The Power of Acceptance: Embracing Change for a Brighter Future
Maya is completing a drug rehab internship at Serenity Vista. Every week in her blog Maya shares some of her insights and discoveries on alcoholism and recovery. In this blog posting Maya describes some highlights of her second week.
If the water in a fish bowl is dirty, adding fresh water won’t remove the dirt that is there. It might give the illusion the water is cleaner, but overall, the water remains dirty. What we need to do in order for the water to be really clean is simply replace the whole bowl with new clean water.
It seems to me that we are the water in which we are swimming. This is why we need to clean our water completely in order to be healthy. This means we also need to go to the bottom of our mess, get all of the dirt out of the way in order to see clearly again. This is what transformation is all about.
Through my first few weeks of internship, I have been exposed to the dynamic of alcoholism and recovery. I carefully exclude any reference to any particular person but refer here to a more general pattern of the disease. This article is not about any personality, but rather about alcoholism.
I am learning about the importance of confidentiality and anonymity.In the beginning, many people describe alcohol having a positive effect in their life. Some come from households where there was drinking, some not. Some from wealthy backgrounds, some poor. Some were involved with crime, some were pillars of their community.
The common denominator, however, seems to be that those early days of drinking gave some positive feeling. Feelings often of belonging, feeling strong, invincible, courageous, charming, confident, or good looking. Some begin to experience negative consequences from their drinking, but it continues in the alcoholic, continuing to chase those good feelings despite increasing negative consequences.
It seems that when people begin their journey of recovery, the negative consequences have tipped the balance to the point where alcohol no longer 'works'. The great feelings brought on initially by alcohol are often replaced with more negative feelings such as shame, guilt, remorse, sadness, hurt, and loneliness.
Through the process of recovery, everything starts to change, the destructive effect of alcohol stops, and repair of body, mind and spirit begins.
So how is this seemingly miraculous transformation possible? Well, it seems to this writer that in order for a new person to emerge, there needs to be some space. And in order to make space, there needs to be a cleaning of the old. A "break up" with the former self that no longer serves well. It is in this breaking of everything that once made sense that one can find the place to rebuild new habits.
These new habits might eventually lead to a new pathway, and as a result of that new pathway, a new person and a new life has the potential to blossom. This becomes possible when it becomes evident that past and present behaviours no longer serve well and indeed may be holding back growth and change.
What is needed is to detach from that old baggage that has been carried around. It is by undoing old beliefs that have been blocking the way, that the possibility emerges for a new life.
But without knowing another way, the struggling alcoholic can easily stay stuck in repeating old behaviors. Drinking makes sense without the tools to approach painful feelings. When the outcomes repeatedly become undesirable, there can be motivation for change. If a person can learn how to live with feelings, will there be the same need to drink?
If there can be learning to be honest about inner-experiences, to share with other fellows that can relate, perhaps what perpetuated the motivation to drink in the first place would diminish. Learning and experiencing a new way, a new template, new skills with guidelines for living life on life's terms, and in the process, letting go of the old.
Perhaps this is part of the process of change; making space for the new.
Learning how to live a new sober life is analogous to a newborn experiencing the wonders of life. It is a very different life than the one under the effect of alcohol or other drugs. On one side, the five senses return, and how one relates to other people changes. Interactions become real.
On the other side, feeling the real emotions of everyday life can also be overwhelming with a tendency to shift back to old patterns of thinking and behaving.As the recovering alcoholic experiences life's inevitable uncomfortable emotions, new ways of having fun without drinking are experienced.
Learning to live in the moment; a life no more controlled by fear but rather directed by truth and honesty. Only by taking one step after the other can it lead to success. It’s a victory over a disease that is ironically obtained only through defeat.
There is a shift from an inner 'dis-ease', to an ease of mind. The disease still lives within, but ease can be found on another new level. It is getting rid of the old, creating a space for the new. It’s being thankful for sobriety and the opportunity to choose to live differently, choosing to transform a little more, day by day. A process of healing, one day at a time.
Now wait a minute. I’m not a construction master, but aren't we missing a piece here? How can someone rebuild a house on top of an old house? Oh, I know, what we forgot; we forgot to destroy the old house. Before one can rebuild a house, one needs to take the old one down.
As I said earlier, one needs to clean the dirty water. Replacing the dirty water with clean water to lets the fish feel free and alive again.As the old house is taken down, all the pieces fall on the ground, and the clean up process must begin.
Cleaning the mess isn't the easiest or most fun part of recovery. Making amends is hard and takes courage. Coming to terms with what has been done, with the people that may have been hurt, with people possibly disrespected, judged, blamed, or said horrible words to, is definitely not an easy step. But it is one of several very important steps with profound positive effect. It has the potential of decreasing a huge burden of feelings such as shame, guilt or remorse.
This process creates an opening for a new chapter of the book of life. A new chapter with white pages yet to be written.There is a difference between letting go of the past and repressing past memories that cause disturbance. Repression is the act of burying emotions and acting like they don’t exist.
These emotions will remain buried until or unless they are brought back up and dealt with. Part of healing is feeling all emotions, and releasing them. Emotions that are buried in the long-term end up wasting a lot of energy and come to be highly damaging to oneself.
Letting go of the past is, on the contrary, very freeing, letting go of the past, ready to move on. As per the fish bowl metaphor, it is as though swimming in fresh clean water.
Maya has described here her early understanding of the miracle of change that is possible in recovery. She describes a hypothetical understanding of the process of transformation to new life. If you or your loved one are seeking this type of healing and change for your life, know it is possible for you too. At Serenity Vista, we will walk you through your process of healing and change, with skill and compassion.
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