I feel so used to instant gratification that having faith in anything hasn’t been easy for me. By definition faith is “believing in something that you can’t see.” Growing up I defiantly developed trust issues. It takes me some time to trust others and to trust myself. Once I entered recovery and surrendered to the process, I stopped fighting everything and slowly I began to have faith in the people around me who were trying to help me succeed and started to have faith in God. Now that I have 6-months of sobriety, I have learned to have faith in the things I don’t understand in the moment. Little by little I’ve seen things change and what used to make no sense to has started to make sense. I don’t pray religiously but I do pray weekly to my higher power whom I call God. I may not be the best Christian but I do believe that synchronicity is God’s way of speaking to me. Without having faith, I never would have known to look at life like that. My life, without faith left me ungrateful and in-turn was meaningless, unfulfilling and boring. Today, I feel happier and more connected with a faithful out look on life. I feel that anyone who chooses not to have faith doesn’t realize how much life is better having faith in a higher power.
As our Word of the Week series continues, we will be focusing on a word that is paramount in the context of long-term sobriety. We will be discussing the advantages of engaging in an attitude of faith during process. Maintaining a sense of faith, especially during the early stages of sobriety is invaluable, but let’s break down exactly why this is important. A word we have focused on during this series, in the past, has been hope; we cannot expect to forge a path into freedom and autonomy if we cannot begin to foster hope in the initial phases of recovery. It is obvious why hope is a necessity, as it is required in order to motivate us to engage in the right action during the present. If we have no hope in how we can effectively shape our future, we will have no motivation to begin creating new pathways that ought to start us down the course of liberation and freedom from drugs and alcohol. The precursor to hope, however, is faith, and without it we’ve lost before we’ve ever began. We can define faith in a lot of different ways, but for the sake of those of us in recovery, lets think of it as an agreement and understanding within ourselves that acknowledges it is more important to engage in right acts because they are right than to participate in dishonest acts that may serve us in a more immediate manner. As an example, when I was learning to dunk in basketball, rather than lining up day after day trying to work on the “style” of my dunk, I had to place faith in the fact that eventually I would work my way up to dunking if I completed my daily plyometric (jumping) drills. While this process was grueling and painstaking, I engaged in it despite that because I had faith that it would ultimately lead me to my goal. Faith can be applied similarly within recovery. As the program manager at South Orange County Detox and Treatment, I have worked with more than my fair share of clients who have been unable or unwilling to practice faith, especially in early recovery. I see, all too often, where the path leads that is not lit by faith, and it starts early. Within the first month it is relatively easy to spot those who are going to be successful and those who are not based on whether or not they are going to allow themselves to put faith in something greater then themselves, and faith in the guidance of the leadership at South Orange County Detox and Treatment. I understand the oxymoronic nature of putting faith in someone or something that is unknown, but in the arena of addiction, we must place our ego’s to the side and allow those who have experience guide us. The reason putting faith into those who are trustworthy is so crucial is because there can be no lasting faith or hope without a connection to reality. I can have faith and hope that world hunger can and will be solved, however, if I don’t know how to accurately assess this problem, the practice of faith will merely be exercises in impotent self-exaltation.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” -Helen Keller
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.
When I think of the word leadership I think of guidance, direction, supervision but not in the sense of control. In the sense of someone who is doing such things for the greater good or because that person in the position of leader wants the best for you. I always wanted to be a leader growing up, I thought I could boss others around and tell them what to do when I wanted them to do it. Oh how my mindset has changed, leadership means quite the opposite to me now, though I feel like some people in leadership roles specifically currently in our world may still feel that is what it means to be a leader. I find a lot of the time it’s those quiet leaders that have the greatest impact, those that lead by example, with integrity. Those that make you want to do something because you see it working in their life. When I was using I did lots of things to make me feel like I had power or control or effect on others. When in all reality I was completely powerless and had lost all control and absolutely all choice in matters, and specifically my life. Now that I have gotten clean and sober, some of the leaders who stand out to me are in fact, those quiet leaders. Those people who don’t have to say much because their actions speak so much louder than their words. When I got to South Orange County Detox & Treatment (SOCD), I learned a lot of things, one thing of a lot importance was reconnecting with God, of my own understanding, who has become my real leader. My Higher Power is “The Real Persuader” and power in my life. I feel that he leads me right to those people in leadership roles that can help me grow and blossom into the person in sobriety I was always meant to be. Most importantly He is starting to show me ways that I can come in to that role of a leader and how I can do good with it instead of evil, as I used to.
What is leadership? Is it looking up to someone who’s bigger and stronger than you?
No a leader is a person making an effort to do the right thing and show others the path to take behind them. Leaders aren’t better than anyone else. Good leaders show heart, faith and courage, leading by example in a chaotic world. Leaders maintain composure by pushing through the muck to the other side is the only way out of the pain. I believe that Salina has shown me leadership the entire 15 months I’ve been sober. I’ve done the hard work but her leadership has helped me push through the muck and the pain towards success .
Leadership is definitely important because without it we would never have anyone to look at for guidance or as the starters of something. Good leaders are there to lend a helping hand when you need a person to listen to your issues or give advice to you when you are down on your luck. I have personally been helped by good leaders in my recovery from people at SOCD and from “leaders” in AA who have helped me understand what AA is about and what sobriety is and what it can offer not only to me but to the people I am around.
The quality of leadership consists in one who takes a stand within a group of people and knows how he or she feels about the greater good. A leader is courageous and willing to put themselves in front of others to demonstrate independence. A leader is someone whom others admire and who offers motivation and a positive influence for others to follow. Naturally, we look up to someone with these traits mostly because we seek those traits ourselves. I’ve learned much more about leadership and how I can obtain these traits through the example of leaders at South Orange County Detox & Treatment (SOCD). I need to live in appreciation for those examples through showing leadership qualities in my own life.
Leadership is a good quality to have and it reflects in someone who leads by an example. Normally, in every group of people there is a leader. In recovery, for myself, having someone who leads me in the right direction is important to help me stay sober, normally it’s a sponsor . Leadership should always come from a place of good intentions and should be followed by action, by doing the right thing when nobody is looking. I haven’t always done the right thing when nobody is looking, nor when people are looking. I have never seen myself as a leader but I’m inspired by good leadership to better myself when I observe others who are doing the right thing. Positive leaders are typically in that role because they are independent thinkers, who don’t care about what others think and act for the greater good. These people inspire me to not listen to my self-doubt and to do the right thing, just because it’s the right thing to do. Early in recovery I’m easily influenced, therefore it’s important that I’m aware of the intentions of the leaders whom I follow. Leadership isn’t something you can teach. I feel that individuals either have leadership qualities, or they don’t. I can see myself down the road taking a leadership position in recovery, as I feel I could inspire others in a positive direction and be a person that others can look up to in recovery. It’s about no so much about finding leadership within, it’s more about letting it out.