There is a wide distinction, however, between possessing a healthy attitude of acknowledgement towards the variances of life and developing a mindset of victimization. Wikipedia describes this ‘victim’ mentality as an acquired (learned) personality trait in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave like it were the case—even in the absence of clear evidence. It depends on habitual thought processes and attribution. Victim mentality is primarily learned, for example, from family members and situations during childhood. It is clear to any of us in recovery to be aware of these important differences in attitude.
A few weeks ago, I experienced a week that began with an expensive car repair, then out of nowhere the loss of a beloved family pet, a period of more than the usual intensity at work, and nurturing a bad cold. These things could happen to anyone – but they all piled on at the same time and were potentially overwhelming. Hey, it was a tough week, but as someone using the life-tools learned in recovery, I allowed myself to feel and ride through the emotions and knew that this would pass and better days and weeks are ahead – healthy, sober and balanced response.
What should be carefully watched is when usual life-occurrences begin to move toward a recurrent theme of being ‘victimized’ by life and circumstances. There is no clear dividing line here, but we need to sense our inner thinking and feeling as we tread the waters of recovery. Red flags should immediately go up when our inner dialogue tends towards a rationalization for using or drinking again because we feel ourselves to be a victim of life and that we are no longer in control.
This onset of victim thinking can be subconscious and we are not aware we are actually moving towards a potential relapse with such mental processes. It helps to have professional counselors and fellow recovery friends point out this movement towards a potential relapse, because, quite frankly, we often do not see it coming. We start wondering why so much bad is happening to us now that we are in recovery. We may have imagined that living sober and clean would alleviate life’s woes or at least make negative or challenging experiences occur with less frequency. Why am I trying to recover anyway? What is the use in being sober and clean if bad things keep happening?
I have also noticed that for some individuals in recovery that try to surrender their inner being to God may also question why things happen the way they do. Is God testing me? Is my sobriety being examined by a higher being? And, if so, why? Am I going through a karmic period of having to take ownership of past actions and this explains all that is happening right now – am I paying some sort of spiritual debt? When in the first stages of recovery, such questions can be bewildering and the recovery process will easily perplex us.
These are necessary stages as we distance ourselves from our addiction. Again, this further avows why meetings, professional counselors and therapists are so vital towards acquiring healthy life skills to cope and face life. Our recovery has not just entered a period of giving up our addictive substance and dealing with those issues alone. We are embarking on a journey of discovering and practicing new ways of handling life. The fact is there is really nothing we can do to prevent or avoid some of the things that will happen to us. This is life. There is very little we actually do have control over in our day-to-day living – it is how we respond to day-to-day living that we do have control over. The very core meaning of the Serenity Prayer!
However, we can prevent a DWI, a trip to a hospital, destroying our bodies, injuring loved ones, losing our job and a whole list of other trials and tribulations. There is so much we can learn and practice to develop healthy and positive skills when encountering challenges while living sober and clean. Being aware of victimizing thinking is very important. It is a learned pattern of thought capable of instantly negating our ability to handle situations.
When tough things happen to us, while in recovery, it helps to share with others our feelings and experiences. Vocalizing our fears and pain to others can be therapeutic. It helps to remind ourselves that this challenge is temporary. Remember, whatever happens in our life, we are infinitely better going through this experience free from our addictive substance. If we succumb to the relapse temptation and begin to use again, we are not only lost in this self-created abyss of addiction, but we have told our inner self that we cannot cope with life without using or drinking. Nothing is more victimizing than saying this to ourselves. Using and drinking will never and can never help us. We must allow ourselves the determination and courage to cross this chasm. We can, with the assistance of others and the practice of new life skills, cross over this bridge, and live life anew and free. We must want to make this crossing and trust in these words even when those shadowed, victimizing voices attempt to lure us in a different direction. This is an inner thought/state-of-mind bridge we must cross to liberate ourselves from the chains addiction. We do not need drugs and alcohol to cope with life’s challenges.
We need new healthy life skills and a commitment to living clean and sober to keep us from feeling like victims in life, and ensure that we are active participants in life. We have much to give to ourselves and to the world around us. Have the courage to feel these emotions, but reach out to others, attend a meeting, pick up the phone and call a friend or sponsor, and know that you are not alone. Until next time . . . stay connected to your recovery community . . .