We used to call it “navel gazing” (that’s what “Omphaloskepsis” means !). It’s a way of describing that obsession with oneself that blocks out the bigger picture.
Now, there is a place for self-analysis, “a searching, fearless moral inventory of ourselves” and the admission of “the exact nature of our wrongs”. We need to understand, as best we can, exactly who we are if we are ever to change anything and become what we could be. But if we are not careful it turns into a self-indulgent, egotistical wallowing in self.
It’s not a bad idea, from time to time, to tap your houseplants out of their pots and see how the roots are doing. Are there pests? Is there room to grow? Is there a need for re-potting or some feed? But if you go too far and shake off all the soil to see the roots more clearly or if you constantly expose them to the air then your plant is doing to die.
You need to take a similar approach to yourself and your recovery.
From time to time you need to take stock (? rootstock ☺) and undertake a rigorous self examination. Make sure that you are planted in a healthy environment. But do it sparingly and, on the advice of your guide or mentor, at well-spaced intervals.
Otherwise get on with growing. Focus on your potential.
We are told to look where we are going. It may be true that we are going where we look – and a navel is nowhere.
Addiction changes people for ever but recovery brings a new start
“I want my son back.”
It’s the understandable yearning of a broken-hearted mother who has seen her child slip into the trap of addiction.
To believe that is never going to happen is neither as hopeless nor as cruel as it sounds.
Addiction to drugs or alcohol or any behaviour that takes over a person is life changing. They are never going to be the same again. In the short term they will certainly be damaged by the experience, possibly physically, certainly emotionally and maybe psychiatrically too.
But “recovery” is, and should be, a positive word. It will never mean “going back to where you were” but it is about moving on and climbing to a level of higher function, better health and restored relationships. If you think about it, “going back to how things were” is not a very good idea – for in that former life and lifestyle were all the seeds of looming disaster.
People in recovery need to be stronger and wiser and, with all the support they need, better able to deal with and rise above the challenges than they were before their lives were destroyed by addiction.
So the programmes for recovery offered by organisations like Addictions UK do not promise to give you back the child or the spouse or the friend that you had before they became addicts. They offer a better hope and the potential for a safer future than that.
Maybe that anguished mother needs to be able to say “I want my son better”, with everything that means.
It’s surprisingly hard to live in the present. We tend to spend a lot of our time thinking about the past and the future.
We have all made mistakes and it’s too easy to obsess about them. We spend our time wondering what went wrong, what we could have done to avoid the problem, how much better life would have been if we had made different choices.
We can’t stop thinking about the future, either. What will happen? How will I manage? The mortgage, the pension, work, family, how will it all work out?
We are sometimes positive about past and future too. We have happy memories of past success and achievements. Some times were good, some people were great to be with. And we have our hopes and plans, holidays to look forward to, our children starting families, quieter years after retirement with time and security to do what we want.
But, good or bad, it’s all an illusion. Our memories are always distorted, our plans never wholly realistic – how can they be in an ever-changing context?
It’s good to enjoy and learn from the past. It’s necessary to plan for the future. But the only reality is the present. The past can be a distraction, the future an excuse to put things off.
What are the challenges of today? What needs doing right now? Who is nearby at this moment and needs my help and encouragement and support?
Be positive about the past and be hopeful for the future but live in the present.