Ah, the power of the pause. It eludes so many of us in early recovery, and yet it’s such a simple and powerful tool. In fact, it’s one of the cornerstones to most successful long-term recovery programs, and for good reason.
Let’s look at how our minds work for a minute. We’ll reflect in general terms without labeling the mind as that of an “addict” or similar since you may or may not subscribe to the disease model. At the end of the day, any program or set of principles that helps keep you from picking up a drink, a drug, or from acting out in any way is a good one.
Now, back to our minds. Of course, not all minds think alike, but one thing that you’ll probably find in common with people battling addictive or compulsive behavior is that they tend to view feelings as facts. In other words, let’s say you get angry with a lover, a co-worker, or a family member over something that may and or may not be significant. In active addiction or whatever you want to call it pre-abstinence, this anger probably felt justified. You know, like something you thought you needed to drink, use or act out over. This is merely an example, but usually we drink, use, or engage in other compulsive behaviors because something is making us uncomfortable and we’re anesthetizing. And that something is usually our feelings – the way in which we perceive a certain situation. On the flip side, these feelings could be feelings of elation, and many people choose to engage in addictive or compulsive behavior when excitement levels are excessively high. This is also something to be mindful of.
The bottom line is that the feelings which can crop up for us immediately in response to just about any remotely jarring situation, be it positive or negative, can put us into a reactive state. And there’s a big difference between reacting and responding. Reacting immediately to situations will often leave us filled with regret, but the trick here is to simply take a pause. Yes, we know, it seems so counterintuitive, but it’s such an incredible tool.
Page 87 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that we “pause when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or answer.” Again, you don’t have to subscribe to the disease model of addiction, this is just another example. Pausing, however, gives you a chance to make a more intentional choice in a given situation – it allows time for that immediate “feeling” thought to pass, and for a second one to come in. This way, you can respond to whatever the situation is rather than react. The outcome might be completely different, or it might be exactly the same, but at least you’ll have made a very conscious decision.
In recovery, pausing frequently is not a waste of time even though it may feel incredibly uncomfortable, particularly in the beginning. Slowing down can actually help speed up the healing process because it provides you with a new kind of strength – the strength to respond rather than react. The strength to sit with your thoughts in quiet contemplation, and allow them to pass without completely giving in to them, all while going on an inward journey.
Healthy thoughts are born out of intentional thinking and the longer you resolve to take those healthy pauses seriously, the closer you’ll get to the life you’ve always desired. All the while, you’ll be leaving old habits and thinking patterns in the dust. Recovery is a journey of the heart with no obvious destination. We pause daily so that we can allow more peace and serenity to enter. This allows us to embrace life just a little bit more each day until ultimately, we’re living in a balanced state and we have so much more emotional recovery to share with others.
Next time you’re feeling angry or agitated, we challenge you to take that pause. Notice how you’re able to respond instead of react. And then, guess what comes next? Try that pause out again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and watch how your life slowly begins to shift in some seriously amazing ways. Others will notice the change in you as well. Feelings will stop being facts and before you know it, you’ll be living a life you’d never even dreamt possible, all because you learned how to slow down.
Kembali Recovery Center is Here to Help
If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, or other compulsive behaviors, or you simply need a reset in your recovery program, Kembali can help. Contact us today to learn about our four-week Residential Treatment program, Recovery and Beyond, or simply to have any of your recovery-related questions answered.