Shortening The Horizon

Today’s Recovery Thought

Addiction for me has always featured bouncing back and forth between two poles:

  • Catastrophizing about everything that could possibly go wrong
  • Bemoaning and fixating on everything that I have done wrong in the past

By focusing exclusively on one or the other of these poles, I often found myself primed to act out.

In other words, I was subconsciously focusing on these poles in order to prime the pump (so that I am always emotionally triggered and ready to act out).

By design, my shame and fear are intended to protect me from engaging in harmful activities or from putting myself in danger but, because I am an addict and trying constantly to protect myself from emotional vulnerability, I subconsciously hacked my own operating system and used these feelings to justify acting out behaviors.

If I have hacked my shame and fear system so that it constantly moves me towards acting out, how do I build an effective defense in depth against my now corrupted emotional operating system?

  1. Practice Mindfulness

The most important lesson mindfulness has taught me is that every feeling, with time, will pass.

I try to remind myself regularly that emotional distress is transitory.

2. Asking If Shame or Fear Are Productive

Allowing myself to feel and experience emotions (instead of swallowing them) is a very important part of recovery.

However, the reason we feel shame and fear is protective, and I realized that I was using them in ways that were not protecting me.

So now I always try to reflect on what purpose my shame or fear is serving.

Sometimes, I do feel guilt or shame that I can do something good to address (through, for instance, making amends). Finding concrete and productive ways to resolve my feelings can be helpful to my recovery.

If it is not productive, I try to let it pass.

3. Shorten the Horizon

People either love or hate 12-Step methods (My point here is not to proselytize for any particular school of recovery) but I do find the idea of controlling what I can control very helpful.

When I am feeling overwhelmed, I often try to shorten the horizon and that usually means thinking about what I can do today (or even right now) to address the fear and shame that I am feeling.

Once I have considered and started to work on what I can do to address my feelings, I surrender the rest.

Josh is an author, blogger and freelance writer with over 7-years of sobriety. Please consider following him on Twitter, throwing a tip into his hat on Patreon, or adding his blog OnPirateSatellite to your feeds.