I worked in addiction treatment for over three years, and I met a wide range of people. After you work there for a while, you start to see patterns. Certain people with certain backgrounds, substances of choice tended to have certain personalities. This treatment center I worked at was expensive as hell, so you either needed to have great insurance or be rich to go there. Because of this, we had quite a few young people with rich parents, and they were often difficult to get through too because they’d been spoiled most of their life, but there was one kid I got through to, and we’ll call him Chuck for anonymity purposes.
Chuck was constantly starting shit with other clients, and he was typically the center of any drama going on while he was there. He came from money, and he was accustomed to always getting his way, and he expected everyone to bend to his will, and that included therapists and other employees like myself. Well, I don’t play that, so I put Chuck in check every time he got mouthy with me.
A lot of the therapists I work with were amazing, but none of them in recovery from addiction, so when they had difficult clients, they’d have me do one-on-ones with them, so Chuck’s therapist brought him into my office for a chat. She brought him in and told me that he was refusing to take any of the suggestions after leaving treatment. He said he wasn’t going to go to meetings, he wasn’t going to follow up with a therapist or doctor. None of it.
The great part about working in treatment as a recovering addict is that I saw the old, stubborn me in so many of the clients.
Although Chuck and I had completely different backgrounds, I could relate to his stubbornness. When I first got sober, I was just like him. I didn’t want to do anything. Go to meetings? That was dumb. Get a sponsor? Are you kidding me? Get phone numbers and create a support group? No way. I have wicked social anxiety and am a lone wolf.
The problem was, that this was a life and death situation. Much like many others who struggle with the disease of addiction, I spent years trying to do things my own way, and it always led to relapse. Each time I relapsed, I was closer to death, and I lost more than I had the time before. At this point, I wasn’t even allowed to see my son.
Your story might be different from Chuck’s and my own. Maybe you’re not an addict trying to get sober or stay sober. But, you might be extremely stubborn, hate being told what to do, and miserable. So, at a certain point, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if our way of doing things is really working. If it’s not, it’s time to figure something else out, and it might be trying something new, and there’s a simple way to do this.
We get stuck in this weird situation where we know we need to make a change in order to improve our life, we don’t want to do what others suggest, but our way isn’t working, so what do we do?
What helped me was to reframe the entire situation. I was looking at it all the wrong way. We all have a built-in negative bias, so it takes more cognitive effort to get out of that mode, but we can do it. Basically, I stopped thinking about all of the things I refused to do, and I asked myself, “Well, what am I willing to do?”
Once I stopped going on my childish tantrum of all the things I didn’t want to do and started looking at everything I was willing to do, things started to get a lot better for me. I made a compromise with myself to start out. The biggest things I refused to do were to get a sponsor, believe in a higher power and face my social anxiety by getting a support group. So, the easiest thing on the list of recommendations was to go to meetings. And it was more than just going to meetings. They recommend going to 90 meetings in 90 days, so I figured I could at least do that because I didn’t have shit else going on in my life.
After doing that, other things started happening that I refused to do. I started getting a support group without even trying. By simply showing up each day, people started to recognize me and start conversations with me, and I started to slowly overcome my social anxiety. As I stuck around and listened to the stories of others, I eventually got the balls to get a sponsor.
What I realized was, I didn’t have to do everything. I just had to do something. I started looking at it like a menu at a restaurant.
When we go to a restaurant, we have preferences, and sometimes those preferences depend on our mood. While everything on the menu isn’t appetizing, there’s something we end up ordering.
Imagine if we went into a restaurant with the same attitude that we approach our mental health by listing all the things we refuse to do. Seriously, take a minute and imagine a waiter or waitress coming up to you and having the following conversation:
“What can I get for you?”
“I don’t want fish.”
“Uh…alright. Well, we have steak.”
“I don’t want steak!”
“Hmmmmm….we have an amazing cobb salad.”
“I don’t like Cobb salad!”
“Alright. Well, you just let me know when you figure your life out.”
Pretty ridiculous, right? Just listing all the things we don’t want. Instead, we tell the waiter or waitress what we do want.
When it comes to your mental health, it’s the exact same thing. There are so many things you can do to begin improving your mental health, but so many of us are busy focusing on all the things we refuse to do. That’s getting us nowhere, and that’s what I had to teach our buddy from earlier, Chuck.
As Chuck sat there in my office sounding like I did when I first got sober, I finally stopped him like an annoyed waiter and said, “Alright, Chuck, what are you willing to do?”
When I said that, he perked up and got this look of awe on his face. It was like he’d been traveling down a hallway trying every door that said “locked” on it and finally realized there were a bunch of other doors that said “open”.
“Well, I’m too busy to go to 90 meetings in 90 days, but I can go to 5 meetings a week.”
I was thrilled when he said that. Like this kid had been refusing so many things because he was sitting in his negative mindset, but all he had to do was make an adjustment. Even though he wasn’t willing to go to 90 meetings in 90 days, he was still willing to go to a ton of meetings.
“What else are you willing to do, Chuck?”, I asked.
“I don’t want to hang out with a bunch of old people, but at my college, they have a recovery group run by students, so I’ll check that out.”
All Chuck had to do was start looking at the menu and pick a damn dish. He didn’t need to eat something he didn’t want to, but he needed to eat.
So, what dishes are you going to choose from your menu?
Don’t want to meditate? Exercise.
Don’t like AA? Try Refuge Recovery.
Don’t want to go to therapy? Find a support group.
Don’t want to find a support group in your area? Go online and find one.
I can go on for hours like this, but I’ve already done all the work. At the time of writing this, I have over 1,300 videos on my YouTube channel, 5 mental health books I’ve written as well as a slew of tips that I post on social media. Pick your flavor because I offer them all.
At the end of the day, the decision is up to you. We always have a choice. So, even when you go to a restaurant, you can still choose to be stubborn and not pick anything from the menu and just sit there starving while everyone else is eating. Although that’s an option, I highly suggest you pick something from the menu even if it’s new and scary because you might end up loving it.
If you’re looking for affordable therapy from the comfort of your own home, I personally use BetterHelp online therapy. I have a badass therapist, and I highly recommend this easy-to-use service. By clicking here to sign up, it helps support the work I do as well.
Originally published at https://www.therewiredsoul.com on November 18, 2019.