Success isn’t owned, it’s leased,,,,,and rent is due every single day – JJ Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans
I’ve been spending a fair amount of time thinking about commitment and how that manifests in my life. When I got sober I made a commitment to my grandmother that I would stay sober. Initially this commitment was made out of obligation. I was annoyed that I was asked to modify my behavior. I was young and suggested my grandparents were being unreasonable. It didn’t make any sense that someone would ask me to quit as I reasoned that my use affected no one but me. When I stepped back from my self-righteous anger, I remembered that my grandparents survived a genocide. I realized I could continue to meet my own needs or understand that not only did my grandparents spend a lot of time and money dealing with the wreckage of my use, but they also spent a lot of time worrying about me. I realized my behavior was no longer okay. I came to understand compassion meant that I needed to place their needs before mine. When my grandparents gave me feedback they were never hostile nor did they attempt to make me feel bad – they simply told me how they felt without shaming me. As I have matured I understood my grandparents were pretty evolved human beings, and I was both lucky and exceedingly fortunate to be raised by such lovely and generous people.
During the last day of my use I ingested large amounts of alcohol and copious amounts of stimulants. This combo landed me in the hospital and resulted in significant physical problems. I awoke surrounded by a team of doctors and nurses consulting about my condition. The attending physician began to tell me that I nearly ended my life, but I readily dismissed his comments and was able to counter every intellectual argument he offered – in the fog of withdrawal I somehow assumed that even tho I nearly died, I was intellectually superior. My grandmother came into the room, and with a disarming sense of compassion, she disabled my defenses by simply telling me she was worried I wouldn’t make it. I broke down and told my grandparents I would do whatever they asked. Both my grandmother and my grandfather told me I needed to attend AA meetings, enroll in a martial arts school, and attend to rabbinical studies. I have continued with martial arts and AA meetings, but have since ended my rabbinical studies, something I will address in a later article. What I initially assumed was a way to manipulate me (the requests of my grandparents) I came to understand was merely compassion. – my grandparents wanted me to be okay; their energy came from their concern.
I have been wearing my grandmother’s wedding ring since my 16th birthday and have never taken it off. I wear her ring every day as a reminder of the commitment they had for one another, and as a reminder of the commitment I made to them that I would stay sober. I have honored that commitment as I just celebrated 36 years of sobriety.
Focusing on commitment requires that I change my behavior. I understand that while my intentions might be in the right place, my behavior is the only thing that tells the truth. During my active addiction it became apparent that my behavior progressed in concert with my addiction. I was certain that my use didn’t impact anyone, let alone me. The truth is that I was committed to meeting my own needs and committed to ignoring the needs of my grandparents and the world at large. I pretended I was committed to changing my life. I’d give lip service to the importance of staying sober, but when I was alone I was committed to getting high. While I believed I was maintaining a bulletproof facade, on some level I knew I was lying.
After being sober for some time I learned two things: that everything I do either supports me to remain chemical free , or leads me to a place where I’ll engage in some kind of distraction (working too much, playing video games, eating too much sugar, chemical use) and doing what my grandmother used to say: you are behaving in a way that doesn’t look good on you.
Here are a few tips for developing a stronger sense of commitment:
– Remember that commitment is about being absolutely dedicated to internal and external action to bring about a desired result.
– Do not wait for people or situations to change to develop a stronger sense of commitment; start today.
– Think about what commitment would look like for you: what needs to manifest in your life to show you that you are committed to remaining sober?
– Engage your heart and mind. Read stories of commitment, talk to people in your life who have changed, and seek the counsel of people you trust.
– Be absolutely clear about what you want to change in your life. Do you have a sense of what you want to change? Why you want to stay sober?
– Surround yourself with people who are on a similar path, and who have the kind of commitment you want in your life.
– Identify any resistance you have to changing behavior, what that looks like, and what you can do to move past any resistance you might have.
– How committed are you? If you’re 50% committed to staying sober, what would it take to get you to 75% ?
– Remember, committing to sobriety or anything important is about developing passion. Developing absolute passion for staying sober will help you remain committed to recovery when recovery becomes difficult. Being mindful that recovery can be challenging can help you prepare for the times that difficulty has your attention.
– Commitment requires clarity, sacrifice, and awareness of obstacles and resources.
– Become aware of any excuses you would make and become cognizant of any temptations that would lead you astray.
– Become committed to excellence, define your vision, create a plan of action, invest in your sobriety, create powerful rituals, and a mantra to stay focused.
Here’s my mantra for staying sober: Staying sober is the single most important thing in my life, and if anything jeopardizes my recovery, it’s eliminated.
What’s your mantra?
When I think about my life I am stuck with a pressing question: is the behavior that’s currently showing up in my life demonstrating a commitment to recovery and a commitment to change? Most of the time I believe this is true. While I believe recovery looks different for everybody and there are times I fall down in my life, I am absolutely focused on engaging in behavior that supports long-term recovery. Vince Lombardi said “Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing”. I think the same is true of commitment. While your commitment might wane, you can certainly use some of the techniques I outlined in this article or develop your own strategies to keep you on track. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you DO something.
PS: To stay committed it’s important not to forget the gifts recovery can bring into your life. My mom was profoundly mentally ill and died as a result of her illness. I was able to visit her in hospice before she passed. She let me know that she was proud of me and was proud that I was able to stay sober.