When looking out into the ocean, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. I know that if I tried to swim out into its unknown secrets, I’d be swallowed and I’d never return. Can get to me: I have no that I’m simply too small to engage the ocean’s open water. But then, just as I’m sinking into sadness, I see a happy little kid riding a tiny boogie board laughing as a small wave takes her into the sandy beach. She laughs and runs back into the water and finds another wave that she can ride. That little kid made me want to grab a boogie board and find a simple wave to ride.
Battling addiction is a lot like looking out onto the ocean: Addiction is a big enemy that can swallow me whole. Alone, I can’t fight addiction; but every once in a while; I’ll run into something that’ll give me the energy to re-engage the fight. A client may tell me that he had a great meal with his family, or another client may express great happiness in some time she spent with her kids. Or, a medical association will release a complete definition of addiction that explains it as the brain disease that addiction really is (the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s definition of addiction can be found at: www.asam.org/DefinitionofAddiction-LongVersion.html). In any case, when those things happen, I feel energized and ready to re-engage the fight.
Really though, any big undertaking is like that: Overwhelming if we try and take it all on at once. I think it’s better to become aware of little events to celebrate so that we can have the energy to take on the next wave within the undertaking. We may not win against the ocean, but we can ride one wave at a time and feel like happy little kids as we celebrate the joys of simple gains. The risk we run if we don’t break the ocean down into simple wave, we will get lost in its sheer size.
It’s important to celebrate gains along the way. The celebrations don’t have to be elaborate dinner parties or long-winded press releases; they just need to allow positive energy to feedback into the undertaking. That positive energy will re-charge a person’s batteries and allow him or her to resume the forward charge. We should remind ourselves about the progress we’ve made because sometimes the road ahead can get long and difficult. But whatever progress we do make and have made can be fuel for each subsequent step.
Or, we can look at the road ahead of us and let doubt creep into our souls and wedge itself into our motivation. Whatever the reason we chose to earn a degree, or lose weight, or get clean; we have to guard ourselves from allowing the “screw it because it’s too hard” mentality to ruin the work we’ve already done. It’s easy to lose faith and courage; it also seems that the closer we get to our goal, the more things enter our scope in attempts to get us to quit.
But we can’t quit. We have to look at the obstacles that emerge and confront them from the source of our motivation. Our goals are important, not just to ourselves, but because in achieving our goals, we send messages to others that goals are achievable. Just like the little kids I see playing in the ocean who communicate positive energy with their laughter, we can communicate with our confidence and in that confidence, others may see their own potential to achieve a goal.
Or we can quit. But in quitting before we achieve our goal, we reinforce the power of bad juju. We cannot overcome the vast ocean if we can’t overcome the urge to give up. Staying in a situation that we would prefer to change for the better just because it’s easier means that we haven’t yet trusted ourselves enough to know that with each small step, we can attain our goals. I say: To Hell with bad juju.