Power Tip #4: Give Up Giving Up – How making healing your #1 priority every single day can make all the difference between achieving your dreams and never moving forward (and why recovery is the coolest thing you could do with your life).
In episode #1 we talked all about how recovery is a journey. Many people want to flip a switch and be able to say “that’s it! I’m done – I can move on to all the cool things in life!”
But when people realize that healing from this ailment of addiction is actually a process, and it’s not as simple as flipping a switch, then they become open to changing their approach to this problem they are facing.
For the first time ever, you’ll find someone actually willing to take a big step toward recovery – reaching out to someone, joining a program, etc. This is a huge difference compared to the person who may have hoped for years that time will solve their problem, or will power will solve their problem, or prayer alone without further action will solve their problem.
Now, this is a great step – but there is one very common pitfall you need to be aware of…
Dr Allen Berger wrote a book called “12 Stupid Things that Mess Up Recovery” – and in it he listed that Stupid Thing #3 is “to pursue recovery with less energy than pursuing addiction.”
What’s he talking about here? Well, I’d like to ask you to reflect on what lengths you went to to access your particular form of acting out sexually? It can be hard to face this reality, but it’s important to do so. The lengths that people go to to act out may include a whole slew of things – whether it’s taking extra measures to ensure your secrecy, often times acting out despite the risk that someone could find out, violating the sanctity of marriage, neglecting your own physical well-being by staying up late to act out and being drained the next day, neglecting responsibilities whether it’s at school or work.
The point is: it costs a lot to maintain a destructive behavior. And many people have been paying that price for years. What Dr Berger is telling us is that when you decide it’s time to change things, don’t expect that the price for change is going to be any less than the price for acting out. We’ve got to be willing to pay the price for change, just like we were willing to pay the price to act out.
Wow – that’s quite the tall order.
And it’s even more difficult for someone coming from a place of addiction because people coming from addiction are trained to desire “quick fixes” – people turn to these behaviors as a quick fix for the problems in their lives. So sometimes when people start working on recovery they’re still looking for a “quick fix” – the idea is alright I’ve taken this step, now where are my results?
The fact is this – some people pay some price for their recovery, if you’re watching this you’ve probably paid some price toward stopping – but my question is: have you paid the full price? Because if you pay anything less than the full price of recovery, then you will not get true, lasting recovery from the behaviors that have sabotaged your progress in life for so long.
Sameer and his nodding counselor
I’ve got a story for you folks that will show you exactly how one PYG member learned that even after working on his recovery for years he still did not give it the importance it truly deserves. We’ll call him Sameer for the sake of this story.
He shared on the forums that he experienced his longest stretch of sobriety – 4 months! And yet he found himself struggling even though he had been working on recovery for nearly 4 years! Yes, he clearly was making progress – but he never thoughts he would still be struggling after so long.
He was actually seeing a counselor at this time in his life to help him with this struggles.
He went into his office, and he started off by saying that he wasn’t doing very well and that he was having a hard time and yes, he relapsed. As he shared his story, speaking for a few minutes at least, his counselor just looked at him, slowly nodding his head.
After he finished, his counselor continued looking at him, still slowly nodding his head. He nodded, raised his eyebrows, and nodded some more.
Finally, after an eternity, he asked “Do you want to stop this behavior?”
Now this member became upset at this point thinking to himself, “does this guy not get it? Of course I want to stop! That’s why I’m here!”
But it turns out the counselor had a good reason for asking.
After calming down a bit, Sameer took a deep breath and responded and said “Yes, I want to stop this behavior. It’s always been important to me. It’s just that…. Sometimes… I tell myself that it’s not urgent… I tell myself that it can wait…”
And there it was. There was his answer, plain and simple. When the pressures of life built up, when things became difficult, Sameer decided that keeping his sobriety was LESS important than experiencing short term relief from his pain.
At that time, he didn’t necessarily need more counseling sessions, he didn’t necessarily need to spend more years doing the work of recovery – at that point what he needed was to ask “how important is my recovery? And am I willing to make it my #1 priority – not just right now, not just for a month – but every single day for as long as I need to do so?
