Words Matter; In Your Mind and Out of Your Mouth

I have been referring to myself as a person in recovery for several years now. I know this is anathema to the tradition of identifying yourself by the disease from which you are in remission. but like the phrase “cancer survivor” rather than calling oneself “cancerous” or “having had cancer” I am establishing myself in the solution rather than the problem. I am in recovery from several diseases; drugs, alcohol, codependence, and being an adult child as well as other behaviours that may cause me emotional relapse. This form of identification is an individual decision; not one that casts “shade” at anyone else who chooses their own way to identify. It is one that I adopted for me at this point in my recovery. This is an important word for me. It is supportive as well as reminding me that it is an active process to remain in recovery.

Bad/good, right/wrong: these are binary attributes that I am learning to dispose of. Moving from a world where everything was black or white, no shades of grey has been a process in all of my things. I don’t want to be bad or wrong, so when I label things as such I learn to repress them. This repression blocks my energy. By that, I mean that I am denying parts of myself. Feelings, as they say, are not a call to action. They are feelings. I have a right to them; to be angry, to be disappointed, to be resentful, even. What I do with these feelings is an important part. I meet them, I look into them, I try to understand where they are coming from and how I can address them in a healthy manner. My entry into this self-investigation has been to reframe feelings from the good/bad, right/wrong into classifying them as skilled and unskilled, useful and unuseful. This softens their impact so that I can look at them without criticizing myself. Now ACTIONS without thought can get me in trouble and can, indeed, be harmful and unwise. Practicing the PAUSE, BREATHING, and CONSIDERATION I can choose.

Self-talk can be demoralizing or uplifting. Either can contain the same observations and advice. I prefer to move toward the healing- which includes self-compassion and kindness. I seldom need the stick- I can always use the carrot. Rather than “don’t” I say “avoid” – avoid using harsh words and belittling language. rather than “do” I suggest “imagine you could” or even “experiment with” using positive words or supportive suggestions. As I use more calm words, kinder words, more uplifting words I am more likely to get to the bottom of things. Rather than having my brain squeeze shut like a tight fist, it remains open and receptive to investigation and suggestion. Why retraumatize myself in my path to growth?

I recently cobbled together some word puzzle books that use uplifting recovery and yoga words and phrases. It was such a pleasant enterprise as I came up with topics and then 20 to 25 words that supported and reinforced them. I was enveloping myself in the positive and relating one good thing with another. This was not in the frame of spiritual bypass but a way of steeping myself in goodness. This was no accident that I felt so good, the brain was reinforcing its mapping to the healing and the healthy. I was infused with the power of positive words. You can check them out on my website if you are interested. Reach Out Recovery publishes one a week if you want to sample them.

Don’t forget that your words have power. You have the power of choice. Choose wisely.

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