I struggled with an all or nothing mentality for a long time starting in my teens. I was either obsessed with something or had no interest in it whatsoever. I was was either happy or sad. I had no middle ground. The line that separated these ideas was thin leaving little room for the gray areas of life; it was either black or white, on or off. I lived for many years stuck in this hell of black and white thinking, I was alienated and alone. I learned later that this is a common in many who struggle with addiction, depression and PTSD. I learned that there was a strong link between my addiction and PTSD that was a core component of my I turned to food, drugs and alcohol to cope with life. I also learned that I could change this way of thinking.
Looking back I believe the polarization of my thinking was the result of trauma it reflected where I had stopped growing emotionally. It was so much easier to think in black or white, it was either right or wrong. Thinking this way did not require me to evaluate the situation and put myself in others shoes. It made for a very rigid life with little or no fluidity. I was a very closed minded person terrified of new ideas or experiences, but in a sense it also was a way of protecting myself of keeping myself safe. I had created a bubble that was my own personal hell but safe from the world, or at least that was what I thought.
This approach left no room for debate, and anytime that something did not fit in my with my beliefs, they were relegated to the “that’s wrong pile” and discarded. This was necessary in order for me to continue to actively drink and drug, and operate with my eating disorder. My diseases had to shield themselves from outside influences that may have interfered with their continuation and so I developed a black and white worldview which made it easier for me to justify my actions.
This black and white thinking continued until I hit bottom and attempted to get sober. The act of hitting bottom shook my constructed beliefs to their very core and for the first time in my life I was faced with the fact that I may not know everything. I had what some may call a moment of clarity and in that moment I realized that my best thinking and best efforts had gotten me to a point where I was hopeless addicted to drugs and alcohol and had essentially ruined my life. This was the beginning of the decline of my black and white thinking and the beginning of the rise of open-mindedness.
Open-mindedness is one of the essentials of recovery and the reason for this is that many of us relied solely on our own thinking and beliefs for far too long. We couldn’t see past our own thoughts and what’s worse is that many of us didn’t even realize that our thoughts and beliefs were extremely flawed, created only to propagate the continuation of a disease that wanted us dead. In order to overcome this we had to leave behind our old black and white way of viewing things and move towards a more open-minded worldview.
This was not easy for me at first and in fact everything in me rebelled against it. I wanted to believe in something to have hope again and the 12 steps offered that. Luckily drugs and alcohol are a great motivator for change and even though my mind rebelled against doing things differently, I knew that it was necessary. I knew that if I continued to keep my mind closed to new ideas I would continue to get the same results that I always had, and I didn’t want that to happen.
Breaking out of my black and white way of thinking began with doing little things like listening to my sponsor. Before getting sober I was open to people’s advice but I never had the motivation to follow through with it. That was the key to reaching a breaking point I finally realized that I had to change there were no more excuses. I started to do things like call my sponsor everyday, even though at the time I didn’t know why I had to do this, although I did find that there was a definite sense of relief after talking to her. I started to realize that when I talked about what was going on in my life with someone else even if they had no feedback saying it aloud changes my perspective. Part of the problem of with depression, addiction, PTSD is that you are a prisoner in your mind. You are so afraid to reach out and let others know what is going on. You’re terrified that if you do they will think you are crazy. I began to realize that opening up to my sponsor and therapist started to give me insight that although my thoughts were not always grounded in reality they were not crazy per se. I began to take her other suggestions as well, like reading the book and working the Steps.
My life slowly began to change for the better and I finally began to see that other people might know what they were talking about. It was a great feeling because I no longer felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, that I was not all alone in this process. Learning to trust other people, and their thoughts and ideas, revolutionized my own way of thinking and I actually became more comfortable living in the gray then in the black and white.
I think one of the main points of contention, and place where many addicts and alcoholics see the world in a very black and white manner, is in relation to God. For many us before getting sober we could only see a God of religion and because of this our views were you either believed the fable of a religious God who seems to have caused more damage to the world than good, or you didn’t believe in God at all. Once I got sober I realized that this was a very narrow way of looking at things. I was introduced to the idea of a personal God, one with whom I could have my own relationship with and this did away with years of black and white bias against God. This became the cornerstone for my new way of life and in the process a lot of the biases that I held against religion melted away as I realized that all religions essentially taught the same thing and that there was room enough in the world for all of them.
I can still sometimes have a black or white view on certain situations or ideas, but my time in recovery has taught me the valuable lesson that I may sometimes be wrong. This has allowed me to be open to new ideas and experiences that have led to some of the most tremendous personal growth that I have ever experienced in my life. Life can still be tremendously confusing and there are so many factors to take into account that it can still be difficult at times to come to definitive conclusions. In the past when I had a simple black and white, yes or no, view of the world this would drive me mad. Now with an understanding that most truths lay in the gray and there are certain things that I will never know, I am okay with knowing that I do not know, and understanding that I do not understand.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.