Now Sameer’s story is not done. When he realized that even after years of recovery work he still did not prioritize healing enough, he made a personal tweak in his approach – and that helped him to achieve sobriety for nearly a year now – and I’ll be sharing it with you later, insha Allah, so read on if you want to learn how Sameer finally learned how to make his healing as important in his life as it had to be!
Why does recovery require so much investment?
It can be so tempting to hold on with dear life to the idea that you can permanently change your behavior without investing a large amount of time and energy into the process of healing.
The common assumption is that stopping this behavior is liking turning off a switch – but when someone struggles for years eventually they start to realize this isn’t so simple, they start to realize this light swtich they’ve been turning on and off for years is not connected to anything
The reason this “light switch approach” just doesn’t work is that once the habit takes root, it becomes a lifestyle.
How is it a lifestyle?
The Lollipop Adiction
To explain this, let me give an example.
Let’s imagine a man who is the father of a 1 year old baby. He is busy at work most of the time during the day, but he gets to spend 1 hour each day with his baby when he comes home from work. The babysitter leaves and there he is just him and his baby together for 1 hour before it’s bedtime.
Let’s say every single day when he gets home, the baby is crying, the loudest crying he’s ever heard! And the father has no idea why he’s crying.
He doesn’t know what to do to make it stop because the baby sitter usually does all the work.
But one day he tries giving the baby a lollipop – and just like magic the crying stops!
So now, rather than coming home to a crying baby, he comes home with a lollipop the next day, and gives it to the baby immediately. Just like that the crying stops again.
He feels great! Now he can get peace at home. He can attend to other things and not have to worry about this cry baby any more. So, to make sure he’s always prepared, he goes and buys a huge tub of 10,000 lollipops.
Turning to sexual behaviors is like this in many ways. When you don’t know how to react to your emotional needs, that deep pain you feel inside, you discover a quick fix and you get hooked on it without ever realizing what happened.
Of course, eventually bad things start happening. The baby becomes very, very overweight. Its mouth is full of all sorts of colors. The small teeth it has are full of cavities. One day when this father takes the time to see how the baby’s doing, and he realizes that something is terribly, terribly wrong. And the baby is now crying from the physical pain it’s feeling! And the crying is louder than ever before!
Can you see how turning to sexual behaviors is similar to this example?
Many people struggling try to eliminate their behavior – it seems that simple, doesn’t it?
In the case of this example, the “light switch approach” means that you take that tub of 10,000 lollipops and throw it out the window. No more lollipops! And maybe you start looking for other “quick fixes” that can stop the baby from crying.
Now you and I can tell that would be a silly way to approach the solution if he stops there. The lollipops were never the problem!
The problem was that he never took the time to understand why the baby was hurting in the first place. And rather than making time to find out, he believed that something or someone else could solve the problem for you. But nothing and no one else can substitute for the father’s care. Truly solving the problem would require making lifestyle changes, wouldn’t you agree?
He’d have to learn to understand the baby and change how he relates to it. He’d probably have to cut time from work so he can spend more time with the baby. Once he knows what it really needs, he’d probably have to go and buy it from the grocery store.
He’d have to ask deep, soul-searching questions: am I willing to go through all the trouble of this? Is solving this problem on a deeper level important enough for me? Or should I just go searching for another quick fix? (Because if he wants another quick fix, he will find it)
Can’t you see that really solving your problem requires a lot more than cutting out the behavior and turning a light switch? Do you see how it will require that you make changes in the way you lead your life and make more room for self-care, more room for thought and reflection, and possibly even other changes as you start to learn more about yourself and what your true needs are? For some people it even meant larger lifestyle changes like changing careers or stepping down from positions of leadership in their communities.
Why does recovery deserve so much investment?
So far, this might sound like a total bummer – especially for the person with so much aspiration in life, like many of those who turn to us at PYG for support have.
The idea that you’ve got to spend so much energy “digging yourself out of a hole” rather than doing great things like changing the world can be very difficult to swallow.
