My good friend Madison over at The Recovery Princess asks: “What are your commitments?”
She points out that we are largely defined by our commitments, because those commitments are what shapes out future growth.
Where we are headed, in other words. What we commit to helps to shape our future growth, and any success we might enjoy.
It is such an interesting topic that I want to dive in a bit more and explore it. Feel free to share your ideas too in the comments below. Here are some of my initial ideas about commitment in recovery:
* My own commitments and how they have shaped my recovery.
* Commitments lead to success. Lack of commitment leads to mediocrity and stagnation.
* Keeping commitments builds strength and integrity.
* Making and keeping personal commitments creates purpose in our lives.
* Committing to a purpose gives us clear direction.
My commitments and how they have shaped my recovery
I can look back at my own personal journey through addiction recovery and see it as a series of commitments that I made.
I guess it might also help to define “commitment.” To me it is just something that I became willing to do, and had a fairly serious intention about sticking to it.
It took commitment to live in long term rehab for 20 months.
It took commitment to go from no exercise at all, to build up to running 20 plus miles each week.
It took commitment to quit smoking cigarettes.
It took commitment to build this website up to over half a million words and almost 2 thousand articles.
These examples help to define what “commitment” means to me. They are things that took real effort, and real follow-through. Commitment means I took something positive and turned it into a habit, because I knew (or was told) that it would benefit my life.
For example, I was told–but did not truly realize–what a powerful impact regular exercise would have on my recovery. Running on a regular basis has transformed my life. The effect is truly profound, as it just makes me feel so much better, pumps me up, and I think it helps to balance out what might have been some degree of depression. Or maybe not, maybe I just feel great due to vigorous exercise.
It really doesn’t matter. Here is the key: running was miserable at first. In fact, it was miserable for several months. For whatever reasons, I committed to it, and stuck it out, and eventually running got easier for me. Now it is a joy, an outlet, a release. It is a huge part of my recovery today.
Commitment leads to success. Lack of commitment leads to mediocrity and stagnation
Aristotle said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” The key in that statement is “what we repeatedly do.” That represents our commitments.
In my way of thinking, there are 2 different ways you can go about living your life. You can live actively, or you can live passively. I know people right now who are definitely living passively. They are not committed to anything other than meeting their daily needs to keep on living and entertaining themselves.
These people have a mediocre existence and they tend to blame others for it. They might have daily habits but these habits do not challenge them to grow.
When we talk about having commitments, especially commitments to ourselves, we are talking about more than just passive living and neutral (or even negative) habits. We are talking about positive habits that take real effort and willingness.
Look at people who are actively living. They make personal commitments and follow through on keeping those commitments. Maybe they set a goal to earn a degree, or achieve a certain level of fitness. Or perhaps they commit to healthier eating habits, or to give up a bad habit. Whatever the case is, those who are successful in achieving these types of goals do so through active living. They commit to daily action and this sees them through to achieve what they set out to do.
Now compare this type of energy with someone who is living passively. The passive person might have dreams or fantasies about what they want to achieve, but they do not actively pursue anything other than immediate (and easy) gratification. They do not commit to anything. They might agree that “yes, they would like to be in great shape,” or “yes, they would love to have a better career and more education,” but they do not put in the daily action to achieve these types of goals. Instead, they merely continue to exist and survive, relying on a crutch or an escape of some sort to make it through the daily grind of their life. Passive. Not active. No passion.
Now if you happen to be recovering from an addiction, which type of living do you think is more conducive to recovery? Passive living leads to stagnation and relapse. Active living builds on previous success in recovery.
In traditional recovery there is a saying: “You are either working on recovery, or you are working on a relapse.” Basically, if you do not commit to anything, then you are sliding back toward using drugs and alcohol. It takes real commitment to maintain recovery. This becomes very obvious once you are involved in recovery and can see others….some of whom are succeeding, and some of whom are floundering. Those who are active in the pursuit of recovery actually have a fighting chance at staying clean and sober. Those who are passive or indifferent about recovery do not have a chance at staying clean at this point in their journey.
Keeping commitments builds strength and integrity
Pretty obvious stuff here but it does need to be pointed out: if you make commitments in your recovery and manage to stick to them, this builds strength and also increases your ability to commit to further things in your life journey. I think the phrase “success breeds success” applies very well to recovery….if you make a commitment and follow through on it, then this is good practice and good training for future growth experiences.
As an example, committing to recovery and gaining some clean time sets up a lot of recovering addicts and alcoholics for success in quitting cigarettes eventually. Some of my friends in recovery have made this progression along with me. You commit to recovery, you get clean and sober, and later on you eventually tackle your nicotine addiction. One sets you up and teaches you about the other. I could make a similar analogy between completing a college degree and becoming a distance runner. Making good on one commitment teaches us the discipline that is necessary to tackle other goals.
Making and keeping personal commitments can create purpose in our lives
It is hard to predict how a commitment will have meaning for us after it becomes a habit and changes us into a better person. For example, I committed myself to grow the Spiritual River into a high traffic website, not knowing how this would change my thoughts and ideas in relationship to a large audience. Now that I have followed through on this for several years, it has turned into something that allows me to make real connections with others. Commitment led to purpose.
Not all commitments lead directly to “purpose” like this. But they will affect our ability to help and connect with others in some way, even if indirectly. For example, committing to healthier eating might enable better health and longevity, so that we can better serve others on our journey.
Committing to a purpose gives us clear direction
Clarity is important.
If you don’t get clear about what you are committed to, then you won’t get anywhere.
For example, just saying:
“I want to lose some weight and eat healthier” is not as good as committing to “losing 15 pounds through exercise and eliminating all junk food.”
One is vague and the other is specific. The first is more of a passive fantasy and the second is a plan of action.
So I would suggest that anyone who is reading this should get clear and make a single commitment.
Photo by John-Morgan
What does your ideal life look like?
Picture the perfect “you” for a moment. Are you healthier? More fit? Different job? Not smoking? Helping others in a meaningful way every day?
Why not commit to making it happen? All it takes is a decision. (Followed up by serious action, of course!)
What is it that you most want out of life right now? Turn it into an actionable step and commit to it right now. This is the path to real growth. Decide on a direction and start moving towards it.
And thank you again Recovery Princess for the topic….