There’s a question of commitment in addiction treatment… I’ve gotten pretty good at reading body language. We communicate in our silences, we communicate when we shift in our seat. Through practice, I’m learning to recognize the signs of fake commitment. Feigned devotion. A quiet plan to self-destruct that brews behind, “I’ll do whatever it takes!” And for those folks, a thick unwillingness hangs around… waiting patiently, like a sleepy spider.
(Hint: They teach you how to identify “level of commitment” in therapist school, but the trick is to unselfishly pay attention.)
Commitment is a big word in addiction treatment. But what does it mean to commit to sobriety? Commit to The Program? How do I know when I’ve actually surrendered, and am not just going through the motions?
And when is someone ready to commit? How does a committed person behave? Do I really need to commit? Or can I sit on the fence… dip my toe… try sobriety for an afternoon, a week… and walk away. Comforting myself, “I came I saw I conquered, man. I learned what I needed.” Or the classic, “This isn’t me. Other people, certainly. But not me.”
The Role of Choice
Some days we wake up exhausted. We don’t have any interest in trying, in putting in the work. On days like this, I’ve heard clients say, “I may not feel like it, but I choose to be sober today.” Because there are times when we’re tired of it all. When we’re so overloaded by work and distractions and everyone else’s baloney that crawling from bed to shower is as much as we can handle. On days like this, we make a choice.
When I was 8, I was in love with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. And there was a movie where his love interest said, “Loving you is a choice I make every day.” That sounded absurd, as a kid. That will never be me, I thought. I’ll never have to “make a choice” to love Jonathan Taylor Thomas, because I would never want it any other way. Isn’t that what love means? What could be easier than staying in love?
Loving you is a choice I make every day.
As an adult and a partner several times over, I see why Jonathan Taylor Thomas’ love interest may have said something like that. There are days when I don’t want anything to do with my love interest. I don’t want their worries, their judgement, their incredible annoyances. (Why do you pronounce that word like that?! It makes you sound like you don’t know what it means!!) But I choose to love them regardless. I choose to reframe, and I choose how I react. Because I’ve made a commitment to this person and my sunny days far outweigh the rainy ones.
I may not feel like it, but I choose to be sober today.
We make a commitment in recovery. A commitment to ourselves, to our loved ones, to our higher power. And on the days sobriety doesn’t appeal to us, it’s still our responsibility to uphold it. We make the choice to honor our commitment.
And we’re familiar with commitment, as addicts. Because what is more of a commitment than our commitment to a substance? Addiction is time consuming. It drains our energy, our bank account… it robs us of meaningful relationships and work. So, haven’t we already made a commitment?
Is it that radical a shift, to commit to sobriety?