But let me share with you a thing or two about why recovery is actually the coolest thing you can do with your life…
Rather than telling you why recovery is so cool, let me share with you what one member shared on our blog. Speaking about the idea that his recovery demands so much time and energy, he says…
So, what is recovery really about which makes it so great? Recovery is about regaining the full potential of my humanity.
My humanity, at its peak, offers me so many things which are pure gold, things that really matter – connecting with Allah, genuinely and deeply caring about another person, feeling connected to the creation which surrounds me, deeply appreciating the gifts of my body, heart, mind and soul. I am talking about gratitude, love, sincerity, integrity. I am talking about tears and laughs. Dreams and aspirations. Sorrow and grief. Hope and celebration.
This is the full human experience for which we were created.
Unhealthy and unbalanced living strips this experience away from me and locks me in a place of numbness and darkness. Once I am there, I lose sight of what I’ve lost. I become fidgety and anxious and needy. Life loses its flavor and its color.
A keen focus on my health and life balance, on the other hand, helps restore my humanity, and continuous practice and refinement helps me to achieve new heights and gain new experiences. I know this because I have experienced it.
There’s so much for me to gain in this world, so much I want to do and achieve, so many things I want to be. And I will pursue these things with passion, insha Allah. However, nothing has true value if I am not gaining, maintaining, and nurturing my humanity. At any given moment, I must not hesitate to completely drop whatever is demanding my attention and come back to healing if the situation demands this. This has to be my principle in life, because in recovery I am gaining everything as everything that’s good and worthy lies in my humanity. I have no way to regain my humanity except through keen focus on and commitment to my healing.
Can’t you see that ultimately it’s not the flashy things that deserve your focus and your attention because it’s not the flashy things that give you true fulfillment in life? True fulfillment is abundantly available in recovering your true self, recovering your humanity!
How do you make healing your priority in life?
Now how do you do this? How do you make healing your #1 priority in life?
Remember Sameer’s story with the counselor – and how he realized that even after working on his recovery for years he still often times allowed his sobriety to LOSE its priority, and whenever he did so he slipped again.
So how did he address this obstacle? What did he do that allowed him to experience sobriety for nearly a year to this date?
Well when he realized the problem – his recovery was not important enough to him on a daily basis – he then devised a solution.
He would take the time to reflect on exactly why recovery deserved to be his #1 priority every single day.
To do so, he asked the question – what would life look like in 2 years if I’m still struggling, and what would life look like in 2 years if I’m clean for that entire time.
Very simple – he drew out the picture of the 2 scenarios. And when he realized that remaining stuck for 2 more years was a real possibility – that fact scared him out of his seat. It was the jolt of fear that he needed to get moving. And he referred to these writings on a daily basis to remind him why he could not let sobriety lose its priority even for a single day.
You see, motivating yourself is not about coming up with rational reasons why you need to change. The heart is not moved by rationale. It’s about connecting to the reality. What’s really going to happen in life if I make one choice? And what’s going to happen if I make the opposite choice. It’s really simple – but we’re so good at ignoring reality, that sometimes we need to take extra measures to make sure we stay connected to reality.
If you don’t take that extra step to really know what’s at stake, you will never achieve the fruits of change, no matter how much you love them, and you will continue to experience the pain of staying stuck, no matter how much you hate it
I’m glad I got to share this message with you, because as difficult as it is I’ve come to be a firm believer in the possibility that change will never be experienced. That’s because I’ve found that time does very little or nothing to change people. WIthout the proper intentionality and the proper action, you just will not change, no one will will come to your rescue, and time will continue to waste away.
I hope you were inspired in this episode to recognize that your recovery requires that you are wholly invested in it, but not only that, it deserves your full investment because it is the coolest thing you can be doing with your life.
I look forward to seeing you for our next episode where we’ll talk about the practical stuff – we talked today about how recovery is about recovering your true self, next episode we’ll talk about the practical side of things and how you can adopt habits of self-care in your life that help restore your commitment to your true self, insha Allah.