Have you ever wondered why some people, perhaps even you, do the same thing over and over again, even though you intellectually know that the result will be negative? Think about it in terms of those of you who perpetually fight weight throughout your life. You’ll probably recall that, at least on several occasions, you lost sufficient weight that you looked in the mirror and said, “I like what I see. This is the way I’m going to look the rest of my life. I’m going to throw away the big sizes that hang in the closet. That way, I won’t be able to afford to gain weight, because I’d have to buy a whole new wardrobe.” Yet, time and time again, despite your vows, the weight starts to creep up until, once again, it’s out of control and at what I typically call, “a comfortable level of discontent”.
It’s the same for individuals who drink and experience a period of sobriety. Their heads are clearer, their thoughts more readily available to them, their sense of satisfaction with self is markedly increased. Yet, some time later, they feel the urge to drink. They impulsively run to the liquor store for a bottle they can hide, or convince themselves that they can take one or two drinks, be a social drinker, and still maintain control. All the while, every AA member will tell you that “the big book”, as they refer to it, defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
It’s no different for any addiction, whether it’s smoking, gambling, sexual promiscuity, or retreating to bed to sleep away your problems. The rule is that anything to excess should immediately alert you to the fact that you’re escaping from something you don’t want to face. Whether it’s the financial problems that come with gambling, the isolation from self and others due to alcoholism, the conflicts and upsets in marriage due to conflicts, power struggles and promiscuity, or the health issues experienced by the person who has become obese, these self-created problems, although painful in themselves, are more acceptable to you. At the same time, you probably feel, “I am not in control of me. If I were, my promises to be thin, sober or healthy, etc. would be kept.” When they aren’t, you need to ask yourself two questions, “What am I running from?” and “What am I using as the vehicle to enable me to run?”
Unfortunately, trying to answer those questions often causes things to become confusing because, most of you would logically say to yourself, “Do you think I consciously choose to be this fat, gamble away my money, or drink this much? Why would I want to retreat to bed, experience painful physical symptoms, or create marital problems on purpose?” My answer would be, to avoid facing issues that are too stress provoking to look at, too painful to own and too anxiety-producing to accept. You see, a part of you refuses to see yourself. Emotionally, you don’t want to take responsibility for why you’re depressed, why you suffer from constant anxiety, why you’re angry, or addicted to self destructive behaviors. It’s easier to attribute your problems to your spouse, children, friends, world conditions, physical problems and addictions, rather than face your own emotional reality.
I fully understand. No one wants to see themselves as feeling totally inadequate in the world, unlovable in the eyes of loved ones, insufficient with regard to competing with others, lacking as a human being, weak, dependent, emotionally needy, or lacking courage. Thus, you hide from the fact that you are fearful to stand up for your convictions, to risk rejection, criticism or loss of love. Instead, you choose to lose yourself, to prostitute your values and beliefs, to subject yourself to emotional and physical abuse and to go to great lengths to avoid rocking your own boat. The reason being that these flaws are so abhorrent to you that, were you to emotionally own them, you would have to reject yourself. Consequently, you accept the lesser pain you experience from problems of your own making. As a result, most of you wind up medicating yourself or rationalizing and denying your own reality.
There is a better way. That way, as simplistic as it may sound, is to find and face yourself, to accept you for who you are and to learn to love and share the person you are with others, openly, vulnerably, without any false costumes, makeup or accessories to enhance your image. This will not occur, however, until you discover and own who you are and accept yourself without having to alter the “horrible” truths you perceive in you. Perhaps the best words you need to heed were issued by G-d, when he said, “I am who I am.” Indeed, if you are born in His image, His words have to serve as a model for the way you present yourself in the world. You have to be able to say, “I am who I am, with my scars, warts, shortcomings, insufficiencies and fears and I would have you accept and love me for that person.” Few of you, however, would dare risk fully exposing yourself to others who really matter, because of your fears of possible rejection.
To aid you to take that risk, I would have you realize that if, in fact, you are truly created in G-d’s image, each of you is unique, as an individual. You have your own differences and individualities that make you special and worthwhile. Because of that, there is someone out there who will fully accept you if and when you finally learn to be thankful for who you are, instead of what you think you should be. The truth is, when you are thankful for who you are, others will come to be equally appreciative of the person you’re thankful for.