Recovery Principle: Doing the Difficult
Doing the Difficult is a simple concept meaning: doing what is difficult to achieve success. In recovery, doing the difficult becomes a rallying cry for continued growth. In fact, for those of us who have taken hold of peace and sanity found in successful recovery, something being difficult becomes a type of litmus test, ensuring us that that our path is not of the addictive nature. But, this was and is a journey of growth, one that started with what was obvious, before working its way deep into our hearts, to reveal the deeper need to submit before God.
If you’ll allow me, I want to walk you through the three phases of this journey.
At first, all that may matter is addressing the acting out behavior. These are the most obvious behaviors that cause damage to what is sacred. In this time, I may frantically strive to apply any number of different “tactics” to change, but experience little to no success. Much like attempting to lose weight while avoiding the feeling of hunger, I attempt to achieve sobriety while avoiding discomfort. However, to achieve sobriety, my lifestyle must change. I may need to change driving routes; get rid of computers or cellphones; stop watching movies or TV shows; setup accountability software; make phone calls; change jobs or any number of other actions. Whatever the action needed, I guarantee it will demand a change to my normal routine. It will “cramp my style”.
This is the first phase of doing the difficult: Do what is right, regardless of how natural or convenient it is.
No longer dealing with the extreme consequences of my acting out behavior, I am faced with the uncomfortable reality of life: family, finances, faith, etc. Difficulty still occurs and my behaviors in a multitude of areas are exceptionally unhealthy. I am angry, resentful, fearful, insecure, prideful and overall a huge mess. As I address these behaviors, it becomes apparent that though the behaviors may change, the thinking patterns remain constant. As such, I must change how I think if I wish to achieve sanity.
Initially, these patterns feel easy to address. After all, who doesn’t want to be free of fear, pride, or anger? However, as time passes, other patterns will reveal themselves that are not so conveniently addressed. These could be family dynamics, entertainment, rest, or work dynamics. Whatever the case may be, I eventually face a pattern of thinking that I would rather not deal with. This is where I must remember that failure to address underlying thinking errors will almost always result in a return to my addictive behavior.
This is the second phase of doing the difficult: Strive to be healthy in all areas of my life, not just the addictive parts.
As I consistently address my unhealthy thinking patterns, establishing a new normal of sanity, my underlying beliefs are revealed. My beliefs define reality and include things like “Only I can take care of me”, “I’m only valuable if others find me valuable”, and “If I am not in control, I am not safe”. These do not occur as thoughts, but simple “facts” that I understand to be true. I would much rather leave core beliefs alone because I see no effective way to change them and the consequences of trying are severe.
Addressing a core belief is a bit like throwing rocks at a hornet’s nest: inadvisable. When I address a core belief within myself, all the thinking errors and behaviors seem to rise up in defense, protecting this core belief from being addressed. Even with my sanity achieved by addressing behaviors and thoughts, it is not enough to address a core belief, because they care nothing for logic and operate underneath my thoughts and feelings. I may resist, but at best I will achieve workarounds, leaving the belief fully intact while attempting to build around it. This of course, leaves me exceptionally unstable and prevents me from achieving any measure of peace in my life because I will always be at war with myself.
Although both thoughts and behaviors can be changed with consistent willful effort, core beliefs can only be changed by God. He is the only one who can change the heart. This means my action in response to seeing a core belief is not willful effort, but submission to God. This is difficult because it demands I give up a core sense of control in exchange for the peace of God, but it is also the only pathway to peace.
This is the third and most difficult phase of doing the difficult: Sacrifice of self to God so that I can have peace.
What is Right?
My addictive behaviors have come at a high cost to my faith, family and personal health. These are not small things, they are sacred. As such, I cannot continue in my madness without the support of a network of unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviors (see 36 Thinking Errors or 19 Tactics to Avoid Change as helpful tools in identifying some common patterns). These are built on top of core self-reliant and rebellious beliefs in direct opposition to God which can be effectively defined in a word: “control”.
Ultimately, my addiction is an attempt to live life outside of submission to God. It is a travesty that this concept is often treated as a mere Christian cliché, but that does not diminish its truth. God is the only pathway to peace, and thereby the only hope I have for myself and those I counsel.
Doing the Difficult is the process of taking my life, in submission, to God and is only possible because God makes it possible. This is an awesome message of hope to those struggling with addiction, as it means that it is not strength of will that produces change, but a simple act of submission. This removes the qualification that only the strong willed can change: any man or woman willing to submit to God can experience the healing, change and peace offered by God through Jesus Christ.
Matthew 11:29 – 30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
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