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Stay Sober By Not Turning Red Flags Into Green Flags

Written by DeShawn McQueen on Wednesday, 12 September 2012. Posted in Voices in Recovery, Breaking News

addiction recovery sobriety

Not looking at a situation for what it was was a way of life for me. Viewing the world the way I wanted to view it was perhaps a sign of strength, but also was a sign of delusion.

It caused me so much pain and resulted in so much chaos that, in the end that I needed to self-medicate, often, or so I thought.

In sobriety although I have put the alcohol and other substances behind me, I have had to address my tendency or habit to see things only as I wish they were or want them to be.

Living life this way can be a laudable virtue that actually does positively impact one’s life.

For example, if I have a goal to be thin, the more I see myself as thin even while I am overweight, the likelihood that I will become thin increases. It’s called positive affirmation and although it is no proven science, it works.

However, such thinking has backfired when it comes to circumstances, things or people outside myself. No matter how much I want a duck to be a swan, it is never going to happen.

Likewise, no matter how much I wanted my spoiled, jealous, immature, abusive ex-boyfriend to be mature, supportive and kind it was never going to happen. I had to learn that the hard way.

When he pushed me it was not because he was dealing the stress of his recently diagnosed breathing ailment, it was because he was a bitter, selfish, abusive, older man dealing with regret.

I felt sorry for him and so I ignored the red flag and made it green. I did this in sobriety. As a result, I suffered so much pain until I decided to leave that relationship.

I made excuse after excuse for his behavior, never seeing it for what it was, instead seeing it for what I wanted it to be.

In fact, in our relationship, I often felt like the mother from Tennessee William’s, The Glass Menagerie.

She saw the world through “rose colored glasses”.

I suppose that I have a habit of doing that; such thinking has often saved me, even been my solace during tumultuous storms in my life. And, such thinking is appropriate in many cases.

During sobriety, I have had to learn when such thinking will lead me to harm, or when such thinking is appropriate. It is an interesting dilemma, as there is no bright line test.

What I have begun to recognize is that paying attention to my gut instincts and my intuition, which is far more accurate now that I am sober, never fails me.

Therefore, when my gut instinct recognizes a red flag, I pay attention to it. In fact, I listen to it. It saves me a lot of pain and regret to embrace my intuition. More often than not I am right, and on the chance that I am wrong, I am entitled to be wrong. I am not perfect and I did not get sober to be Mother Theresa, with all due respect.

Actually, I entered sobriety to get the life that I wanted. That brings me back to red flags and green flags.

Most of the red flags I ignored or turned into green flags had to do with people, particularly men. I overlooked things that I intrinsically felt were not right. I gave the benefit of the doubt where it was not warranted, and I felt sorry for people who did not deserve my compassion and empathy.

Each time, I walked away, more drained, cynical, skeptical, and frustrated, simply because I did not listen to my inner voice, simply because I made a red flag a green flag.

He was cute, charming, confident, well-dressed or charismatic; or, she smiled at me, or had something in common with me, and so, I ignored the huge red flags, and saw them as green.

I felt used in the end, manipulated, and sad, and so I used alcohol and other substances to null the pain.

In sobriety, each time I listen to what I hear inside, I grow stronger, wiser, not to mention forego unnecessary regret and pain.

I develop self-esteem, confidence, and courage. In fact, I become more and more of myself.

And, most importantly, I don’t have to use alcohol or other substances. Life makes much more sense because I am seeing things for what they are, and it takes on an ease and effortlessness. Suddenly, I am in the flow.

Wilson J.

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About the Author

DeShawn McQueen

DeShawn McQueen

DeShawn McQueen is a staff writer at Recovery Now Newspaper and, an informative newspaper that serves as a resource for persons of all stages of drug and alcohol treatment, by giving them access to relevant and necessary information so that they may live balanced and substance-free lifestyles. DeShawn graduated from Wayne State University with Bachelor of Science degrees in psychology and premedical sciences. He holds a Juris Doctors degree in law from Valparaiso University School of Law. DeShawn’s writing and research has been published in such academic journals as Behavioral Pharmacology and Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior among others. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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