I have struggled my whole life with holding onto myself; trying to balance individuality and togetherness. I make the choice to be negatively influenced by others, going against my true thoughts and feeling. However, through self-awareness, I can stop this from happening again in the future. For me, this takes a lot of patience and practice. Breaking it down for myself, I realize that I edit my reality because of self-doubt. In the past, I never put the time into understanding myself and in-turn I let others make decisions for me. At 6th-months sober, I still struggle with self-doubt. The whole word is brand new again. Nobody has ever showed me the ropes, therefore I am learning as I go. I realize now that most people don’t really know what they’re doing and I’ve been letting others negatively influence me for far too long. My individuality is all mine and is much more valuable to me now that I am sober. Today, I’m consciously awake to connect with others without letting them edit my behaviors.
I find inspiration through other addicts in recovery. To see other people fighting this battle as well as maintaining sobriety motivates me and inspires me to continue to fight as well. As a kid I always felt different, and the things that inspired me weren’t positive and I always had something selfish or negative to achieve to make myself feel like I belonged. I aspired to be anything other than what everyone else wanted me to be. This led to bad habits and an endless cycle of negativity in my life. It wasn’t until I hit my bottom in active addiction that I had a realization that I needed to do something different. I was lost in the insanity that my drug and alcohol use induced. I had been to meetings and treatment a handful of times before, but I never found real inspiration, hope or spirituality within others or myself. I felt hopeless. I discovered my spirituality when I finally faced my fears and my denial over being an addict. I gained spirituality through God and through other addicts. I finally sat down and listened to what people were saying and suggesting, rather than wallowing in self-pity and acting on things that were purely for selfish gain. Without inspiration through others stories, as well as their commitment to a new life, I would never know what peace and serenity looked like for myself. Today I am able to say that I find inspiration daily, through the small things in life to inspirational people who have experienced the same things I have. I have a spiritual connection and hope for myself and other addicts now that I have opened my eyes to the positive influences in life. I no longer have to live in fear on a daily basis.
Our Word of the Week series continues here at South Orange County Detox as we highlight “influence” as our featured word. Influence is an interesting word as it doesn’t necessarily denote a positive facilitator of change, but merely any tool by which the agent has been modified for the good or bad, one way or another. We’re going to work backwards today in our attempt to unravel how to best integrate positive influences into our lives while keeping negative ones at bay. We also want to take this examination one step further in order to stay mindful of how the negative influences throughout our impacted us in order to avoid these pitfalls in the future. As most of us are aware of by now, our initial and most impactful influences, positive and negative, come from our primary caretakers, or in most cases, our parents. While it would be comforting to believe that the parents we love and adore were only the harbingers of positive change, which can also be true, the devil lies in the details in that they have also likely helped to lay the foundation of dysfunction and even trauma as well. I won’t go into the advantages of psycho-therapeutic work for brevity’s sake, but I do want to point out that while we are not at fault for our parents shortcomings vis a vis their parenting, we are responsible for how much care and energy we expend on the process of unpacking these emotionally-charged issues and dynamics so that we may live as liberated as we can be from the skeletons residing in our closets. Now that we’ve touched on the more difficult, time-consuming, and longitudinal-type work, let’s look at what how we can address issues of influence within the present. First and foremost, let’s stop running on the assumption that sobriety is the only litmus test that matters with respect to how we seek positive people as influences within the recovery culture. You wouldn’t evaluate a “Normie” who had overcome obesity as a generally “good person” simply by virtue of their weight loss so let’s not make the same mistake when it comes to addicts in recovery. Is it an incredible accomplishment? Yes; does it give an accurate depiction of the whole of the individual? Absolutely not. We need to be incorporating a holistic approach even when looking for new friends, sponsors, or sober friends in general. The old saying goes, “You’re can only be as successful as your least successful friend.” While this is probably overstated, the point remains that we are deeply influenced by our friend and peer groups and therefore we ought to be choosing people that will exemplify positivity, honesty, integrity, compassion, and loyalty. This all sounds pretty simple, and it certainly can be. One last tip I’d like to suggest while discussing influence is this: think back on someone who has influenced you in a negative way and try to get to the bottom of why you were attracted to that person. Did their confidence make you feel secure as it did with your father? Were they caring and compassionate as your mother was? Were they fiercely loyal as your big brother was growing up? What matters here isn’t how you reacted during this period where you allowed for negative influence to breach your consciousness, but rather to understand why you were attracted to this dynamic in the first place. Now that we have come back full circle, the realizations you have gathered may be a good place to start within the context of long-term work with a therapist, mentor, or sponsor. Finally, the least obvious yet potentially most impactful influence on any individual can be found in their relationship with a Higher Power. While necessary components of any influential system, humans can be fickle, compromising, and fallible, however, God always remains a constant source of love and connectedness within a world of ever-changing chaos and discord. Nikola Tesla stated this point beautifully when he said, “Every living being is an engine geared to the wheel work of the universe. Though seemingly affected only by its immediate surrounding, the sphere of external influence extends to infinite distance.” When we learn to embrace the divinity of the cosmos we can begin the work of sharing the sustenance of divine influence to those who are spiritually malnourished.
