Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Loose Change

During their initial year of recovery or following a significant relapse in their sobriety, alcoholics are discouraged from making any major life changes for the first year.

Major changes can include anything from a new home or new job, starting a new relationship or ending an old one, getting married or divorced, or committing to any sort of new life decision or altering your life's course in any additional way. 

The same could be recommended for all manner of survivors when initially faced with trauma, crisis, or illness.

Most people, whether a survivor or not, don’t like to be told what to do. In fact, we can all be stubborn when we feel someone is trying to tell us what to do or how to feel. Sometimes when we are trying to regain our footing, the more we are told what not to do, the more we want to do them. We rationalize and override that in our case there is no point for these suggestions and that they are not relevant to us. Advice can get casually brushed aside and recommendations go unheeded, because we know best.

However, this is not an attempt at controlling us or having us relinquish our own control. It isn't about limiting our lives or hindering our potential to heal and find happiness. It's not about less control, but about having the time to understand the underlying nuances and true needs of our situations more completely.

For alcoholics, sober is a totally new view, with emotional spikes they were previously too numb to fully experience. For survivors, sobering realities are an altering view within an emotional roller-coaster we have never experienced before. Both can suddenly feel great clarity and less blind. The view can be exhilarating or induce spiritual vertigo. It carries with it both the positive and the negative, whose edges sometimes blur making it difficult to distinguish the differences.

The idea of not entering into or exiting out of our important relationships is recommended, because during these fragile times we are already dealing with volatile, unpredictable or overwhelming emotions. We are seeing the world with new eyes, trying to figure out where we now stand in our lives, experimenting with new sources to inspire our future, and grappling to find inner stability. We are in the process of learning how to live with this new version of ourselves. 

During this, we are experiencing our feelings with a new depth of intensity we may have never experienced before and it's often too easy to believe that intensity is due to others. We need time to evaluate and explore these feelings honestly until we can find our own footing enough to truly know the path we want to walk with someone else. 

Clinging too quickly to these "in the moment" intensities can become complicated, as we grow and come to terms with our own changes. We risk wrapping our recoveries in someone else, tangling our healing, instead of anchoring them first within ourselves. 

If it unravels, this can be disastrous later, because we have put so much of who we have become into it too soon. We need to recover and know ourselves better, before we can truly share ourselves with someone else in any long-lasting meaningful way.

As we are changing inside, it is natural to want to make major external changes outside as well. The idea of making a move from the familiar to the unexplored can feel exciting and empowering, especially if we have been weighted down with hardships and darkness. It is easier to recreate who we are on a blank canvas where we have not yet made mistakes and our mistakes are unknown to others than it is to pick up the pieces and rebuild.

While it is important to be open to change, especially when it is coming at us with such force, we need to maintain and trust our sources of stability before embracing additional emotional outlets. We need to not act rashly or overreact emotionally.

Transformation is very hard, but fulfilling work. Rebuilding ourselves is a task, but it's important to attempt the reconstruction with the bricks at hand before throwing them out and replacing them with new ones. 

There will indeed be changes ahead as we get to know these new versions of ourselves. But, we need to be take the time to find out who we are before making major changes which help define us. It will help us make the right choices for the right sort of changes in the long run.

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