Weekly Reflections and Archives

Changing Attitudes In Recovery

    The following material comes from Changing Attitudes In Recovery A Handbook On Esteem.  The Handbook was written by James O. Henman, Ph.D. and a Steering Committee from members of CAIR Self-help Groups in 1990.  Each week a new paragraph from the CAIR Handbook will be presented, along with some suggestions to consider while experiencing the paragraph.

           Take the time to stop and think about each paragraph.  It is helpful to discuss these ideas and tools with others, or you can keep a journal in which you write down your reactions to each paragraph and begin sharing with yourself.  This complicated maternal has been broken down into bite-size pieces which require chewing.  Since recovery is a lifetime journey, go slowly and respect the many different reactions you receive while thinking about and discussing a new set of principles, beliefs, and attitudes, which we call New Program.  The material in the CAIR Handbook takes time and practice to digest.  You need to give yourself the gift of thought necessary for New Program to become a reality in your daily living.  It is also important to remember that recovery is a participation sport, not a spectator sport.  The more active you become in learning and practicing these new ways of living, the more familiar New Program can feel as you use it.  The following paragraphs come from the CAIR Handbook, pages 13-14:

            “The Task Force (California Task Force to Promote Self-esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility – 1990) found that a “poor self-concept often contributes to addictions.  Conversely, recovering from addictions by rebuilding one's identity requires a growth in genuine self-esteem.”  They felt that self-esteem could be a “social vaccine” that would allow us to live the more healthy, responsible, and more meaningful life.  The process of developing genuine self-esteem is termed recovery.

            The Task Force recognized the family and parents as the primary source of helping to form a child’s self-esteem.  Parents’ own healthy self-esteem is central to their “ability to provide a healthy environment for the child.”  When parents have a wounded self-esteem from their own development, the odds are painfully high that they will pass along the wounding from former generations to their own children.  As long as there is no change in the parents’ wounded self-esteem, the vicious circle will continue to roll over future generations.  (Stop and discuss)”

              As you read these paragraphs from the Handbook, what are the first feelings that you are aware of, as you consider the impact of what is being discussed?   Take a moment to reflect on your own childhood, not with an attitude of blaming or shaming, but rather with an attitude of openness to learn and growth.  In CAIR we call this attitude “Powerful Vulnerability.” Allow yourself to explore some of the assumptions about yourself and the world around you, which you learned growing up.  When you think about how you relate to your own children, or your partner, or friends, or co-workers, etc., do you like what you have learned up until now?  Are you happy with these different relationships in the present?

         So often we confuse “who we are” with “the programming we have learned.”  In the Handbook, the assumption “That’s Just How I am! Or, That’s Just The Way They Are!” creates a filter that makes it harder for us to perceive accurately in the present.  The truth is that the only place we can make changes in our lives is in the present.  I have found that often how a person approaches the process of change makes a big difference on how successful they can be, and how painful the process is for them.  Take a moment to consider how you have gone about trying to make changes in your life until now.  Let yourself feel good about noticing accurately, rather then judging yourself for what you see.  If you like what you see, great!  If you don't like what you see, feeling good about seeing accurately helps you begin to make changes in the present. 

        New Program is a set of attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions about healthy living and the process of change.  Allow yourself to become more aware of how you treat yourself in your recovery.  Change is the natural state for humans, unless you judge and condemn yourself and others for where you are starting in the present.  Judging and condemning prevents change!