"Trust is active, not passive. It emboldens us to speak up, to take a stand, to make decisions, and to move forward into a future we can neither foresee nor control."

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Episode 39 -- August 27, 2020

Trust in a Time of Crisis: Living Without Knowing Outcomes

Each of us wants to know what's going to happen. Whether it has to do with our relationships, our jobs, our kids, or the coronavirus pandemic, we'd like to be armed and armored with as much information as possible to protect ourselves and the ones we love from suffering or disappointment. Reality of course, doesn't much care about our need to know the future, and it's completely indifferent to our efforts to control it. In his book, A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Principles: Living the Values Behind the Steps, Dr. Patrick Carnes teaches us that recovery's process of healing and growth will be sustained not by control but by trust. Dr. Carnes invites us to reflect on a time in our life when we and our loved ones survived--and even thrived--through a leap of faith.

This excerpt is from A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Principles by Dr. Patrick Carnes and has been edited for brevity.

Recovery teaches us¿and sometimes forces us--to trust. We learn to trust others. We learn to trust ourselves. We learn to trust an ongoing process of renewal. We give ourselves over to uncertainty, free fall, and the care of a Higher Power.

This is not always a warm and fuzzy experience. Sometimes we trust only because we are desperate or have no other choice. Yet we have reliable maps--the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Principles--and we can always call on our Higher Power for guidance.

At times we'll be anxious or frightened. At times life will seem to be falling apart around us. But we are learning to live with our fear and anxiety, and to practice courage and trust in the face of them. Meanwhile, our inner observer has learned to stay mindful and alert, steering us away from reactivity and focusing us on the next right thing we need to do.

This emphasis on doing is essential. Trust is active, not passive. It emboldens us to speak up, to take a stand, to make decisions, and to move forward into a future we can neither foresee nor control. It prompts us to take one leap of faith after another.

As we monitor our speech and behavior and practice honesty on a daily basis, we give others more reasons to trust us. Day by day, we continue to rebuild the trust that our addiction destroyed. This takes time, especially with partners, family members, and close friends, because these are usually the people we hurt and betrayed the most. Because of this, the minute we slip from full integrity even a bit, many of them will notice, admonish us, and pull back. As we establish this practice over time, the important people in our lives will learn that they can trust us and will be more forgiving when we slip up.

And we will slip occasionally, because living the Principles consistently requires ongoing focus and effort. One day at a time, however, we can become steadily more trustworthy in our dealings with others and with ourselves. We can acknowledge our successes and continue to build on them. And when we do slip, we can ask for help from trustworthy people and from our Higher Power. We can rebuild our trustworthiness in the same way an athlete builds endurance--by working at it every day. In the process, we trust our Higher Power more and more, and we get better at discerning which people to trust and which ones not to. We also rebuild a reservoir of self-trust. Our self-confidence--but not our arrogance--begins to return.

From Desperation to Trust
Sometimes we turn to our Higher Power only as a last resort, when everything we have tried has failed and we see that we cannot manage our life or maintain our sanity on our own. Take a moment to reflect on those times in your life when you felt most desperate, hopeless, miserable, or stuck. When did you make a leap of faith and let yourself trust the unfolding process? Think about these questions:

  • What were the circumstances?
  • When did the event happen?
  • Why was it so difficult or painful?
  • How did I feel?
  • What were your fears?
  • What options did you feel you had?
  • What was the leap of faith?
  • What were the short-term results of this leap for you and for others?
  • What were the long-term results?
  • What did you learn or discover as a result of this experience?

What patterns do you see in your responses to these questions? What do they reveal about trusting the unfolding of events? Your Higher Power? Other people? Your inner observer? Yourself?

We experience trust in the present, but the actions that build trust can ripple outward for months, years, or centuries. A single act that builds trust can open up the acceptance or empowerment that can change someone's life for the better; that person, in turn, can love and empower hundreds of others. That initial caring act can engender an ongoing cascade of healing events.

Recovery typically creates such a cascade. We may have had a painful and difficult life; we may have struggled for years or decades with addiction; we may have come from a long line of addicts--but the work we do in recovery may spare our children, and their children, and their grandchildren much of the suffering that we endured. Through our own recovery, we may give future generations a chance at a better life.

Or we may not. Nothing is wasted and we can never know what a Higher Power has in store for anyone. Sometimes, in spite of all our efforts and support, our kids may make the same mistakes we did--or worse ones. We also need to remember the lesson that what looks like a blessing can be a problem, and vice versa. Still, we are always wise to envision how our actions and decisions today will affect the next generation, and the generation after that, and the many generations after that. When we take this long view, we are much more likely to help others--and our planet--heal and thrive.

We learn so much from ourselves. And others. Learn more about recovery by reading A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Principles by Dr. Patrick Carnes.

About the Author:
Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D., is an internationally known authority on addiction and recovery issues. He has authored over twenty books including the bestselling titles Out of the Shadows: Understanding Addiction Recovery, Betrayal Bond, Don't Call It Love, and A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps, now in an updated and expanded edition. Dr. Carnes's research provides the architecture for the "task model" of treating addictions that is used by thousands of therapists worldwide and many well-known treatment centers, residential facilities, and hospitals. He is the executive director of the Gentle Path Program at Pine Grove Behavioral Health in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which specializes in dedicated treatment for sexual addiction. For more information on his work and contributions, log on to patrickcarnes.com and sexhelp.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter. For free support and leadership materials, go to www.thetwelveprinciples.com.

© 2012 by Patrick Carnes
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