Change. Many of us struggle to navigate it gracefully. To create meaningful change, we have to do things differently. We must engage in some self-reflection. And practice self-awareness. And admit our shortcomings… It’s a lot of work.
I could draw a metaphor, here, about the changing seasons (it’s finally starting to feel like spring in Michigan). But I’ll spare you and get straight to the point: When the change is a big one – life altering, routine shaking “big,” like the decision to quit drinking – it can feel too overwhelming to even consider. Fear prevents us from making the changes we know we need most.
Many of us fear change because it’s uncomfortable. To avoid change, we deny, endure, or make excuses. Or, we bury our head in the sand because it feels easier. “I’ll deal with it tomorrow.” We ignore the call to change by way of mental gymnastics, and focus on how our substance use serves us instead of the consequences.
It’s not uncommon to fear discomfort and hurt. Many of us struggle to even allow ourselves to feel unpleasant emotions. This can be because we perceive those emotions as “uncontrollable.” To feel sad means to fall into absolute depression. Anger means to lose control.
Change means loss.
But reframing our black-and-white (distorted) thinking opens new doors. Change can also mean self-discovery. Change presents us an opportunity to prove our resilience. Experience new things. Change moves us closer towards that which we’re meant to experience, experiences that are born of love. And that we deserve.
Yes, stagnancy is much scarier than change.
Addiction causes us a tremendous amount of hurt. My clients often recount when their use quit being fun and began feeling like I had to, even when I didn’t want to.
“I hid substances in my son’s closet and assumed nobody knew… and convinced myself that as long as I kept my use a secret, it wouldn’t affect anyone but me.”
“Stuck in a cycle of obtaining, using, and recovering… Friends, coworkers… they just stopped trying.”
“I couldn’t stand being around anyone who wasn’t as high as I was. I told myself I was surrounded by people who understood me, but I was completely isolated.”
“Honestly? I was in bed for 3 years. I didn’t allow anyone inside the house.”
When we hurt, we have a few options. We can run from what is hurting us, and numb or ignore the feeling. We can also dive head first into our hurt, and fuel even more hurt (in the form of self-destruction, abuse, or pity). Both demonstrate our attempt to avoid the discomfort of change. Neither addresses a solution (or leaves room for a solution to exist). When we ignore a solution exists, we ignore our role in facilitating a change. By dismissing our role in the problem, we disregard our incredible ability to grow, learn, and be grateful. This feels good in the moment, and alleviates some of the hurt.
But, and hear me out, here, how could things be different if we engaged in self-reflection during our moments of hurt? And acknowledged our potential for personal growth? How may things would be different tomorrow if we practiced self-reflection today?
Examples of self-reflection include:
- How else could I have handled that?
- Have I run into this situation in the past?
- What did I learn? (Not, “Did I learn anything?” We’re constantly learning, don’t sell yourself short.)
- What is my modus operandi? Can I identify what my needs are right now? My boundaries?
- What kind of self talk am I experiencing?
- What am I grateful for?
Admitting our shortcomings
Someone recently read me a passage from The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll. This part stood out:
“Our lives are lived in seasons of more, seasons of less, seasons of triumph, seasons of loss. Each season sees our needs change. We live, learn, and adapt. So, too, must our definition of meaning. Things that grow in one season rot in another. If we blindly hold on to the past, we’ll be forced to sustain ourselves with the expiring beliefs from seasons gone by. No wonder we’re often left feeling unsatisfied, empty, starving for substance.
In order to live fulfilling lives, we have to embrace the shifting nature of our experience by making our search for meaning an ongoing practice.
Reflection helps identify what nourishes you so you can make better decisions as you seed the next season of your life.”
Contemplating change is uncomfortable, so it’s important to be gentle with ourselves throughout. Move at a pace that feels manageable. Ask questions. If we are to believe everything is as it should be), we don’t need to rush the process. We are called to action at precisely the right time. However, once we’ve recognized the need for change, we are responsible for answering the call.
So, What Feels Manageable Today?
What feels manageable today? The following prompts may get you started:
- Are there any parts of my daily routine I’d like to improve?
- How do I deal with unexpected news, or distressing emotions like stress or grief?
- What if I spent more time with a peer group that supported my decision to change?
- How to define my priorities?
- And what am I grateful for?
And congratulations on taking the first step in gracefully managing change…