Alison's Insights

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

Doubting Myself to Destruction

The past few days I’ve been sorting through a bunch of old file boxes. I’m doing so because after taking a look around my home office I found myself wondering how on earth I could have gathered so much clutter.

There was a time when I would have just turned off the lights, shut the door and prayed the organizational fairy would wave her magic wand in the middle of the night so in the morning I’d find the room transformed.  (To note, I do have a friend who actually fits this description. Nothing brings her more joy than to organize, file, collate and alpha-sort however I don’t think she makes midnight house calls.)

These days I’m far closer to being more like my friend than praying to fairies I’d hoped were sitting atop file boxes.

How did this transformation take place?  Well, I can’t say I know exactly, but I have a pretty good idea the process of recovery helped me to identify why running away from life’s tough stuff was my preferred plan of action. Over the years I’ve learned to distance myself from seeking the escape route and am now mindful to stay put when the going gets rough.

So, as I sat on the floor to work my way though the paper parade and put some semblance of order to the endless files contained in boxes, I became increasingly amazed by what I’ve held on to. File after file held drafts of documents I’d written throughout my corporate career. Various attempts to structure business strategies and creative direction were everywhere causing me to wonder why I kept these versions versus the final copies.

After some soul-searching I believe I may have yielded an answer. I never stopped doubting myself.

I doubted my ability to do the job I was getting paid for, my knowledge of the business, my motivation for success, the list would go on and on. The doubts masked the incredible fear I’d one day be found for the imposter I kept telling myself I was. I’d convinced myself the day would come when the charade would fail.

Just as I would re-write and edit my work, I was doing the same in other areas of my life but the minute I’d have that glass of chardonnay, feeling relief roll down my neck and into my arms, the self-doubt would diminish. Equally powerful was how I’d boost my self-confidence by stepping on the scale and see confirmation I’d done a good job to control my food intake.

Yes, I knew the exact equation to make those silent negative messages fade away until the equation didn’t calculate anymore.

Year after year the inner turmoil of self-doubt eroded my enthusiasm for life. On the outside, the smile on my face and the tough, bullet-proof attitude of, “I don’t need help; I’ve got my act together” was pretty convincing. I kept the illusion going while inside I was falling apart; at first figuratively and in time, literally.

The empty bottles of chardonnay collected in the garage while the dishes in my cabinet stayed nice and clean.

I was on the fast-track of doubting myself to destruction.

By the time the only option left for me was to seek the help I needed but doubted I wanted, I was at the point where I questioned all of what I said, did or heard. I certainly had reservations about this thing called recovery, believing there would be nothing anyone could offer me I hadn’t already thought of myself.

So there I was, waiting for someone to tell me what to do but instead heard suggestions to help me move beyond skepticism of self and others. I smiled with thanks to those who provided insight and practical experience stories yet continued the search for anything to validate my distrust. Try as I might, all I ever found was consistency in action and honesty in word. This is when the thought crossed my mind maybe I didn’t need someone to tell me what to do but to do what I’d been told had worked.

One of things I observed was what happened when people began doing what they knew was right rather than what was perhaps comfortable. Although I didn’t really understand why anyone would eagerly chose that direction, I figured if this method worked for them the same just might work for me. I had done well in logic class so I knew if I did more of the right things, the propensity for me to do the wrong things would lessen.  Sure enough, in time my doubts turned into certainty and my destruction turned into salvation.

Now, if I were to claim I’m completely without doubt in my life today I’d be a lying to you. I’m human which means I need other people to help me survey my options when change drifts into my life. I’ve written about this before and am sure I’ll reference the same again; recovery is not a self-help program but a “collective-help” program and since I have no desire to return to destruction, I’ll turn my attention to a friend so together we might find a solution.

But for now I think I’ll get back to destroying those file boxes as I’ve no doubt are far better served for the recycling bin than taking up space in my office.


A Moment to Breathe …

What are you in doubt of today? Are you avoiding what the quiet voice inside is guiding you to do?  Instead of trying to figure things out on your own, try picking up the phone or going to visit with a friend. Simply explain you aren’t look for anyone to fix the issue; you’d just like some help clarifying your options.  

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One thought on “Doubting Myself to Destruction

  1. Alison,
    Your never ending honesty , continues to amaze me. Your words very seldom find me very for from my own truth. That truth is what helps myself, maybe many others to seek our own peace.
    Thank you for your ability to touch others through your openness. For me,
    you remind me to look deeper, be kinder to myself, to others and to breathe.

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