We each view the world through unique lenses of perception. These lenses are comprised of the meaning that we give to things, such as our life experiences, beliefs, cultural background, values and current feelings to name but a few. Gender, age, race and other criteria can also play a role. All these things act as filters, thus no two persons perception of reality is completely the same. It stands to reason therefore, that if you change your perception in someway, you can change your reality. Powerful stuff.
Long before addiction occurs, our self-perception can be significantly tainted. Negative self-perceptions (often based on how we think others perceive us) can lead to feelings of inadequacy, being unattractive, unlucky, unlikeable and so on. Perception of others and happenings can also take on a life of their own. Any of these negative perceptions can lead us down the slippery path of addiction.
In active addiction, the lies we tell ourselves and others, the omissions, the deceptions and poor behaviour, can all have a major, negative influence on our perception of self. Certainly, I bathed in shame, guilt and self-loathing on pretty much a daily basis for years. Furthermore, I blamed myself for almost everything that went wrong in the world, irrespective of whether there was any truth to it. Others in active addiction often blame everyone but themselves…the empty bank account, getting fired, unhappy family relationships and so on…all someone else’s fault. Both perceptions are usually a long way from actual reality.
And then, by whatever process, we find ourselves in recovery. By this time, often our self-perception has messed with our self-worth and/or self-esteem to a degree. Our perceptions of events and/or of others has potentially messed up our relationships with family, friends, co-workers and Joe Public at large. The perception of our past can also be heavily skewed, distorting events in various ways. That’s a hefty chunk of baggage to be carrying as we start our journey of life in recovery.
Just where does this journey begin? Our perceptions will undoubtedly have an effect on our recovery choices. Do we go to detox, rehab, spend time in a half-way facility or do we perceive it to be unnecessary? Also, which recovery mode should we adopt if we choose to go that route…12 Step, SMART, LifeRing, Refuge Recovery to name but a few. And what about therapy? Or going it alone?
Then there’s the matter of who do we feel sufficiently comfortable in telling about our addiction issues, in revealing the fact that we are in recovery? Our perceptions will differ as to just how much stigma we think still exists out there and of it’s importance to us. Some will feel happy to shout their recovery from the roof tops informing family, friends, work, social media contacts, the mailman and anyone else who might be remotely interested. Others will limit the numbers to their nearest and dearest..and others will fall somewhere in between.
I think it’s fair to say that most people in recovery view putting down the substance or stopping the addictive behaviour as just the beginning, that the real work in recovery lays beyond that initial act. Perception and it’s restoration to a healthy state is part of the process.
Aside from healing any distorted past perceptions, we also have our day to day life to live in recovery…which often involves building relationships with a whole new bunch of people within a recovery setting.
Our perception can influence how we regard others in recovery. Belief systems spring to mind; whether someone is religious, spiritual, atheist or agnostic, especially when belief is perceived to be an important component of recovery or when the belief held is significantly different to our own. Differing values, preferences, age and gender etc., can all have an effect on the friendships and connections we make.
Sponsorship arrangements or mentors will be sought through the lenses of perception. I made a big mistake in A.A. once, perceiving that simply because someone had over three decades of recovery time and spoke eloquently about the AA 12 Concepts, that they would make an excellent sponsor. Not so. Experience had me changing that perception pretty fast, lesson learned. And so the beat goes on. Our perception can serve us well or we learn and change it accordingly.
And what about when perceptions differ? The mud can fly with both parties being convinced that their perception is the right one. Perception over such things as an idea, a solution, a recovery principle, perceived rule and a whole slew of other things. It can lead to people taking great offence, getting angry, feeling hurt, judged or belittled. Sides can be taken, fingers pointed and coffee invites cancelled if the situation isn’t nipped in the bud.
Relationships aside, our perception can affect how we view our problems, our good fortunes, our life in general and our environment. The well-known idiom comes to mind about whether the glass is half full or half empty. An optimistic person is more likely to perceive the glass as half full and a pessimist, half empty…that’s the general idea. A quote I like which fits in neatly here is “Life is all about perception. Positive versus negative. Whichever you choose will affect and more than likely reflect your outcomes.” Sonya Teclai.
Perception creates our reality and as such is a huge deal…impacting every corner of our existence. It can hamper or enhance. Awareness is key I think.
How has your perception played out in your life so far? What have been your most challenging perception issues…both prior to and during addiction and also in recovery? What are the warning signs that your perception is going off kilter either in regard to self or with others? How do you get yourself back on track? With respect to a healthy perception, how do you maintain one in daily life…with regard to self, others and your environment?
Curious to hear your thoughts and experiences. Feel free to use some of the questions above as a guideline, or not. Write as feels comfortable. Looking forward to hearing from you.