READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.
When I was in high school a group of us guys would go to a pond to swim. Many times the ponds were murky and stirred up before we arrived. We knew to wait for the pond to settle before we dove in. At one particular pond under the surface was an area of debris at the bottom. There was some concrete and re-barb that someone had dumped. There were safe places to dive but we had to wait for the wind and the water to calm in order to see what was underneath the surface of the water. Once the water cleared and we could see, we dove in. Some of us swam to the bottom of the pond and swam between the debris once it was recognized. To just dive in without caution would have led to disaster.
This story is an example of what many addicts do. Throwing caution to the wind, many addicts jump into the uncertain waters of relationships and experiences without waiting for the water to calm to see the hazards and difficulties present. Some falter in the high-risk situation and succumb to addiction relapse. The problem was they did not carefully survey the obstacles that were present underneath the surface before diving in. There are many examples of muddy water that should be avoided during recovery. Listed are a few that create hazards in recovery.
1. Mistaking intensity for intimacy. When your heart is broken and you feel desperately lonely in life, you are vulnerable to mistaking intensity for intimacy in relationships. Romantically, you meet someone who triggers a lot of chemistry. They are fun-loving, lighthearted, engaging. You are physically and emotionally drawn to this person. You like their personality. Your attraction magnet becomes super glued to him/her. Immediately you want to spend all your time in their presence. You begin to think about this person all the time. You can’t get them out of your mind. The intensity of the relationship becomes the muddy water that prevents you from evaluating and cultivating intimacy. All you see is attraction. No time to really sit with differences, challenges, or conflict. Regarding conflict, there is none at the intensity level. All you want to do is be consumed with the love and love-making in the relationship. When the intensity begins to wear off to a more realistic level, you are off to another relationship with more intensity that leaves behind a trail of emotional carnage. Slowing the pace of development in a relationship is an important step to staying out of the muddy waters that intensity often creates. The same can be said about the intensity of a working relationship. Before you sell your soul to the company store, moderate your long-term commitment to determine the feasibility of working with those who are around you. You can be honorable and productive without losing yourself in your work. The deeper level of healthy intimacy in a valued work environment takes time to cultivate and develop.
2. Making your sponsor, therapist, or anyone else your Guru. To be a guru means to be a teacher which we all are to each other. However, “parentalizing” others, making them your authority, gets in the way of being your own authentic self. You may think you need to see the best therapist in the land. However, if you overtly or subtly put them on a pedestal, you likely will remain stuck in your immature behavior. When you are stuck in shame you will tend to “pedestalize” others who you think represent what you want to be. This dynamic becomes muddy water that will prevent you from becoming your true assertive self. Be coachable while becoming your own guru.
3. Greed, envy, resentment, bitterness. In the pursuit of achievement, these powerful emotions must be addressed in your recovery program. They are mud puddles that trigger recovery imbalance and if left unaddressed will derail you from fulfillment and satisfaction. It is typical to want more. It is easy to compare where you are to where someone else is. The danger of comparison is in losing your sense of self. Comparison triggers envy about wanting what others have. You make up that others are more respected, more appreciated, or more loved than you are. Eventually, this leads to resentment and bitterness that fuels mistaken beliefs that you are not enough and never have been or will be. Typically, these beliefs come from a family-of-origin experience. Each of these feelings represents muddy water that blurs sobriety, and obstructs serenity and deeper fulfillment in life.
Muddy water is more than an isolated emotion. It’s a position, a posture, and attitude that poisons perspective. Don’t be careless about where you choose to swim. If you have quickly plunged into muddy water it is not too late to get out and wait for the water to settle. Are you willing to let the muddy waters clear and settle before you dive in? Recovery requires it.