Being Good Takes Practice

Posted on December 12th, 2011
Posted in Articles

“It isn’t hard to be good from time to time…. What’s tough is being good every day.” – Willie Mays, retired American professional baseball player who spent the majority of his career with the New York and San Francisco Giants before finishing his career with the New York Mets, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 (born 1931)

Even when we think about greatness, such as that so often displayed by Willie Mays, it can be tough to imagine that we could ever aspire to such lofty levels of accomplishment, let alone achieve them. Yet, that is just what we do each time we tackle a tough problem, address a thorny issue, or deal with our own previously self-sabotaging penchant for addictive behavior.

In other words, we get better by keeping right on doing what it is that we know we need to do to help ourselves get stronger in our recovery.

And, no, it isn’t easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Frankly, many of us, perhaps even most of us, have been tempted to call it a day, to give up on certain challenges without even trying, or trying very hard. We may feel that it’s too difficult, that we don’t have what it takes, or that we lack the knowledge and/or skills to do that which we’re faced with.

Guess what? We actually do have what it takes, but we’re just not aware of it yet. How we get from here – feeling inadequate or unprepared – to there, achieving the goal that seems so far out of reach, takes practice. It also takes a great deal of perseverance. By doing the small things that we have on our daily recovery agenda, we’re making strides, albeit sometimes it may feel like very small ones, toward a firmer grounding in recovery principles and behavior. We get better by doing, and we learn as we go.

In other words, we get good at doing what it is that we should be doing, that we are doing, and that we plan to do some more. It’s not a secret that it takes practice to be good at pretty much anything, recovery included. But what does seem to elude many of us is that we seem to think that all that practice is for someone else, not for us. We may feel like we’re already knowledgeable in what needs to be done, that we’ve done it all already and don’t need to exert ourselves anymore.

Or we may be in the opposite camp, feeling that we don’t deserve to be good at recovery, since our prior life was so much of a shambles due to our addiction and we’re still blaming ourselves for the misery we’ve heaped upon others as well as us.

What is it about day-to-day action, some of it repetitive, that makes us good? Is it that the action becomes instilled in our brain so that we do it automatically, without having to give it much thought? Could it be that there’s some reward mechanism at work, with our subconscious mind giving us a green light because we’ve been doing the right thing? It would be great if that was the case, but we’re not altogether sure how it works. What is important is that it does work.

The more we work at something, the longer we keep at it, the more enthusiasm and perseverance and dedication we bring to the task, the better we’re going to get at it. There’s no better way to look at it than that. Whether the task is overcoming cravings and urges by practicing the coping skills in our recovery toolbox or getting out there and learning a new skill or hobby or meeting new people in the rooms, going after a new job or mending relations with a loved one or family member, if we keep at it and have a positive attitude going into it and all through it, we will get better at whatever it is.

We may not swing it out of the park every time we’re up to bat, but we’ll very likely hit a line drive – at least some of the time.

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