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T.E.A.C.H.

Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters


by Portia Nelson I I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost ... I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out. II I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in the same place but, it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out. III I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in ... it's a habit. My eyes are open I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately. IV I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. V I walk down another street.

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Recovery 101 Recovery

T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 Chapter One I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost.... I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out. Thinking over this chapter, I recall my own journey down the sidewalk of life. The things I have experienced, including the good and bad times I had. I remember the many holes I have fallen into. Those times where I had been minding my own business when the bottom fell out with no warning. Those times when I suddenly found myself in a pit of frustration, anger, anxiety, resentment, grief, or despair. Those times when I dealt with loss, change, and challenge that caught me by surprise and seemed out of my control. Chapter One can describe my truth and tell me exactly how my life is. Sometimes as I walk down the sidewalk of life I have wound up in a deep hole that was not of my own making. Any number of events can place a person in a hole of darkness, despair, anger, loss, anxiety, worry, or grief. I might not have had anything to do with making the situations, but I find I must learn to live with them. The resulting hole can be deep and dark. I have had to struggle long and hard to climb out of them. This is the nature of life. Many things are out of my control. Unexpected events happen. Change always occurs. The most that I can do is adapt to change the best I can. I must struggle out of the hole into which I was thrown and journey on. Hopefully, I can grow from such experiences and become a more mature person who is better able to cope with the bad things in life. Chapter One Questions Examples of hole situations I have experienced include: _________- the death of a friend or a pet__________________________________ _________- the loss of my job __________________________________________ _________- the loss of knowing who I am___________ ______________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________
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T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 Chapter Two I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend that I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in this same place. But, it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

With Chapter Two, the question I think about is, "Have I ever found myself in exactly the same hole more than once?"

Am I in exactly the same bad relationship (but with a different person) for the twentieth time? Am I starting to wonder how all of these jerks find me? How is it that I always get into the same type of conflict with my boss? She is so negative and critical and always expects so much from me. She makes me feel miserable. Maybe I am in the midst of the exact "word for word" argument with my spouse for the ten thousandth time. He says this and I say that just like we always do and I fall into the hole once again. My son, mother, sister, or brother does that thing that they always do. It pushes my buttons and as a result I respond as I always do. The cycle of conflict begins once again.

I cannot believe that it has happened one more time. I wonder, "Why does this always happen to me? Why do they always do this to me? When will they ever stop? Why cant they understand what they make me do?" If other people would just "act right or as they should", life would get better. I try harder and harder to get others to change. Chapter Two Questions Some holes I keep finding myself in again and again are: _____- Having the same argument with my brother over and over. ______________ _____- Not saying how I feel and then resenting my friends for not noticing or______ seeming to care that I am hurt.___________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________

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Recovery 101 Recovery

T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 Chapter Three I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in ... it's a habit ... but, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter Three challenges me to wake up. I have fallen into the same hole often enough to come to that realization. When these things happen again and again, I sense that it is not happening by chance. Maybe this repetition is a pattern that is not just inflicted on me by others. Because it repeats so many times, it must mean that I am playing a role in creating these events. As we walk on the sidewalk of life, we all fall into holes of psychological and spiritual distress. Sometimes it feels like I was pushed into the hole. At first, it often seems that it is not my fault to be in the situation once again. However, as I continue on the journey of life, I often find myself in the same hole more than once. I now know that being in the same hole means that I am being given the chance to see that there is a pattern in my life. Patterns do not exist until an event happens more than once. A pattern cannot be seen until I have been in the same situation over and over again. Only when it occurs yet again, is it possible to see the pattern or cycle. Once I am aware that the pattern exists, then there is the possibility of new insight. I can start to see the hole for what it is. Each time I find myself in one of lifes familiar holes and am busy saying:

"It is not my fault," "Don't blame me." "Who is responsible for this?" "They are doing it to me again."

I can now call for a time-out. I now look to see how I might be responsible for my situation. I ask myself, "What did I do to get here? What role did I play in creating the circumstances that placed me in this hole?" Often, if I look hard enough, I can see that I do a similar thing over and over again and it leads me into trouble. I can work on this. I can work on changing what I do so I dont end up in the same situation again. If I dont look at my actions, I will likely blame other people. When I blame other people for making me miserable, I try to change them so they dont upset me again. I have found that this is the trap of playing, "Let's fix you." Husbands and wives and parents and children often play this game. One spouse shows up at the counselor's office claiming that their mate is the problem. Parents bring in the child saying the child's behavior needs to change. Children say that their parents make them act this
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T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 way. Employees blame the insensitive boss. The overworked boss criticizes the inefficient employees. No one is taking responsible for anything. Playing "Lets fix you" doesnt work. I have tried to change others, even a small child, by trying to make them just a little more the way I want them to be. I have tried to make a few minor changes in another persons personality. By my way of thinking, if I just gave this person a little bit of a "tune up" then I might be able to live with them. Did I succeed? The answer is, "No!" I have found that changing others is an extremely difficult if not impossible task. The other person may actually try to cooperate but often cannot make or sustain the change. I have come to realize that my effort is directed in the wrong direction. If I fall into the same hole enough times I might awaken to the true nature of the problem. I might find that I am responsible for being there; that I played some role in the process, and that I must change. Learning this is good news. If I can find out what I am doing and stop doing it, then I can avoid these holes into which I keep falling into. Taking some responsibility for my problems means that I have some control over the situation. I have found that what I need to do is to change myself and then the situation can improve. While this task is very hard, it is at least possible. Changing others is not.

