Loyalty to me is like a commitment. It shows that I am willing to help in any way I can. Being devoted to someone or something consists of being trustworthy, honest, respectful, empathetic, and even courageous. I remain loyal to only a few people in my life today because these people have my best interest in mind and have been there for me in the darkest of times.
In recovery when I think of loyalty there are a couple people who come to mind. First off, SOCD and Salina have always been there for me when I needed help. Even when I did not deserve that loyalty it was never broken. She never gave up on me because she saw through the evil mask I would wear and see the potential I have. To this day, that bond still stands strong. Another person who comes to mind is my sponsor. I’ve shared things with him that I will take to the grave. He never judged me for any of those character defects. He has remained loyal to me and is helping me get through the steps with my full trust. I have never had this kind of loyalty in a relationship. And now I can see how loyalty in recovery is very important
When I think of the word loyalty I immediately am taken to a place where I once was distorted in my thinking of the word. I used to think that loyalty was a strong sense of commitment to people that was based in trust. That is didn’t matter if the people were wrong or right, or if it was good or bad for the person that I am being loyal too, that the only thing that mattered was that I had their back 100% no matter what. Now that I am working on myself I see the word loyalty in a different light. I see the word as a bond of connection to someone because it comes from a place of respect. It isn’t an unfounded respect that stems from a place of fear or convoluted moral foundations. I try to have loyalty towards my wife, friends, and role models because I have respect for them and value them so much that I am willing to hold them accountable to help them grow when I see them struggling. My sense of the word has grown exponentially since getting sober and healthy. The word holds a new sense of power that comes from a healthy level of respect.
Here at South Orange County Detox and Treatment, we are featuring “Loyalty” in our continuing Word of the Week series. Typically, when one thinks of loyalty, associations to a romantic partner, close friends, or even the country in which one lives are some of the presumed allegiances. Simply defined, loyalty is the unwavering support of a person, group, cause or idea. As we are focusing on recovery, I want to put a different spin on the way we generally conceive of the idea of loyalty. Namely, I want to look at the importance of loyalty in relation to one’s principles and convictions, loyalty to our fellow addicts in addiction, and finally, loyalty to the friends, family, and those who have selflessly devoted their time and energy in order to help us heal while guiding us down the path to sobriety.
Remaining loyal to the ways in which we go about treating ourselves and others is a crucial part of establishing a newfound pattern of behaviors and thoughts that is necessary to anyone who wishes to truly experience growth and contentment throughout their recovery process. If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t apply any amount of loyalty to, what could’ve been considered to be principles prior to using, during your drug and alcohol use. This is no surprise, nor should it be, as we are all keenly aware that in order to survive while in active addiction, it is an unspoken requirement that any loyalty to pre-established conceptions of what it means to be virtuous are thrown out the window as quickly as possible. We know the drill; wake up, pray to god that we be relieved of this life that so closely resembles hell, and then get on with our business of copping by ANY MEANS NECESSARY. If you are reading this, chances are you already know that we no longer have to live like this if we don’t want to. The operative phrase in that sentence, however, is “if we don’t want to”. If we choose to not take seriously the importance of being loyal to our convictions and what we know to be true, right, and good, we are really being disloyal to ourselves, our loves one, and our creator who yearns for our realization that we are eternal, interconnected, and unified by the principle of love.
I believe, as a community that supports recovery, we also need to be loyal to one another. This means making gossip, judgements, jealousy, and pride anathema inside and outside of the rooms. This means consistent empathy and understanding for those who are walking in a different pair of the same shoes as we are wearing. This means removing condescending or dominating language with other addicts as we are no better nor worse, but probably just in a different position that could easily be reversed. Finally, it means showing loyalty to anyone who is willing to give a shot at a new life in sobriety a try. In this context, loyalty to the community is integral because the success of it is dependent on the quality of our connection to one another. As I recently heard Russel Brand state so poignantly, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection.” If we take this notion seriously and understand that the opposing force that most effectively combats our disease is meaningful connection with others, we can see with clarity the importance of loyalty of this kind. I want to leave a quote from Mark Twain where he is pleading that we foster righteous convictions, and remain fiercely loyal to them as the only means for real change as a lack of loyalty in this respect facilitates the atrophy of our integrity. “Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world… and never will.”
Loyalty is the absence of selfishness. To be loyal one must instill their trust onto others. This process requires time and patience. It is just as important to gain one’s loyalty but to maintain it as well; for the slightest sense of rebellion in the relationship creates a sense of distrust. Once there is uncertainty the journey to gain one’s trust must start over. To avoid losing one’s trust and to remain loyal it is important to communicate honestly and effectively. Successful relationships are transparent.
