A Motivational Quote Applied to Addiction and Recovery

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“Eventually, there comes a point in every life where you can no longer ignore the enormous and expanding gap between the life you could be living and the life you’ve settled for…. Every day of your life that you’re not actively engaged in staying fit, eating well, and strengthening your body the gap grows.” – Strength for Life, by Shawn Phillips

This quote by Shawn Philips struck a chord with me, and I think it applies perfectly to any addict or alcoholic and the process of breaking through denial. Phillips is talking about physical fitness, but I think the message can apply to nearly any goal one might have, especially sobriety and personal growth.

Nobody plans on becoming a drug addict or an alcoholic. I know I didn’t. I imagined I was somehow immune to those conditions when I took my first drink.

But the grip of addiction takes hold slowly, without your permission. I can remember that I realized at the time that I might be heading in that direction (of addiction), but my mind pushed it towards the back burner because I was having too much fun. By taking drugs, I thought I had found a solution for my life, and it was working for me (or so I thought at the time).

Of course, a time comes when the drugs and the alcohol quit working, and then you are really on a hamster wheel, just trying to maintain a baseline of misery by continuing to take drugs and booze. Even if you admit to your problem at this point, you are still in denial, unless you take action to do something about it.

It is while in the grip of this vicious cycle that the quote above applies so well: we know our life is spinning out of control, but we are powerless to stop it. We wanted for things to be different. But we look up and suddenly see that our choices haven’t gotten us to “our dreams.” And so, in disappointment, we self-medicate further. And the cycle continues.

This quote applies to the recovering addict, as well

It’s one thing to use this kind of inspiration and motivation to break through denial and start living in recovery….but what about all of those people who are merely “coasting by” while they are clean and sober? It certainly happens. You can still manage to maintain sobriety without much growth in your life, much to your own dissatisfaction. But why would you want to?

Take a look at this gap in your own life: the gap between where you want to be, and where you actually are. How happy are you with the size of the gap? Maybe it’s pretty small, and you’re close to living “your ideal life?” Or maybe you have some disappointment. Either way, it is certainly worth thinking about, especially if you need some motivation for your goals.

So I would challenge everyone out there to think about this for a moment: Is there a gap between your ideal life and the life you are living? What could you do to close the gap?

Here is my goal, as inspired by the quote above:

Post at least once a day, every day, for the next year on the Spiritual River

What is your goal?


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  • steven

    To achieve the life I wanted, and not the life I settled for, I decided to purge two words from my vocabulary. Since I started down the path to recovery, I don’t use the word goal and I don’t use the word expectation.

    Sometime during the early days of my recovery I read this quote: Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny. Author unknown.

    For me, goals are too final and too stressful. And the last thing I wanted in my life is stress. I wanted a word that invited flexibility and wouldn’t disapoint me if I didn’t “make” my goal. I decided on the word process. I love the word. Now I have processes in my life, not goals. I love the idea that it is a gradual change leading to a particular result. The word denotes movement and motion – a perfect word for someone traveling down a path!

    I have seen first hand the damage expectations can do. I have seen relationships sour, good students give up, perfectly good companies lose their stock value because of “Wall Street” expectations, a friend relaspe because he didn’t meet his own expectations. Expectations in life are like weeds in the yard: If you find one weed, they’re are bound to be others. I have in my recovery tried to eliminate the weeds in my life so I can smell the flowers. Whatever will be, will be.

    “There is no path to happiness. The path is happiness. – Buddha

    Bright blessings to you, Patrick. You’re doing a wonderful job.


  • Patrick

    Wow, Steven, thank you so much for the kind words and brilliant insight!

    I agree that having “goals” can set us up for failure sometimes. I also agree that viewing our ups and downs as part of a “process” is a very useful mindset as well. In fact, my sponsor in recovery is always big on viewing things as a process.

    I also liked what you had to say about expectations. I’m glad to be on the path today (any path!).

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