Every stage of recovery influence to do the right thing is appropriate. The power of influence is unconsciously and subconsciously strong. Having someone’s best intention in mind means you would be their positive influence at any given time. Having a negative influence on someone can effect that person as well as the next person he or she came into contact with. Influences spread like diseases, especially when your influence is someone you look up to or someone you admire and love. Human beings are aware of right and wrong and its very important to keep positive influences around in order to keep a positive mindset.
Our Word of the Week series continues here at South Orange County Detox and Treatment as we turn our focus to a new word to examine, “influence”. As an addict/alcoholic, the first association with this particular word makes me think of “driving under the influence” or being “under the influence” of a particular drug. The next association that comes to mind, and following the natural progression of anyone who has suffered the legal consequences of addiction, is some type of criminal charge and maybe even a night, or 30, in jail. Once we admit we have a problem, however, and begin taking the necessary steps to seeking out a solution, we can begin to focus on the word “influence” in a more positive and hope-oriented light. Influences play a monumental role in the early stages of recovery, whether they are groups and communities, individuals, or even ideas. The reason it is so important to subscribe to positive influence early in sobriety is two-fold: first off, we can go back to our original association with influence, which is that of our drugs of choice. Our physical addictions, psychological obsessions, and emotional dependency on these substances were the determining factors in all of our actions when in active addiction. It is often said that one should not pull out a rug from another person without something adequate to replace it. This leads me to my second point which is that we have to be able to replace the drugs, and more aptly put, replace what the drugs were a illegitimate substitute for, in order to maintain any semblance of sanity during these first stages. I think the most obvious and universally effective replacement for the negative influence of drugs is the positive influence of a like-minded community such as is found in the rooms of AA and NA. Although engaging in the 12 steps is an invaluable tool for self-enlightenment and spiritual growth, I’m simply suggesting showing up to a meeting in order to find love and support from those who can identify with the addict’s plight as there is an inherent healing quality within this type of connection. Once this foundation is laid and one is able to feel supported by a community, it would be remiss not to turn our focus to a higher-order purpose. What I mean by this is setting our sights on emulating those individuals who might help bring us closer to our potential in whatever form that may be. As an example, if one of your goals in recovery, or life in general, is to become a great basketball player, you ought to be looking to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as your influence and probably not setting your sights on surpassing the average Joe at your local gym. In all likelihood, none of us will ever be the Michael Jordan’s of our respective aspirations, however, adopting someone or something that will help us strive to our greatest potential will do two things for us. It will keep us in a state of humility as we will be able to recognize our shortcomings in the face of the ideal, and two, it will keep us striving to be better than we thought we could be. This may seem like an unreasonable standard to try and meet but I believe that is the point. Life is not about ever becoming the proverbial Michael Jordan, it is about working as hard as the people who we look to in order to influence us so that we may become whatever version of the “the best” that we can be in accordance with our own abilities. Everything we experience influences us in one way or another meaning that we must apply wisdom when choosing our influences, especially when walking the path of recovery.