure it out.” What this really means is that we’re going to endlessly examine, assess, and critique both ourselves and our situation (we may also find time for a bit of self pity when we tire of persecuting ourselves). Meanwhile, we’re conveniently overlooking three obvious problems with self reliance:
– Our perspectives are deeply flawed when turned inward. (Fear, Shame, Black & White Thinking)
– We often fail to judge ourselves fairly (the relentless inner critic, and/or: perfectionism, false beliefs, being our own worst enemy).
– We don’t trust ourselves when we’re in this space and so whatever insights or answers we come up with will simply be undermined by self doubt and subjected to excessive scrutiny (usually until the next crisis comes along).
I was talking recently with an amazing woman in recovery. Like many of us, she struggles with each new change or obstacle in her path. Filled with frustration she shared, “Despite everything I’ve come through, every time I reach the next challenge, my fear says, ‘This is the one that’s going to stop you. This is the one you won’t be able to get past.’ I don’t understand why I can’t change that?”
“Simple: because you’re facing those things alone. You and you are not yet good company.”
Seeking to resolve her issues alone means reinventing the wheel while scared shitless. It’s unnecessary and self limiting. Further, it robs good people of the chance to share their experience, strength, and hope. The change she most needs to make is a scary one:
Other than getting sober, the biggest hurdle to being in recovery is overcoming the fear of meaningfully connecting with healthy people. We must come to a place where we are willing to share our needs and feelings directly and (eventually) without shame. What we can do together is exponentially greater than what we can do alone.
To be truly heard and supported without judgment is liberating, validating, and affirming. It’s simplifying and best of all; it’s approximately one billion times more efficient than wrestling with ourselves. We must come to accept that agonizing is always optional and that the high value we place on “being independent” is primarily a justification for not allowing ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable.
Yes, it’s terrifying to initiate connection, but it gets easier each time. On top of all the other benefits, it provides us opportunities for something most of us have hungered for our whole lives: really good friends.