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When you lose your sense of being in all that you do, you become more vulnerable to living your life with a zero-sum mentality.  This breeds an attitude toward breaking the rules, implying that it’s ok because I am a special exception and the rules do not apply to me. Expecting special privilege begins in early childhood. A child who does not face consequences for inappropriate behavior expects to be exempt from the rules in later life. Many addicts report that they act out with destructive behavior because there have never been any consequences. They have been able to have their cake and eat it too. 

Legal consequences and other losses become a wake-up call but, not always. Some addicts never learn and destroy their lives by humoring an attitude of entitlement.

Recovery requires addicts to address their behavior with no constraint. At the beginning of treatment, it is helpful for an addict to surrender to the rules and regulations of treatment.  The old adage that “your best thinking got you to where you are” is often quoted to remind addicts that willfulness triggers addictive behavior. The fear of destroying their lives with addictive substances and behavior is a great motivation to not break the rules.

The goal of a recovery program is to help an addict grow up emotionally and learn to make important life decisions. Many addicts are impulsive and impatient. They insist they need to make their own decisions and not rely upon others. Immaturity overshadows and critical mistakes lead to relapse. 

It takes time to develop a wise mind. Here are some considerations to ponder.

1. Before exercising independence, practice dependence on the fundamentals of your recovery program. There is a reason your sponsor has longer sobriety than you do. Learn what works by doing whatever your sponsor tells you to do. Following the lead of your sponsor about rigorous 12-step work, meeting attendance, phone calls, and practicing vulnerability will establish a solid foundation that you can build independence upon later. 

2. Develop a capacity for critical thinking. You don’t have to park your brains to do recovery. You do need to learn when to keep your mouth shut and do what you are told. It will save your ass from relapse. You will need to do your own critical thinking to distinguish addict rationale from your wise mind. You won’t learn this by simply doing only what others tell you to do. It will be important to gather suggestions from others and weigh your own thoughts, convictions, and considerations. Your conclusions may differ from others’ opinion. This requires taking a risk by acting on what you believe is right. Many recovering addicts depend upon others to think and make decisions for them. They would rather avoid disapproval and responsibility. 

3. When you screw up, simply admit it and bring yourself back to center. Get your ego out of the way! You will screw up! Learn to bring yourself back to center. Recovery begins when you surrender to doing what you are told. It progresses to a point where you must take the reins of choice making. Ultimately, your recovery is up to you. This responsibility demands accountability and consultation. The combination of humility and commitment to doing what is right will bring you back to center.

4. Get outside your comfort zone. Personal growth in recovery requires embracing discomfort. You came to your recovery community from chaotic living. It is tempting to hover near the warmth of community support. The new friends and supportive fellowship feel like a warm blanket on a cold night. However, getting outside your comfort zone means that you will need to stretch yourself to a deeper understanding of how to grow yourself up in personal relationships. You will need to push yourself to gain tools toward conflict resolution. You will need to get out of your comfort zone to be your own guru. Some addicts in recovery lament that they need a “kick-ass” sponsor. However, you will need to commit to doing your own “kick-ass” around areas in recovery that you procrastinate or shrink from doing. Personal recovery growth means to keep moving forward. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck compared personal growth to hiking through the desert. He said most people hike to the first oasis and stop for the rest of their lives, never knowing the experience of hiking completely through the desert. 

Recovery is designed to help you emotionally grow up and develop a wise mind. You will need to leave your cocoon of comfort in order to experience growth and transformation. In your recovery, are you overly dependent upon others or impatiently declaring your independence from helpful guidance and needed support?  Would you rather have others make your decisions for your life or are you willing to do the mature work of independent thinking and acting with responsible accountability? Are you willing to admit your mistakes and bring yourself back to center? Are you willing to get outside your comfort zone to experience revolutionary growth? Fostering a wise mind will require exercising independence with humility, critical thinking, courage to re-center, and a willingness to reach beyond comfort.