Here at South Orange County Detox & Treatment (SOCD), we are featuring “patience” for our Word of the Week series. It is not lost on me that I say this about all of the words we highlight here, but this one has a particularly meaningful and impactful application within the context of recovery. While a lot of the characteristics necessary to foster meaningful and lasting recovery are traits that require implementation; courage, awareness, hope, and forgiveness denote taking particular and even sometimes specific courses of action. The act of harvesting patience, on the other hand, requires a battle that unfolds within ourselves, even if the agent forcing us to implement this patience is external. In recovery, the application of patience generalized through nearly every facet of the process. To name a few, we need patience in early recovery that we apply to ourselves so that we aren’t swallowed alive in the quicksand of shame and guilt related to our recent use, we utilize patience with practical matters such as finding employment without a glowing resume, we need to apply patience with loved ones who have, and haven’t, stood by us throughout our battles, and we need patience over the long haul in our sobriety so we do not lose our humility and remember that the war raging with this disease is won one battle at a time, one day at a time. Apropos, Tolstoy points this out saying, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” I doubt, unfortunately, that Tolstoy knew how accurately he was describing spiritual warfare against addiction.
We have talked about traits in the past that were integral cornerstones to a solid recovery program, but I can say assuredly that patience falls in the category of characteristics that are absolutely indispensable during this process of growth. One of my favorites aspects of the rooms is their emphasis on disseminating the message of the serenity prayer and making that perspective a focal point of the recovering addict’s approach. We see the need for patience in these earliest of stages as it pertains to the serenity prayer. Without patience, how could one ever expect to engage one’s courage if they didn’t have the patience to delineate what is, and isn’t, within one’s own power to change?! It’s no secret that we, as addicts, are what the big book calls “King Baby’s”. This is their not-so-subtle way of reminding us that we want what we want, when we want it, and if we don’t get it, we throw adult-sized baby fits! This culture of desiring instant gratification isn’t relegated to addicts; this is also an unfortunate byproduct of American society. Unfortunately, as addicts, we also like to point the finger at everything that isn’t the source that is within our control, ourselves. Finally, I want to leave a quote that Paulo Coelho said which describes the perspective and approach to life that would be of great advantage if we could adopt it; “I have seen so many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”