If working on increasing your knowledge of your personal strengths is important to you, join me in contemplating the following:
Have you ever thought…. I am worthless. I am alone. I can’t do this. WTF is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop using? I am a terrible person. I am such a failure. I hate myself.
Often times a person who's had issues with addiction for a long period of time has internalized a wide range of negative language around who they are and what they truly can achieve. These negative messages often stand in the way of fully embracing the process of recovery. Dennis Saleebey’s book, The Strengths Perspective in Social Work Practice states,
“All people have knowledge and talents, skills and resources that can be used for pressing forward toward a life defined in their own terms – toward their hopes and dreams, the solution of their problems, the meeting of their needs, and the invigoration of the quality of their lives – individually or collectively.”
Your recovery process should help you not only break out of old patterns but identify your inner strengths.
What can a strength-based model tell us? We, as humans, have the ability to create our own healing process. We are the experts on what is working and not working in our lives. We, despite problematic and dangerous behaviors, know the way back. We can formulate a strong foundation for what a healthy recovery looks like.
Yet, when one has consistently embodied messages of not being good enough, where do you begin? To borrow from a time-honored tradition, we begin by taking a fearless and moral inventory of ourselves, with a twist, finding what is good, what is right, and what is true within us. This exercise can be undertaken at any phase of the recovery process. Often our strengths are found in what we value, what comforts us and things that are of interest. One way to do this is to get out a piece of paper, a journal or notebook and start with these prompts:
Why Am I Here?
Not existentially, but at this moment. Why am I reading this article? You are either just very bored at the dentist’s office or you want to spark real and lasting change in your life. Take some time to reflect on the larger picture of your life’s dreams and ambitions. If you aren’t sure.. write the first things that come to mind.
What Do I Love or Have Loved In The Past?
If you are in a very dark place this might be a difficult question. Try and dig deep. Do you love a beautiful sunset, nature or the outdoors? Spending time with others, being of service or adventure? Chances are you can find your strengths in what you love and are passionate about.
What Am I Doing Well?
This is another question to be very gentle with. Your strength might be getting out of bed today, not using for 24 hours, or taking a shower. Others may have said a kind word to the check-out clerk or cooked a wholesome dinner.
What Do You Value?
Do you value community, accountability, knowledge, self-determination, spirituality, will, alone time, group process? With this, you can see a pattern begin to emerge. Our values drive our behavior in positive and negative ways. Doing a values assessment can be very helpful in getting to know our inner strengths.
Whether you are just starting out or in long term recovery we can lose sight of what is working and fall into the default of what is not. Dwelling on the past or negative parts of our character only feeds the darkness of our nature and primes us for relapse. Living in the solution is a process of consistently evaluating what is true and good about ourselves promotes health recovery.