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Setbacks

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

They happen to all of us. Setbacks.

Just when we think we’ve got this recovery thing going strong, we mess up. We fail. We let ourselves down again by saying, thinking, or doing something that constitutes “acting out” for us and we’re devastated by it. The addicted side of us rises up and binges. The victim part goes into self-pity. The perfectionistic self-talk inside our heads launches into non-stop attack and the “agony of defeat” sets in. What do we do?

In my experience, the first thing I do is take some deep breaths and calm down. A wise friend once told me that the worst thing about a setback isn’t the setback itself, but my reaction to it. I’ve thought about that many times when I’ve experienced them.

My first response is usually somewhere between panic and disgust. From there I tend to spiral into self-condemnation and horrible guilt. If I don’t interrupt the cycle, I can wind up binging even more out of the sheer need to medicate all the panic, disgust, condemnation, and guilt I’m feeling.

So, after I breathe a little, I do some positive self-talk and remind myself that I am on a journey. I’ve not arrived yet, but each day is another good opportunity to get closer to where I want to be. I soothe my panic with kindness and settle as quickly as I can the need I have to be perfect.

From there I might write in my journal something that encourages me or I'll call a friend and reconnect with reality. My best tactic is to recognize that what I’ve done wasn’t good, but neither is it a catastrophe. More than likely I will live another day to try again.

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