By: Rose Lockinger
Many people who get sober accomplish amazing feats. They were people who were hopelessly stuck in the vicious cycle of addiction. Who couldn’t get a day sober, and spent a great deal of time destroying their careers, if they were lucky enough to have one, ruining relationships, and chalking up lengthy legal consequences, yet when they get sober many dramatically turn their lives around. They go back to school and graduate with honors, they get amazing jobs helping many people, they start families, or follow their dreams and yet still many alcoholics find it extremely difficult to give themselves kudos for these accomplishments. If asked they brush them off and tell you about the negative things that they have been doing. How they’ve been acting out on their character defects and how they could do better. They spend a lot of time engaged in self-destructive negative talk and struggle with learning how to love themselves
I know that this is the case for me. No matter what incredible things I’ve accomplished over these past almost 2 years, my mind still constantly goes to what I’m lacking, or what I could have done better. So where does this come from? How is it that I can singularly know my faults and lacking, and yet so ambiguously understand my accomplishments? After much self-reflection I think I have come to some semblance of an answer for this.
The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “in actual practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal insufficient.” This is in reference to the 5th step, but for what we are discussing here it ties in perfectly. What this sentence means is that alcoholics are almost completely unable to accurately judge themselves. In order to accurately see who we are and where we stand we need the help of others, and so left to our own devices, we usually fail utterly at a self-appraisal. So with this in mind, it then begs the question, why is it in our failing of self-appraisal, we tend to go to the negative rather than the positive? Why couldn’t we fail and recognize only our accomplishments and completely disregard our failings?
While there is no definite answer to this question, in general it is probably because many of us did this for years while we were drinking. While drinking we tended to blank out of our memory any of our own wrong doings and so we would boast of accomplishments, if only to help construct the delusion under which we were living. If we did anything wrong, or we failed to live up to our own standards, it was usually someone else’s fault and so we were able to shift blame and avoid ever looking at any of our failings.
Once we get sober, this idea is completely smashed, and we come to realize that we played a part in all of it, and so we begin to notice our own failings. This is the point where many begin to downplay, or be unable to appreciate their accomplishments. We become hyper-aware of the things that we are lacking in, and for good measure, out of fear of returning to the drink, we begin to displace our accomplishment, and only focus on the negatives about ourselves. Adding to this is the idea that most arrive at, that our high power has allowed for all of the positive things in our lives that have happened, and so we take even less credit for them, leaving us with only our failings to own.
Besides this, many alcoholics still feel a tremendous amount of guilt, even after being sober for quite some time. This adds to our inability to accept our accomplishments because many of us feel that we are undeserving of them in the first place. So being undeserving we usurp feelings of pride in our accomplishments by focusing on the bad things about us, or what we still have yet to accomplish.
This might all sound confusing and overly analytical, so to distill it down to its simplest form, we basically find it difficult to accept our accomplishments because we still carry guilt from when we were drinking, which makes us feel undeserving of success, and we are afraid that if we own our accomplishments we will driven back to the drink by pride and ego.
The truth of the matter is that as sober alcoholics we have much to take pride in, and we should truly own our accomplishments. Yes, our high power made these things possible, but we put forth the effort necessary to change our lives. Many of us have went from less than zero to where we are today and that is reason enough to hold our heads high and feel worthy of love and accomplishment.
Marianne Williamson has a wonderful quote in her book A Return to Love that perfectly describes the dilemma of the alcoholic and some solid advice for learning to appreciate our accomplishments.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So I am going to make a concerted effort to let my light shine. Accepting my accomplishments and taking credit where credit is due, because in doing so I will hopefully help to liberate others who suffer from the same sense of bewilderment when it comes to appreciating their accomplishments. By playing small and focusing only on what I am missing, I help no one, and what’s worse is, I torture myself unnecessarily.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.
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