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Need Serenity? Practice Patience.

Updated: Jul 15

To lose patience is to lose the battle.

Mahatma Gandhi


How often did our disease tell us "I want what I want, and I want it now." The obsessive thinking and compulsion of our disease gave us a one-track way of thinking where, if we wanted something, or someone, to conform to our wishes, that's all we impatiently thought about. Living in a state of impatience is living in agitation, which can cause us to lash out or be vengeful. Worse, we'll want relief, and our addiction tricks us into believing the relief of drinking and using outweigh the havoc they wreak in our lives (or that "it will be different this time.")


Even after we've been "doing the work" in recovery for a while, we notice impatience is still around in one form or another. Actually, after a few years of sobriety, I found my patience being tried more often than in early recovery. Or perhaps I was simply learning to catch myself. Either way, I've discovered that when I grow impatient, it often comes from a desire to control something around me and frustration when things don't break my way. My reaction might be to then feel angry, or at least upset, which only serves to make an already stressful situation worse.


Realistically, occasional impatience and frustration, even anger, in life seems inevitable. We're not robots, and part of being human is to feel emotion. However, chronic impatience is a warning sign, because eventually we'll look for relief somewhere, and our disease will remind us of our substance. That's one of the reasons why 12-step programs emphasize learning the principle of acceptance, and living life on life's terms. If I can accept what the day brings, I gain a sense of patience and equanimity, a calmness of mind that makes it easier to ride life's ups and downs without having to return to old habits or be tempted to use alcohol or drugs for release. Acceptance and patience help keep me from becoming a "dry drunk."


We also have a better chance at patience if we avoid imposing unrealistic expectations on ourselves and other people. Some of our expectations are unreasonable fantasy; we have no reason to believe they will be fulfilled. Further, people and situations may not even always meet our realistic expectations, because others' expectations don't always match our own, and we all fall short at times. When that happens, I try to take a few breaths, practice mindfulness, and remember compassion for the other person and myself (for my initial reaction).


Recovery involves a lot of soul-searching, emotional work, introspection, and an entire perspective shift. Finding a way to be patient should be part of the work. While the process can be a difficult experience, once impatience is conquered, we can find life much easier.



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