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What's my Attitude Got to Do with my Recovery?

Updated on January 21, 2015

Authored by Marilyn L. Davis for express use at North House, 1990-2011: copyright transferred to TIERS, 2012

Registration Number: TXu1-797-964: No portion may be reprinted or copied without express permission from or acknowledgment of author

Evaluating Attitude and Commitment to Recovery

I remember thinking twenty-six years ago at my first recovery support meeting that all of those people were just too happy.

I falsely believed that I had to put on a positive front and refer to all the adversity as growing experiences. I couldn't find much to be happy and about in my life. My employer, family, and friends were thankful that I'd gone to treatment, but were leery of my continued recovery

Each reference to my attitude and commitment to recovery just sounded like a lecture. Sometimes, I could listen if the individual shared their struggles and how they overcame them, but for others, I simply tuned them out.

Yet, each statement about attitude and commitment made me think. It wasn't until I took the time to look up attitude and commitment in a dictionary that I saw where I could adopt a more proactive approach to my recovery.

So, just what are attitude and commitment? We usually throw out that a person has a bad attitude or that people are afraid of commitment, but beyond these pat sayings what are we talking about when we use these words? So that we are clear, here are the definitions.

  • Attitude is the manner, mood, feeling, or position about a person, object, or situation. A settled way of thinking or feeling typically reflected in an individual's behavior.

In other words, what we think and feel about something or someone and how we demonstrate this attitude.

  • Commitment is a state of intellectual and emotional attachment to a particular action, practice, or person. It is our dedication and application of our attachment to something or someone.

When we commit to something, we are making a promise to do or not to do something. When we commit to someone, we pledge to him or her also. When we make a commitment, we are pledging to do or not do something.

Attitudes and Commitment: Choices Make a Difference

I realized that a positive attitude was more about hope than liking what was going on in my life. This attitude meant that I could be optimistic that change could bring me different or better outcomes.

Pessimism typically breeds unhappiness; optimism gives hope. Only I could decide which attitude to have. This choice felt empowering.

However, I would also have to be open-minded to suggestions and directions. Beyond listening and agreeing with someone's directions, I would have to follow through on the advice. That follow through was a demonstration of my commitment to continued recovery.

Listening to alternative solutions broadened my choices of behaviors, thoughts and feelings.
Listening to alternative solutions broadened my choices of behaviors, thoughts and feelings. | Source

What Do They Know about My Situation?

I also realized that even if an individual didn't have exactly the same circumstances in their life, by giving me advice for alternative behaviors, thoughts or feelings, they were taking a risk in appearing ignorant if the suggestion was not worthwhile.

Re-framing my attitude about other people's suggestions also helped me use their advice from a different perspective. I got interested in the suggestions and directions. I knew that I would never know if a particular suggestion had worth unless I tried it.

Part of me set up tests. Let's see if this works. Holding onto the idea that if a suggestion didn't work, I could hold someone else accountable for the outcome eased my reluctance to follow through.

A break-through for me was to think about the situation logically. Why would a sponsor, accountability partner or peers in meetings give me directions or solutions that did not have a history of working for others?

All of those people had reputations. Did I think that any of them wanted the reputation as the one that gives “stupid assignments” or directions?

How much sense would it make to give inadequate explanations or instructions? Furthermore, it would serve no purpose to give inaccurate directions. It would be a waste of time and ultimately harm their reputations.

This subtle shift in attitude made following through easier.

Has your attitude about recovery changed since your intial reactions to getting into recovery?

See results

Listen, Implement and Review

I also had to take into account that most people were not going to risk appearing ignorant so that if someone gave me a suggestion, I listened, implemented the suggestion and then reviewed the outcomes.

Even when I questioned how a suggestion or solution might help me, I followed through so I could honestly say I had, but more so, I knew then that the test would be valid.

I was genuinely surprised at many of the positive outcomes, and pleased that I had overcome fears to follow through.

How often do you typcially have to have an attitude adjustment?

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Fear of Failure and Follow-Through

Since most of the suggestions involved some type of change, there was fear. Overcoming the fear and then getting better results motivated me to try to the next suggestion. These results also helped me maintain a better attitude regarding solutions from others.

Although many people become fearful when they have to change, if you overcome your fears about change, you may discover that you like the outcomes from the actions.

I think that David McNally sums my experience well, “There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you only do it when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”

Getting new results motivated me to take the next suggestion or direction with a more willing and interested attitude.

Relapse is a vicious cycle.  When you realize that you are reverting to old patterns, recommit to your recovery and check your attitude
Relapse is a vicious cycle. When you realize that you are reverting to old patterns, recommit to your recovery and check your attitude | Source

Change Lessens the Threat of Relapse

More than anything, I did not want to relapse.

Nor did I want to get complacent and revert to a negative attitude about life.

I knew that I could not expect a different future if I didn't make appropriate changes and continue to evolve in my recovery.


Reflecting on Twenty-Six Years

I didn't change all of my self-defeating patterns in one fell swoop. Most, if not all were habituated and entrenched. They were the norms, and changing them took effort and awareness.

However, recovery is the diligent pursuit of a better life, so by making incremental changes, evaluating how to do things differently, and then making the effort to operate from a new behavior made recovery work.

Recovery is sometimes as simple as no longer hitting the brick wall and giving up. It's looking for other solutions to get beyond it, or asking others for guidance in how they managed to make it to the other side.

I found that being appreciative of opportunities help me get over a bad mood. It also helped me with boredom. Some people find that reflecting on all that they are appreciative of in their recovery helps with boredom. When I found myself bored, I only had to reflect on how chaotic my life was in my addiction. Those reflections quickly change my attitude and helped me recommit to recovery.

I've maintained and enjoyed my recovery by:

• Living a commitment to remain chemically free

• Changing self-defeating behaviors

• Recognizing the value of other people's experiences

• Realizing, I don't know it all

Create a Personal Reminder

My Reminder:  "With a better attitude and level of commitment, I've made it twenty-six years.  I won't give in, now."
My Reminder: "With a better attitude and level of commitment, I've made it twenty-six years. I won't give in, now." | Source

Reminders: Reinforcing Attitude and Commitment

In the final analysis, it is easier to maintain recovery than it is to risk relapse, death or not being able to start over, and that begins with attitude and commitment.

I created a personal reminder almost 27 years ago. I simply change the number yearly and feel proud of that. Try creating a personal reminder for yourself, including the time you have that reinforces what you've accomplished and what you can gain with a better attitude and level of commitment.

Mine is: "You've made it twenty six years, with a better attitude and following through on your commitments, don't give in yet." Each year, on September 30th, I change the year. It's worked for almost 27 years.

© 2013 Marilyn L Davis


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