06 Jun Making friends with ambiguity
“Stepping back into yourself requires some comfort with ambiguity, the capacity to stand firmly within the paradox. You have to release what you think you are in order to inhabit who you really are.” David Robinson
Uncomfortable comfort zone
When I first read this quote taken from the blogpost, The direction of intention, written by artist and life coach, David Robinson, it really hit me. It is so true for people going through any kind of major life change, including adopting a sober lifestyle and all that comes with it.
In early recovery all that changes is everything; much of your world revolves around getting and consuming your substance even if you have a job or some kind of family life. You’re this person who avoids thinking about who you are, may even avoid looking at yourself in the mirror because you’re awash in shame. The irony is that as horrible as this may feel, this is your comfort zone. It’s like sitting in a dirty stinky diaper, but it’s yours! Even if you’ve made the decision to get clean and sober, the fear of what’s on the other side can still be paralyzing. You have little clue who you are or who you could be without your addiction.
Should I stay or should I go?
The giddiness of early sobriety, aka the “pink cloud” is mainly the absence of pain that many recovering people experience. This wears off eventually. And guess what floats right in behind it? Not even a grey cloud, but the giant fog of ambiguity. If you’re not on track, the committee in your head will convince you to head towards the bar, your dealer, the bad-news dude, or any other addictive behaviour of your choice. It will tell you that your life was not that bad as you think it was as you “romance the stone.” Active addiction is very dangerous and destructive but also quite predictable and in that sense, as comforting as a warm blanket.
The zone of mediocrity
In later recovery, ambiguity is a little more sneaky. Your sobriety is stabilized. Your comfort zone is not a dangerous addictive lifestyle. It’s the comfort zone of mediocrity: I know I should make some changes. The job is boring but at least I have one. My relationship is unsatisfying but at least I’m in one. So why should rock the boat? This can be more destructive because the fear of responsibility, success, failure or judgement, just to name a few, is blocking you from moving forward.
Even if you’re enjoying a relatively high level of satisfaction in most areas of your life, any big transition can trigger these fears. Leaving a long term relationship or making a career or job change can have quite an impact on your self-identity. Decision to change may also impact your family, relationships and finances, even where you choose to live. It’s no wonder there may ambiguity around these choices, from making the decision to actually going through with it.
It’s this place of uncertainty where we can’t see through the fog. But you have choices. You can go back to where you came from, stay paralyzed where you are or proceed slowly, trusting the “yellow line at the side of road” will get you to your destination, to new beginnings and a brand-new and improved you.
How to deal with ambiguity
Accept and acknowledge– The truth is it takes time to move through this zone of uncertainty. As long as you recognize it as a normal part of change, you can navigate it without losing your ground.
Have patience– Living in the ambiguity can cause anxiety and stress to be sure. But you’ve lived through worse in active addiction. You may need to be compassionate with yourself and comfortable with not knowing, not being in control of what happens. You’re worth it!
Trust in yourself and the universe– Letting go of who you are is never easy no matter what stage you are at. Trusting in the process and using the right tools and guides are important.
Take action– Taking action is the best foil for ambiguity. It’ll lead you to some kind of result; whether negative or positive you’ll learn from it.
Life is unclear, embrace it- Shades of gray are the new black and white. We can’t always have all the information or the answers. And that is okay.
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