Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

I’m Not Responsible for My First Thought, Only My First Action

I established this blog because I wanted to create a space where I could write about my journey to, into, and through mid-life recovery from co-existing addictions. My intention remains to share practical experience by offering recovery-based solutions for everyday situations that have worked for me.

What I post here is what I wished I could have read when I felt so alone, scared and absolutely sure no one else did what I did or thought the way I thought. This is why while writing I try to imagine I’m talking to my old self, using language that isn’t too “recovery-ish” so the message might be best received.

I am so grateful to have found the pathway to foundational change and sustainable growth. I am learning, changing and growing every day because I remain open to looking at my own actions, behaviors, and perspectives. No one “graduates” from recovery. I know this to be true because I’ve seen, first hand, what happens to those who believe they do.

Today I want to share about something I recently went through with complete transparency and from my heart. My intention for this is to be an example that there are no guarantees. Recovery is a continuous process, requiring my attention every day.

I’m the kind of person who learns best from experience. I’m far better able to accept change based upon what I learn by the actions I take. Thus, until I go through something, I’m not going to truly understand why I need to learn or change so I can become healthier in mind, body and spirit.

Even though I’ve strung together many days of continuous sobriety and healthy living, I’m not exempt from my thinking to get off track if I’m not careful. What I mean is, if I’m not dealing with something like an emotion or resentment, undoubtedly I’ll be presented with something that will force me to deal with what I’m resisting.

Case in point, last Saturday I woke up feeling uncomfortable in my body. For those who struggle with body image issues, you understand what I mean. For those of you who don’t I’ll just say the feeling is comparable to feeling bloated or otherwise “thicker” for whatever reason. Anyway, I’ve felt this way before. I’m a woman. I’m getting older. This is certainly not unusual.

What was unusual last Saturday was I found myself flirting with old eating disorder thoughts.

Now, I haven’t been in that place for a very long time and I must tell you, the instantaneous shift to old patterns of thought scared the daylights out of me. I began to panic. I felt goose bumps emerge and the feeling of being unable to control my thinking started to creep in. I tried to tell myself to just push past the thoughts because I should know better.

Wait, pardon me? What did I just mentally say? Did I just tell myself I “should” know better? Well clearly, for whatever reason, in that moment, I didn’t know better.

Yet just as quickly as the unhealthy thoughts came to mind, a very healthy one did too. I remembered that while I’m not responsible for my first thought, I am most certainly responsible for my first action.

This is exactly what I mean by practical experience. I’ve learned I will be relieved of my “off” thinking when I talk with another person about what’s rolling around in my head.

Last Saturday morning I had to be accountable for my thinking before that thinking could lead me straight back to hell.

Picking up the phone to call another like-minded person is always a fantastic option but in this particular instance, I needed to be face-to-face with someone so I wouldn’t be tempted to gloss over the intensity of my fear from those flirtatious thoughts.

I had already planned to attend a recovery meeting but since that wasn’t for another couple of hours I went downstairs, stood in front of my husband and said, “You’re not going to understand a thing I’m about to tell you, but right now I just need you to listen and for me to feel heard.” (To note, he and I have been down this road before. He knows when I tell him I need to feel heard, that’s code for “don’t try to fix me.”) When I was done talking I thanked him for listening. He told me he loved me and I got myself to the meeting.

When that meeting was over I talked with another woman who shares in the quest to better her life. Our conversation allowed me the opportunity to get out of my own head for a while by focusing on someone else rather than just me. That evening I spent time with my sponsor, seeking guidance from the one person who knows me better than I know myself. We had a lovely dinner during which I was able to open my heart and mind, to turn my attention inward and uncover what was causing the old patterns of thought to arise earlier in the day.

On my way home I smiled. I felt better, understood and back in line with myself.

So here I am today, continuing to face up to things I clearly wasn’t willing to face just a few days ago. I’m so relieved to have learned there are always options, or “tools of recovery”, available to me any time I find myself getting lost in old, unhealthy thinking.

Thoughts will come. I’m going to have off days. I’m human. Recovery is not about how perfectly I live but the progress I make. And as long as I remember I’m not responsible for my first thought but for my first action, I’ll be OK.


What is your experience with not reacting to that first thought? I’d love for you to share your experience and or comments here.


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3 thoughts on “I’m Not Responsible for My First Thought, Only My First Action

  1. Claudia Donohue on said:

    Gave me goose bumps first; then a smile was plastered across my face. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Alison. I was looking for the origin of this statement about our first thoughts. A dear recovery friend who died 10 years ago said it a lot. I am now a Coach delivering a workshop on how to quiet our self doubt, that Inner Critic. I want to convey that our minds do what they do, and if we become aware what is going on we have choices. Thus the “first thought” came to mind. I too have been in a recovery group working the 12 steps for a number of years. Thanks for putting this out there.

  3. Hi Pamela! Thank you for sharing your insight and practical experience with the notion we aren’t responsible for our first thought. I honor the work you are doing because the intention is powerfully moving. My sense is so many of us feel the pull of our Inner Critic, often so paralyzing we become numb to what’s true and what’s not. Yet the more to light we bring to the fallacies of the Inner Critic messages, perhaps we will begin to believe the truth of how wonderful we all are.

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