“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The following brief anecdote illustrates one of the first “lessons” I learned in early recovery—the principle of practicing patience in my life.
One evening after a recovery group meeting, a tall, thin woman—someone I respected and who I knew had decades of experience living a healthy recovery program—came up to me and asked if she could share with me an observation she’d had, as a result of something I’d said during the meeting.
“Sure, please go ahead.”
“Well, when I’ve finished making some bread dough and am about to put the loaf I’ve formed into the oven, I usually set a timer to alert me when it’s getting near the time to take the bread out of the oven. However, I’ve learned to be patient, regardless of when the timer goes off. Because the goal is a loaf of bread that’s baked just right. You see, occasionally, the timer is not accurate—the bread has not baked long enough and I simply need to leave it in the oven a little longer.”
At that point, she smiled and added, “I thought about what you shared in the meeting, and you sounded somewhat impatient with yourself, as though you feel you’re not as far along as you believe you should be. When it comes to spiritual growth and living a new way of life in recovery, I’d suggest you consider your mind is like the timer. You’re the bread, and when you put yourself into the oven to cook, that’s like you setting the program of recovery in motion in your life. I’m just saying, if you’re patient with the process, you’ll allow time for things to move into place naturally, without any force or strain.”
I’ve never forgotten that woman’s kind, wise words, and have benefitted countless times over the years from simply adhering to the “bottom line” of her message to me: Don’t expect the bread (myself or others) to be “done” until it’s had sufficient time to cook… and don’t judge it (myself or others) just because it may need more time in the oven (recovery).
In practical terms, this maxim applies to many aspects of a life in recovery — for example:
- We are not in charge of the precise timing of our healing—from our emotional wounds, psychological traumas or the disease of addiction. Our humility and patience with the recovery process will allow progress to take place in its own good time, rather than through us trying to force or control the outcomes.
- A patient attitude can directly enhance our ability to maintain sanity and serenity when facing how a work or relationship issue is unfolding. When we’re predisposed to being patient with others—knowing we’re not in control of their decisions or their behavior—it lends itself to our having greater equanimity and even tranquility in the midst of other people’s drama.
- Given our “external actions begin with interior dispositions,” we’re much more likely to have positive results when we nurture within ourselves the faith, humility, and courage that allows our patience to thrive. Throughout history, those who’ve been successful in their endeavors have not advocated rushing, haste and impatience, but an even-tempered, deliberate, and patient attitude going forward.
Those of us in recovery know what it’s like to have lived with the enslaving demands born of addiction and substance abuse. I’ve seen over and over again how being patient with ourselves and others is a valuable key to liberating ourselves from that prison and enjoying a new life of freedom from active addiction, one day at a time.