There is a common expression which says that some people carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. The reality is that all of us have responsibilities. As we grow in emotional sobriety our responsibilities often increase. Work, family and service fill a void that existed while we were active. These aspects of life are normal, unavoidable and appropriate for a person to carry.
There are a number of other items that many people carry which are unnecessary weights on their shoulders. Many of these are rooted in guilt. People have such strong guilt about the past that they cannot let go of it. Carrying this guilt has absolutely no purpose. It in no way helps the person recover from their feelings. It also doesn’t improve the lives of the ones they think they’ve hurt.
People also sometimes carry feelings of undo responsibility around with them. Our codependency leads us to carry the burden of constantly seeking the approval of others. In the vast majority of cases we will never receive the love or approval from others which they think they deserve. The best course of action is to release ourselves from guilt and codependence.
Personal Reflection: What burdens do I need to let go of?
Many of us grew up with feelings of not belonging. We were very uncomfortable in social situations; often finding ourselves tongue tied. As result of these feelings we lacked self confidence. Some of us isolated. Others became extremely co-dependent. Then there were those of us that overcompensated and became the life of the party while still carrying those feelings of not belonging.
Of course all of that changed when we found our drug of choice. It’s not that our discomfort disappeared, it was just covered over by alcohol, drugs or food. Eventually, they stopped working and all of those feeling of not belonging returned.
In sobriety, there is no magic cure. Yes,thing have really gotten better, but we still find ourselves feeling uncomfortable from time to time. It’s just that today we realize that most of what we are feeling is quite normal. There will be situations where we feel some fear or anger. It’s part of everyday life. The difference is that we no longer have to drink or drug over it. We can be comfortable in our discomfort. After that, we utilize the tools of the program to get to a better place.
Personal Reflection: Have I truly become comfortable in my discomfort?
Many of us grew up in home situations where we had little or no idea how our parents would behave on any given day. On some days they were loving and respectful. At other times they could be quite volatile. They might be filled with rage or anger. They would often without warning lash out at us. Violence was sometimes part of the story. There were times when they walked around in a state of self pity and depression. All of these states were frequently fueled by drugs and or alcohol.
In our youth we valiantly tried to get our parents love and approval when they were “in one of their moods”. If we could only finally make our parents happy then everything would be alright. We applied the same strategy as adults and found that it usually ended in our being resentful, angry or depressed. These feelings were intensified by our drug of choice.
In sobriety we began to internalize a very deep concept; that other people’s happiness was not dependent on our actions. We were not responsible for other people’s feelings. The converse was also true. How we felt was not the result of the actions of others. Rather, our state of being was determined by our level of comfort with ourselves.
Personal Reflection: Am I still a people pleaser?
Growing up many of us had a low sense of self esteem. This was especially true in families where one or more of the parents were active in their addiction. We could never know what to expect. One day our parent was full of rage, the next day they were crying and walking around depressed. Because we were children we often assumed blame for the way our parents acted. We got used to saying, “I’ll make sure that today I will be daddy or mommy’s good little boy or girl”. We twisted ourselves into a pretzel so that our parents would finally be happy with us and finally love us. When they still lashed out at us or became even more withdrawn we resolved to try harder the next day
We carried those feelings of attempting to please others into adulthood. When we entered the program, we found out a piece of startling news. We had not been responsible for the happiness and well being of our parents. They needed to have their own spiritual awakening. It was not our job to fix them. If they chose not to change, that was part of their journey. Our self esteem was not tied up in how others felt about us. It was really about how we felt about ourselves. Much of this was revealed as we engaged in step work.
Personal Reflection: When I look in the mirror, what do I see?
There are three levels of interaction with others. Some people are totally dependent on the opinions of others. What they choose to do or say is entwined with the reactions or anticipated reactions of other people. This group of people will hold back from what they really want to do, or go along with the crowd not because they want to but because of fear of scorn by others. Because of this they miss out on the life they really want to have, and have a low self image to boot.
The next group of people claim to have no concern about what others think. On the surface, this appears to be a very healthy course of action. More often than not, they are actually taking this position to flaunt their disregard for authority. As a result, they will often engage in outrageous behavior as a sign of rebelliousness. Purple hair and male senior citizens with earrings belong to this second group.
The last group are able to choose their lifestyle based on what their needs are and what best serves them. They are able to do so because they have discovered that other people are really not paying attention to them anyway. Codependency and rebelliousness have become redundant. How they feel about themselves is generated by a healthy self image.
Personal Reflection: Which group do I gravitate towards?
It’s taken a long time for some of us to learn one of life’s basic principles; that we have the right to change our mind. There are very few things in this life for which we are unable to reverse ourselves. We can change our career, end or begin a relationship or take up water polo. So if this is a truism of life, why are there so many people stuck in decisions that are no longer working for them, and perhaps never worked for them. The main reason people do this is because of fear. We are often afraid to make that change because we fear that we will fail in that new endeavor. Many of us reason that although I’m unhappy with this situation, at least it’s one I know. There is comfort in the familiar; even when it’s no longer working for us. Then there are those who fail to make changes because they fear the disapproval of others. “What will my friends, wife, husband, parents, siblings or co-workers think”? For many, concern over what other’s thinks can squash our aspirations for change.
With all that, each time we shift or even reverse course we make a deposit in our emotional and spiritual bank accounts. The more resistance we encounter, the greater the deposit.
Personal Reflection: Is there a decision I’ve made which needs to be reviewed?