"We must choose to act "as if.""
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Episode 41 -- August 15, 2020Fake It Until You Make It: Acting "As If" in a Pandemic
As we kick off National Recovery Month during a pandemic, it's a good time to look at one of our most popular titles for advice in how to manage ourselves as we manage our recovery. A crisis like the coronavirus pandemic can threaten our recovery; it's unexpected, unfair, and not our fault. We can't control the virus, or other people's behavior, but we get to decide what to carry on our journey, and what to drop. Resentment. Fear. Self-Pity. Intolerance. Anger. As Bill P. explains, these are the "rocks" that can sink recovery¿or, at the least, block further progress. Here's an excerpt from Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects by Bill P., Todd W., and Sara S. to help us act "as if" we can keep walking through our recovery by looking up to see the big picture and having faith that we can--and will--get to where we're going.
It has been edited for brevity.
It is important to discuss another aspect of recovery to gain what may be for us a new perspective. If we think that recovery is strictly about abstinence from alcohol (or drugs, food, sex, gambling, and so on) and that staying abstinent will solve all the major problems in life, then we probably won't want to hear what comes next. If, on the other hand, we feel that recovery is about living fully, usefully, and freely and about reaching toward our potential, then we might keep an open ear.
A person who is not in recovery mentioned an observation he had made about folks in recovery. He felt that recovering people spent almost all their time learning to stand up and helping others stand up, but very few spent any time walking. If "walking" in this analogy means getting on with a meaningful and purposeful life, there is some truth in his observation. We get so caught up in our own abstinence, or going to meetings and helping others recover that we lose sight of the "larger picture." Sure, there is great meaning in helping others recover. Helping others is a great way to move into humility (which we will discuss in depth in the section on Step Seven) and to gain a spiritual perspective on life. Helping others to stand, however, is not quite as meaningful as helping others learn to walk. Nor is it as meaningful as helping others find a direction and destination to walk toward. We help others by setting the example rather than telling them the example. We learn to shift our vision to the horizon, rather than watch our feet. This is extremely important when we are looking to continue to grow and to let go of those things that may limit our ability to do so.
The first act is awareness, second is acceptance then third is surrender (action). Once we have chosen to be willing to surrender, we move on to those things that can help our surrendering and our awareness of what it is we're giving up. The choice to surrender, the becoming entirely ready, is just that¿a choice. Awareness, however, is an entirely different matter.
To make surrender effective, we must be willing to help the process by using our awareness to move into line with the surrender. We must choose to act "as if." Our awareness must shift so we become aware when we aren't acting in accordance with that choice. Changing our awareness can be a slow process, or it can be instantaneous. With grace, it can happen smoothly and quickly. When we are struggling, it can seem to take forever. The difference is willingness. When we stay honest, willing, and especially open-minded, we stay aware.
Lisa adds how acting "as if " helped her with the Sixth Step:
My sponsor gave me a typed piece of paper and told me to put it on my bathroom mirror and read it daily. That piece of paper said: "In the arena of human life, the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action." I did as my sponsor suggested, and that sentence staring at me all the time has helped me with my continuing readiness. The good character qualities I want to have are only demonstrated to me and others by my actions.
But the only way for me to get there, to get what I needed, was to act "as if " I had it. The key word is "act." I have discovered in my case that knowledge often follows action rather than vice versa. When I faked it in my early days, I found myself making it in later days.
In the beginning, I was asked to act "as if " I was following instructions, trusting the Program, listening to my sponsor, and coming to believe. The amazing thing was that soon I was doing those very things.
I was never able to think my way into recovery. My mind created a tremendous amount of trouble for me. I needed to turn my mind down (not off ). I soon discovered the difference between doing and thinking. The key to acting "as if " is faith. The way to faith is through my fears. I have made progress and stay entirely ready when I turn fears over to my faith and simply act "as if."
As we discussed, acting "as if " can seem to be in conflict with being genuine and authentic. However, when we are willing (making choices) to make positive progress and to have God shape us toward our potential as spiritual beings, then acting in accordance with those intentions is genuine in spite of our real feelings. One of the things we must be careful of is our capacity for drama.
It seems as if addiction is a path toward drama. Perhaps because most of us repressed and suppressed feelings from the very beginning, we learned to be dramatic when it was important for our feelings to be noticed. We also learned to be dramatic to hide our true feelings--even from ourselves. Even though it is important to validate, feel, and identify our feelings, we must be careful not to dramatize. When we are moving toward becoming "entirely ready," it is easy to be self-absorbed and dramatic about our path. We must be willing to quietly move toward self-examination, rather than self-absorption. As we practice, this difference becomes more evident.
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