Recovery 101 – Handling Our Emotions Sometimes Requires Acceptance, and THAT sometimes Requires ‘Letting Go’
The other day, I found myself getting “riled up” on a phone call with one of my sisters—interestingly enough we were talking about our older sister who’d been hospitalized twice in the past week due to alcohol poisoning—and once we’d ended the call, I took some time to reflect on what might be causing my upset. The fact is, though, all my pondering and analyzing the numerous layers of the situation didn’t lead me to any sort of inner peace or equanimity. I still felt frustrated, even angry.
Since I’d learned in recovery to avoid isolating or “staying stuck” in my own thinking, I called my 12 Steps sponsor and asked him if he’d share his perspective with me about what I was facing. After conveying him as clear a picture as possible, he asked me, “So what part of this do you want to control most?”
My first reaction to his question was surprise, since I didn’t really think I was seeking to control how my sister-on-the-phone was behaving or her attitude, which is what I assumed my sponsor was referring to.
However, when I hesitated and started my reply with, “Well-…” he interjected something I just plain didn’t see coming.
“You know, sometimes it’s not that we’re trying to control another person’s viewpoint or how they act. Rather, we’re either consciously or unconsciously pressing for—which is a nice way of saying ‘demanding’—a specific result to come forward, or we’re expecting things turn out how we think they should. The alternative is simply accepting how things are naturally unfolding.”
(Yes, you’re right, my sponsor does sometimes resemble Obi-wan Kenobi or Yoda in how he sees and responds to life. Maybe you know someone like this and can relate?)
The bottom line is, when we find ourselves caught up in our demands or expectations of life, what can we do differently? How do we bring ourselves to ‘simply accept’ how things are, how people are?
While there may be numerous aspects worthy of our attention, regarding this important ‘shift’ our sponsor, treatment center counselor or therapist may be suggesting we consider making (see two bullet-points below), the one that seems most essential to consider first is identifying and “letting go” of whatever we can see is a selfish, self-centered or self-seeking demand for a particular outcome, an outcome we think we need to be happy.
That is, we need to release our mental or emotional attachments to whatever specific ideas, “wishes”/pictured realities in our minds, objects or people we’ve conditioned ourselves into believing we can’t do without. What can help us ‘let go’ is to look forward and see what letting go will allow new room for in our lives – and we can pick up a pen and paper and write from our hearts about this. Then, we can bring it to our sponsor or someone in our recovery network or our therapist and allow them to share their feedback with us about their views of the value of us letting go in this situation.
If you want more options to explore, here are a couple of other suggested elements you may want to look at as potential ‘action steps’ you can take, in order to move into greater acceptance and more inner and outer harmony regarding whatever you’ve been dealing with.
- Fear of Change: Identify any fear of change you might have, share it aloud with someone you trust and respect (for example, your sponsor, your treatment center counselor or someone in your recovery network), and invite that person to express their perspective to you. Especially important is keeping faith and hope in the equation going forward, envisioning with positivity that facing uncertainty and leaving behind what was usual and comfortable to you doesn’t necessarily have to be.
- Low Self-worth, Lack of Self-confidence: Clarify whether or not you’re allowing yourself to be weighed down by a negative sense of self or low self-esteem. If so, it’s vital you dispel the misguided belief that the situation you’re feeling stressed out or frustrated by does not determine your self-worth. In reality, who you truly are, as well as your ability to enjoy success in life or fulfill your dreams is not defined by how this one situation turns out, or how this or that person views things or acts. Surround yourself with people who encourage you, believe in you and can help you move forward in building the new life in recovery you want to live.
Hopefully, one or more of these suggestions will help you navigate forward into more acceptance and greater emotional stability, regardless of the situations you face, one day at a time.