"Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of someone else." – Judy Garland, iconic American singer and actress who struggled with lifelong addiction, finally succumbing to an accidental overdose of barbiturates at age 47 (1922-1969)
There is no one else on earth that is exactly like us. This is an established fact. Yet how often do we seek to make ourselves into a replica of someone else, perhaps a person that we’ve long admired or believe that if we act the same way, talk in a similar fashion, and dress identically and accumulate the same education and material possessions that we’ll somehow become them? Maybe we don’t think this on a conscious level, but for many of us in recovery, the desire is still there.
Let’s see how this could come about. We have gone through rehab for our addiction and are now trying to make our way in this new sober life. It’s more than a little scary and we’re not at all certain that we’ll be up to the task. After all, we’ve just gotten clean and sober, maybe for the first time in a long time, and maybe it is a repeat return to sobriety after a relapse. We are a bit desperate to get ourselves into shape, to quickly become practiced in making good decisions instead of bad ones, of being able to cope with cravings and urges and getting ourselves back to work or to find a job if we’ve lost one.
Then, we see someone in the rooms of recovery that just seems to have it all. This individual is calm and self-confident, seems to have everything totally under control and is, in fact, a model that others strive to emulate. The emulation part is a good thing, but when we try to copy this person in too many aspects, we are not finding our authentic selves but merely attempting to replicate someone else. What works for that person, what made that person into the role model they are today, may not work for us. Or, some of it may, but not everything will.
We wind up being less than satisfied with the results, particularly when things don’t turn out as well for us as they apparently have turned out for our role model.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t look for role models and strive to be like them – at least in terms of their effective behavior in recovery. But there is our own individuality that we need to consider in any attempt to become the new us. Surely there are things about our personalities that are strong points, such as our fierce loyalty, our constant determination, our desire not for perfection but for knowledge that increases with each passing day. These are things that we should capitalize on and begin to use to our advantage in preparing our recovery plan of action.
The time we have right now is appropriate for sitting down to figure out just exactly what our strengths are. In addition, it is helpful to mark down areas that need improvement, areas that we already know we need to work on. We will be able to identify more areas, both of strength and those that need improvement, as we go on, but for now, it’s important to begin at the beginning.
Once we have a first pass at the list, look it over to see what we can do to maximize or use our current strengths. This may take a little thought, but isn’t having something that’s our own to work on a bit more reassuring than just sitting around and feeling like we’re lost? We can also talk this over with our spouse or loved ones, family members and close friends that support our recovery. Another excellent sounding-board is our 12-step sponsor. If we haven’t yet gotten a sponsor, this should be among our highest priorities.
Say we’re really good at organizing things. This is an excellent characteristic and one that will serve us well not only now in the beginning stages of recovery but all through our lives. There will always be things that need to be separated into distinct parts, areas that we need to work on now and those that are a bit further off. Often we will find that we’re faced with competing demands and it will be up to us to figure out a workable path to follow that will enable us to tackle both – just not at the same time. Organizing our day and tasks to be completed in success is much easier when we have excellent organizational skills. If we don’t have them now, this is something we can learn how to do.
Delving a bit more into our strengths, it’s also worth mentioning that when we identify things that we are good at, these are also things that we should continue to improve upon. Just because we are good at it now does not mean that we cannot get better. In this case, getting better may mean learning more about the skill or developing ancillary skills or acquiring additional knowledge that deepens our mastery of it.
What we are talking about here is striving to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be. We aren’t trying to copy someone else. We are fashioning our own life in recovery according to what we truly want for ourselves in this world. It may take us some time to figure out what that life should be and to craft a plan of action in order to achieve it, but we have to begin somewhere, don’t we?
Keep at the top of our minds that recovery is a journey, not a race. This is a journey of discovery that we will be on for the rest of our lives, so it is worth remembering that we have time to accomplish what we really want to do. Take things day by day. Do the very best we can at all times and don’t berate ourselves for lack of accomplishment. Keep the goal in sight but also be on the lookout for opportunities that crop up along the way. That way, we always have something to look forward to and we can be delighted by the unexpected as well.