Nourishing and Toxic Attitudes in Recovery
By Allen Berger, Ph.D.
Recovery capital is a relatively new concept in the field of recovery. Our recovery capital is determined by the number of external and internal assets that we have which support recovery. External assets are things like having a home group that we attend regularly, a good connection with our sponsor, the support of our family, legal problems, etc. Internal assets are things like our level of commitment to recovery, the degree that we have accepted our devastating weakness, our attitude towards our problem, and our attitude towards ourself and others to name but a few.
External assets are much more fragile and fickle than internal assets. Therefore we want to be more heavily invested in our internal assets. To increase our internal assets we need to assess our attitude towards our problem, our attitudes towards ourselves, and our attitudes towards recovery. What standard do we use to assess our attitudes? I suggest that we ask if our attitudes are nourishing or toxic. A nourishing attitudes will increase our internal recovery capital while toxic attitudes will sabotage or subtract from our recovery capital.
Answer the following question, “What attitude do I have towards my problem with alcohol and other drugs?” Most of us were quite ashamed that we had a problem period. In one sense it didn’t matter the nature of our problem, the issue was that we shouldn’t have any problems whatsoever. So admitting that we were or are powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable was a tall order and nearly impossible. As Bill noted our natural instincts cried out against the idea that we are powerless. What makes it so hard for us to accept ourselves as we are? Here is what happens that interferes with us admitting to and surrendering to Step One.
At some point in our development we shifted our energies away from self-actualization to actualizing a concept of who we should be. We abandoned our true-self in favor of becoming who we thought we should be.
As Fritz Perls stated, “The one who wants to actualize a concept attempts the impossible.”
It follows that admitting we have a limitation is difficult because it doesn’t fit with the concept we have of who we should be. We mistakenly believe that having a limitation means we are defective, it means we are less human. This attitude is toxic, both for our recovery and for our self-actualization too. This belief makes it hard for us to own who we really are – a flawed, imperfect being. But no change can occur until we own who we are. We know that this is how change occurs – it is a process that begins by owning who we are, not when we try and be something we are not.
As we learn to challenge our beliefs along with the concept of who we think we should be, we begin to change our view of ourselves and our problem. We are able to turn a weakness into a strength. We see that owning our limitation is something that adds to who we are. It doesn’t subtract from us. It helps us actualize the self that we truly are and helps ground our efforts in recovery in the possible. This is the path to creating a stable recovery. So question all of your attitudes. Are they toxic or do they nourish you?
Allen Berger, Ph.D. is a popular recovery author for Hazelden Publishing. He is the author of 12 Stupid Things that Mess Up Recovery, 12 Smart Things to do When the Booze and Drugs are Gone, and 12 Hidden Rewards of Making Amends. His interpretation of the 12 Steps is included in The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps. You can learn more about Dr. Berger and his work at his website: www.abphd.com.