A few days ago, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I wasn’t just restless, irritable, and discontent, I was flat out pissed off and in a nasty mood. About what, I have no idea. There was nothing on my agenda for the day that I was dreading, the bills were paid, my dinged-up car was out of the shop and the insurance company had (finally) agreed to pay for the entire repair rather than just part of the work. I wasn’t ill. My cat wasn’t ill. The weather was perfect.
Thankfully, I’ve been actively involved in addiction recovery for 20 years and I’ve learned a few things along the way, one of which is that it’s OK to wake up in a bad mood – with or without a good reason for it. What’s not OK is to stew in that bad mood. So even though it was a morning when the world seemed too big and too difficult to face, and behaviors like crawling back into bed, biting someone’s head off, and relapsing into active addiction seemed like good ways to feel less miserable, I opted for a different action.
To begin, I asked myself a few simple but very important questions.
- Who do I want to be today?
- What sort of day do I want to have?
- What can I do to be the person I want to be and have the day I want to have?
So basically, I’d been around the process of healing (via therapy, 12-step recovery, and other forms of support) for a long enough time to know that if I wanted to have a bad day and to be a miserable person, I was off to a good start and could just stay the course. Otherwise, I needed to find a way to break away from my unpleasant thoughts and feelings.
Such a break always requires some sort of action on my part. Once I recognize that I’m in a bad headspace, I need to find a more enjoyable (and productive) direction and start moving. Sometimes this means getting out of bed and thanking my Higher Power for my sobriety. Sometimes this means compiling a gratitude list to remind myself that my life is pretty good. Sometimes this means calling a close friend who might provide a bit of empathy. Other times it’s as simple as dragging myself into the bathroom to brush my teeth, shower, and get dressed.
Basically, I just need to do the ‘next right thing.’ My experience is that when I do the next right thing, and then the next next right thing, over and over, I start to accomplish things and my day, no matter how badly it started, gets better.
Are there days when I ask myself the questions above and decide that I’m fine with having a crummy day? Sadly, yes. Sometimes, for whatever reason, I feel like having an awful day and trying to make others feel as yucky as I feel is a better idea than starting my day over and doing it differently. I inevitably regret that decision, but sometimes I still make it. Usually, however, as occurred when I woke up on the wrong side of the bed a few days ago, I will choose to move in a different direction. And that is a decision that I’ve never, not even once, regretted.
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