Changing Attitudes In Recovery

    The following material comes from Changing Attitudes In Recovery A Handbook On Esteem. The CAIR Handbook was written in 1990 by James O. Henman, Ph.D. and a Steering Committee of CAIR Self-help Group members. 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 16 - 17:

    During a basketball game with my older son Jesse, I became more tense and uptight with each basket that I missed. Jesse, a natural athlete at age nine, could make more baskets, and the more he enjoyed beating me, the more I began looking for excuses to stop playing the game. At that moment I began to listen to the voice inside my head, my commentator, telling me that playing was a waste of time because I cannot do sports. As I began to respect the painful feelings that were building, I became aware that one of my "wounded inner children" had been activated by the basketball game. I had started the game as a 43-year-old adult and had quickly become ten-year-old Jimmy who was once again losing at sports.

After several slow, deep breaths, I brought this Jimmy into focus, and gave him a big hug. At the same time, I changed the commentator to my New Program Adult voice, letting Jimmy know that we could have fun whether we won or lost. With the help of my New Program commentator, I began to challenge the fact that I could not do sports and started to relax with each shot. Although Jesse still beat me in the game, my performance improved and I was able to enjoy this special time with my son. It also reminded me that after 14 years of actively working on my recovery, Old Program is never far away. (Stop and Discuss)

    In the ten years since I wrote about that basketball game, I have had many opportunities to nurture wounded parts of myself. Jesse is almost 20 now, and he can still beat me at basketball. Now when we play a game, I am free to enjoy the special time with him, as a 53-year-old who is very proud of his son. The difference is wonderful. We often think of recovery in terms of dramatic examples, but in reality each small step, which gives you more quality of life, helps to build your self-esteem. What situations or circumstances cause you to react in the present with old patterns from the past? What is it like for you to notice such patterns? Do you judge yourself harshly, berating yourself for acting so childishly? Do you ignore the whole situation, working even harder to tune out your feelings or just quit playing? How would it feel to have the freedom of noticing without condemnation? You can learn to parent yourself differently!