This excerpt is from Chapter 13 of Powerless No Longer, from a section that discusses techniques for reducing stress.
When we were using, we thought we were free but we were not. The servicing of our addictions restricted our options to only those that would perpetuate the addictions, leaving us unable to make simple choices now, when we are free to make them. When we were children, we learned to ask our parents’ permission to do things. As we grew older, we began to give ourselves permission to do things.
The time has come to start giving ourselves permission again, this time to do things that lead to healthy beliefs and behaviors. A good place to begin is by giving ourselves permission to be good to ourselves. Think about it. We have a 10-foot internal bullwhip, and for years we have been using it on ourselves. Why do we do that? We do it because our belief system tells us that we deserve no better. We can turn that around by treating ourselves better, but first we have to give ourselves permission to do it.
Do you remember the story of the teacup from Chapter 10? All that stands between us and being happy is giving ourselves the permission to be happy. We can choose to be happy even if the world is falling down around us, if we just give ourselves permission. That does not mean that we are ignoring what is going on, it just means that we have chosen not to allow ourselves to be drawn into depression, anger, fear, or other negative emotions. Those negative emotions are paralyzing, while a calm, confident demeanor is a great platform for problem solving.
We can give ourselves permission to plan for the future, now that it looks like we may have one after all. In the depths of addiction, the future seems to get closer all the time, doesn’t it? We start out planning for our retirement, but by the time we are ready to quit using, we can think no farther ahead then the next high or the next drink. Now we can begin making plans again, and working for the achievement of long-term goals.
It is important for us to give ourselves permission to do the things we need to do to maintain our recovery. If we do not do that, the rest of the permissions do not make much sense. By giving ourselves permission to do these things, we are reaffirming that we are worth the effort, and that we can prevail.
Along with being good to ourselves, we can give ourselves permission to do things we have always wanted to do, now that we have the time and the available resources to do them. One day, about a month sober, I spotted a beautiful pair of cowboy boots in a leather shop. I had always wanted a pair, ever since I was a kid, and they were about the price of three days’ supply of the scotch I used to drink, so I bought them. They pinched my feet, and I could not wear them two days in a row, but I never regretted buying them. Every time I wear them, I remember what they represent.