From my experience through sports, athletes become loyal to their coaches once a rapport is built. An athlete becomes more receptive to a coaches training after there has been signs of loyalty on both ends of the relationship. The relationship is built upon a mutual goal and interest. Once there is a connection it is important to maintain trust to ensure loyalty. A coach cannot show favoritism between others because it creates a sense of division and will cause some to stray from being loyal. Vice versa for the athlete. One must put trust into the coaches training and be loyal to the process.
I have seen the differences in loyalty that produces different outcomes. When there was a bad relationship between my coach and I, I was unmotivated, there was no trust, and I ran poorly. Once I began to be loyal to my coach and trusted his training methods my mindset had shifted. I began to enjoy running and to be loyal to his training. These changes created a better relationship and ultimately I became a better runner. To me, this shows the importance of being loyal within a relationship. If there is mutual trust and loyalty a relationship is far more successful.
Throughout my life I have noticed character defects whether they are good or bad. However, at times it is hard for me to see my defects of character. I am grateful that I have supportive people in my life to point out my defects when I’m in the wrong. The experiences I’ve been through are opportunities to learn, whether it is good or bad. Jealousy, anger, sadness, depression and being envious are just some of my personal defects. But, on the bright side, it is normal to experience those defects. Some people have the same defects, others have it different. The important thing is you need to make sure you outweigh the defects with your positive traits, such as, loving, caring, passionate, honesty, and hardworking. Being focused on the good you have inside the less you see the bad come out.
The concept of character is not something a person is born with. Character is shaped and molded by experiences throughout one’s life. It is not enough to simply state characteristics that you believe you have, they must be defined by actions. Growing up playing basketball I witnessed various shades of character. There are many characteristics of athletes that are favorable: hardworking, courageous, bold, and determined; but, there are also characteristics that can derive from competition that demonstrates poor character. One of the most valuable lessons that helped shape my character was learning how to win and how to lose. However, this is not a literal step process to win or lose based on points but rather based on one’s poise and actions when winning or losing. How a person acts and treats others when winning or losing demonstrates what kind of character they hold. Being boastful, spiteful, angry, and harmfully aggressive are examples of negative characteristics. Witnessing these poor characteristics helped me to piece together what I want my own personal character to abide by. I also learned that character is not only what standards a person holds themselves accountable to in front of others, but what standards they hold for themselves when there is no one around. John Wooden quotes, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Being true to your word when others are not around demonstrates strong characteristics. Nobody is perfect. I believe someone with good character continues to hold themselves accountable to higher standards and strives to better oneself. As long as someone is willing to continue to grow it shows good character.
Morals, Traits, and Qualities. They’re what the character is constructed of and areas which my addiction left in shambles. My addiction left me a shell of a man and someone I didn’t even personally like. I developed character defects that were subversive to my well-being. I became a liar, untrustworthy, passive, self-pitying, and irresponsible. I became everything I despised in other people who possessed those flaws. However horrible those experiences that allowed my character to be emerged with these defects and imperfections, they drove me to come to SOCD to receive and follow the advice of Salina. She’s helped to an extent with which words cannot describe. She’s pushed me along and has helped many of my defects wane through her effort and insight. Salina has helped me work on being responsible, assertive and direct, trustworthy, dependable, and true to myself. I’ve gained a healthier sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and dignity. I’m actually proud and confident. When I think of the character I had as compared to the character I have now, I notice tremendous differences. Today I am no longer overflowing with selfishness. I am not lying, stealing, manipulating, or being intentionally dishonest. I’m trying to bridge that gap between who I portray and how I act with effort, energy, and consistency. My addictions left my scales of character tipping. My moral compass was broken and heading me down the path I didn’t intend on going. Over the last 5 months my scales of character and my moral compass have re-calibrated. I’m back on the path I’m supposed to be on to get where I want to be.
There are a lot of different qualities and traits one can have to make up their character. There are positive and negative characteristics one can carry. Through my addiction my character consisted of a dishonest, manipulative, selfish thief, but yet, could also be a loyal, trustworthy, respected friend. In the time of my sobriety, I find that I have more integrity with my positive character traits, where whom I am, loving, caring, empathetic, hardworking, and determined to deal and fight through the character defects that still reside and show from time to time. I believe my defects and traits, past and present, have helped me discover the character I can adore to further be.
When talking about the word character the first word that comes to mind for me is integrity and honesty. When in recovery we want to try and sharpen our character to become better people than the people we are when we are using. Not being two faced and being consistent all the way across the board is a good place to start. I am reminded of when I was young and my grandmother would tell me to have good character and to be a man of character. This still holds true for me today as a man in recovery. I need to work on dealing with the rough edges I have in order to start to deal with the parts of me that cause such wreckage in my past. I want to be trustworthy, loyal, honest, dedicated, kind and faithful as I grow in sobriety so I can live up to the things I expect myself to do in sobriety. I want to say that I have good character when people speak about me when I am not around or when they describe me.