Breaking the Chains

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In the Women for Sobriety program, Acceptance Statement #9 says…

The past is gone forever. No longer will I be victimized by the past. I am a new person.

This is a big one for me, possibly THE single most important thing for me to work on in my sobriety – letting go of my victim mentality. It’s a thought pattern that keeps me locked in:

  • resentment
  • distrust
  • fear
  • sadness
  • anger
  • self-recrimination
  • powerlessness

If I unpack my addiction – peel back the layers of time from the shame & guilt I feel now, to the party girl I felt like in my 20s and 30s, to where it all began in childhood, I find my victim consciousness. The consciousness that says… I could never do anything right; my mother “made” me get married at 16; seven years and one child later, that husband cheated on me and ended our relationship; men wouldn’t want me because I had a child; nobody likes me because I’m too quiet. It’s all too easy for me to believe any perceived slight in any situation automatically makes me the victim and this behavior is a form of addiction in and of itself!

As long as I hold on to my victim mentality I’m going to stay stuck in resentment, sadness, powerlessness (et al) and addictive tendencies. If I continue to live in victim consciousness, I will most certainly relapse.

The trouble is, I’ve unintentionally built my whole pleasure and reward system around this mentality.

  • People pleasing: draws people in, makes them want to reciprocate and help me do well; but it doesn’t last – people quickly grow tired of the facade.
  • Risk avoidance: I rely on my victim mentality to keep me out of risky situations, hiding at the back of the room at social events, retreating into silence and introversion when confronted with people I perceive as better than me, quitting at the slightest sign of resistance.
  • Comparison: I will admit that I live in constant state of comparison and judgment – either I don’t measure up or they don’t. Both are victim behaviors and equally crippling.
  • Living with the painful past: rehashing & reliving those old stories of times I goofed up or times someone else hurt me. As long as those old stories have me in their grip, they will continue to control me and my responses to everything.

I will continue to explore this, but here are some initial thoughts about how we might conquer this beast…

  • Let go of perfection. Perfectionism is born from the need to please. It says, “I am not good enough unless I am perfect, people will love me more if I do everything right, I am better than everyone else because I try harder.” I truly believe this line of thinking is life-threatening. Nobody can be perfect all the time and eventually, something will have to give – resulting in depression, illness, addiction, or worse. It will take time and practice, but learn to relax a little – life is a journey, not a race, and perfection is the enemy of good.
  • Stop hiding behind your victim facade. Your response to any situation is your responsibility – your choice to make. To cower at the back of the room, living in your story of “not enough,” is a choice – be brave, take responsibility, empower yourself to step out of the shadows and into the light.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. The truth is we’re all just doing the best we can to live in a crazy, chaotic world. Don’t assume that anyone is doing better (or worse) than you – we all have equalizers, some seen and some unseen, and it is our differences that make each of us unique and important in the world. Just be YOU.
  • Find a way to forgive the past. In all likelihood, the people who led you to feel victimized were/are dealing with their own demons, which doesn’t make their behavior right, but it doesn’t make it personal either.
  • Learn to recognize the true emotions behind your victim response and allow yourself to feel & experience the emotion vs. the perceived attack.
  • Actively express gratitude and loving kindness. Make this a daily practice – keep a gratitude journal, perform random acts of loving kindness (love notes on bathroom mirrors, paying for the next in line, giving to or volunteering for a charity that’s important to you, the possibilities are endless). It’s hard to fall into victim mode when you’re living your life at this level.
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