When I find myself once again in that same bad relationship, but with a different person, I need to realize that it is me who is making the same mistake over and over. I need to ask myself, "What am I doing?" "How did I get here once again?" When I am in that same tired old argument, I ask myself, What did I do to get here? When I wake up with a hangover once again, I ask myself, What went wrong with my choice to never drink again?

When I become aware of what I am doing, or why I am doing it, then change is possible. I can choose to take responsibility for myself and my actions. If I change myself or my actions, my experience of the situation will change. Surprisingly, if I do this, the other people I had wanted to change may change as well. I cannot change others by directly trying to influence them. But if I change myself then they may choose to change themselves as well. Once I am different and can keep that difference, then others around me are given the chance to change in relation to me. By effectively changing myself, I may end up changing another person, a group, and perhaps, the world. But I must start with myself. When I start with myself, I know a good place to begin is with my attitude. I can choose to have a positive or negative attitude about myself and life. It is up to me to decide how I want to live my life. I choose to think positively because I know I will be happier.
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T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 Chapter Three Questions What hole situations am I most sick of and just want to stop seeing again?: _____- Not saying how I feel and then resenting my friends for not noticing or______ seeming to care that I am hurt.___________________________________________ _____- Fighting with my wife when I ask her if she really loves me.______________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ What can I do to change these holes so I dont get stuck in them again?: _____- I will make a list of things that show my wife loves me. On the list I will put things that she says or does that shows she loves me._Things like her saying I love you just the way you are or how she rubs my_shoulders when I am stressed)._____ _____- The next time I think that she doesnt love me, I will read the list over and___ over again until I feel better._____________________________________________ _____- Instead of asking my wife Do you love me? I will ask her questions like____ How was your day? or Do you want to play a board game with me?___________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ How will this help me avoid the same hole again?: _____- We always get into an argument when I ask my wife if she really loves me.__ _____- When I read the list, I believe my wife loves me._______________________ _____- This means I will ask her Do you really love me? a lot less._____________ _____- This will lead to less fights (the hole I want to avoid!)_________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________

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T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 Chapter Four I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter Four is a brand new chapter in my life. Once I take some responsibility for what is happening around me, the situation can change. I can begin avoiding the holes on that street of life. I am now able to see what is coming, because I know my pattern of behaviours. This knowledge gives me control and I can now choose to respond to life in a different way. A different response leads to new possibilities. When someone invites me into a familiar hole, I no longer automatically enter. My friend, who has been waiting for me to come so we can leave for a party, sarcastically says, "Well, you are late again!" My normal response is to get defensive and say, "Must you always complain?" Now when I see that familiar hole of an argument and a bad evening ahead, I can make a different choice. I realize that my friend has had the legitimate frustration of waiting. She may also have been worried about me. I speak to these issues and say, "I am sorry to be late. Traffic was terrible. I couldnt get to a phone. I know that you were wondering what happened to me." My new choice allows my friend to admit her concern and worry, rather than just voice the frustration of waiting. The hole of the same old fight is avoided, and the evening goes well.

Chapter Four Questions What did I do differently to stop from falling in the hole?: ______- When I left the house, I told my father I would be home at 10pm instead of just leaving without saying goodbye like I normally would.___________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________
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T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 How did the situation change because of what I did?: ______- My father told me to have fun instead of saying I couldnt leave._________ ______- My father only called me once to check up on me instead of three times.__ ______- I had a really good time instead of being mad at my father all night._____ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________

How did I feel about the new situation?: ______- I feel really good about myself! I was the one who did it!!! ______________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________

What did I learn from this? ______- I learned if I do something different, so will other people around me.______ ______- I learned I can change things I am not happy about in my life.___________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________

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T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 Chapter Five I walk down another street.

Chapter Five is a new day! Finally, I change streets. I am changing my inner dialogue and behavior so completely that the old pattern no longer occurs. Once on the new street, I must be careful because, unfortunately, this street will have its own holes. It will have holes that I have never seen before. But I now know the rules about the "holes" in the sidewalk. The first time that I encounter one I should ask, "How am I responsible?" It may be that I am not responsible, but the sooner I ask this question, the sooner I can take charge of my life. This process is like a spiral that leads me upward towards psychological and spiritual wholeness. The sidewalks of life do not go in a straight line. They may not be flat. They may be like a trail that winds round and round a mountain until it reaches the top. Each time I break out of an old pattern of thinking and living, I begin a new pathway that leads me ever upwards to the fundamental goal of life. Fall into enough of the holes in the sidewalks of life and I may become whole. Through the lessons of the holes of life, I approach wholeness. Becoming whole means striving to be all that I can be. All possibilities are explored. I know what I do, and why I do it. Choices are made, and I am responsible for these choices. The holes in the sidewalk are actually invitations to grow. Am I open to the invitation?

Remember, growth takes time. Even the largest tree was once a tiny sapling which needed time, warmth, and nourishment to develop.

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Recovery 101 Recovery

T.E.A.C.H.
Teach, Empower, Advocate for Community Health

Recovery 101 Chapter Five Questions What are you going to do when you find yourself in the next hole?: _________- I will look at what I do not like about the situation._____________________ _________- I will figure out what I can do to change the situation.__________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________ ________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________ ________________________

How do I feel about holes now?: _________- I am a bit worried, but I know things will be okay._____________________ _________- I am not as worried about holes I know I can handle them!____________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________ ________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________ ________________________ How do I feel about yourself now?: _________- I feel a lot better about myself I can actually stand up to someone when I have a problem!_________________________________________________________ _________- I feel like I have more control over my life now._______________________ __________________________________________________________ ____________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________ ________________________ __________________________________________________________ ____________ Any other thoughts about this Chapter or the rest of the poem? ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________ ________________________ ______________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________ ________________________________
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