Failure is part of the process

How to use the Steps in overcoming setbacks in addiction recovery

Just as it was necessary to accept our disease of addiction before recovery could begin, we must accept setbacks and recognise our powerlessness. Step One is not limited to our addiction or compulsion; we can use it in any situation. The more we apply Step One, the less often we will feel stuck.

If, for instance, we do not get the job we wanted, we can accept our powerlessness over the situation. It is not ours, no matter how much we wished for it, and there is nothing we can do about it, and there is nothing we can do about it. The job rejection can be used as an opportunity to increase our faith that our Higher Power has something better in store for us – a chance to practice Step Three.

Acceptance and surrender are necessary for any situation: a move that did not work out, a broken relationship, or spoiled vacation plans. When we genuinely believe and turn our will and lives over to our Higher Power, we can be sure our lives will rock!

When we experience a setback, we are likely to feel depressed. Even if we have accepted the fact, we feel resentful. It is easy to think our efforts are pointless because nothing seems to work. The solution to this depression is action. Such action can be as simple as getting up and fixing breakfast or as complicated as going back to school. Attending more meetings and connecting with our therapist are solutions for our depression.

We can use Step Ten to inventory the situation. When doors shut in our faces, we are upset because we are disappointed. It can help to understand what our expectations were. Taking a close look at our feelings and expectations – preferably in writing – is constructive action that clears up depression and points us toward newer, more realistic avenues.

In the case of job rejection, we might want to ask ourselves such questions as: Why did I expect to get that job? Did I misunderstand something the interviewer said? Did I assume I was qualified when perhaps I wasn’t? Am I willing to admit the person who got the job was more qualified (or talented)? Was I reaching too high, considering my qualifications and experience? Was I indulging in wishful thinking?

Questions like these put the Failure in perspective if we answer them honestly. The same kinds of questions work well in other circumstances.

Is pride your problem?

We should not overlook pride in our inventories. When we fail at something, our egos are likely to be wounded. We are apt to feel we deserved better. Maybe we have bragged to our friends about anticipated changes, and now we feel foolish having to admit we did not get what we expected. When we see pride getting in our way, we can use Step Seven and ask God to remove it.

We also ask ourselves, is that job, apartment, or relationship what I truly needed? Or were these goals merely what I wished I had or thought I should have?

In the early stages of addiction recovery, we often fall into the trap of doing what we think we should, rather than what we genuinely want to do – or need to do. For instance, we may think we are smarter than our fellow members in the fellowship or rehab. We may fool ourselves about the kind of work we want because it has the prestige or offers a higher salary. We may think moving to a particular area will enhance our image, even though we prefer a simpler lifestyle.

It rarely works to pursue goals only because we think we should, rather than because we genuinely want them. When things go wrong, we have an opportunity to look within ourselves and find our true objectives.

An inventory should include some positive things too. We may discover we want a particular occupation or pace to live. Then we can turn apparent Failure into success by deciding what needs to be done. For example, we may need more training, or we may need to take a job that will allow us to work up the ladder. We may have to reassess how we use our income so our spending matches our priorities. We can perhaps look at what other resources we have – our network, education, experience.

If we discover our objectives conflict with what we truly want, we can use this information to determine our goals. Often, we find clues to what we want by looking at what we already do well. Once we know what we want, we can take the appropriate action to accomplish it.

In either case, we have taken the opportunity to find out more about ourselves, which is always an advantage.

As Michelle Obama said: ‘’Failure is a part of the process. You just learn to pick yourself back up.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call Freephone 0800 140 4044

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