They say that ‘failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be’. There is always an air of failure as I speak with an addict in my office, especially when they have come to the point where they are having to talk to me about getting treatment. Failure has taken some part, or all of their life. Failure takes different forms; I’m losing my children, I’m all alone, I’m losing my job. Sometimes, it shows up in failed relationships, failed dreams and ambitions. We’ve failed to stand up to the boss, our spouse, a child, even to our self. We’ve failed at taking care of ourselves in the most core ways and drugs, alcohol and all other forms of addiction are simply the easy out. So says Slick Rick. Then we find that failure brings something else with it, shame, guilt, and a whole facade. We’d like to pretend that it isn’t what it is, but in this way we remain in our failure and this is what is fatal. Often, we’ve even failed at pretending.
I like to think of failure as ‘an opportunity to begin again, more intelligently’. Even amidst the failure, and the discouragement that is as far as we can see, I am encouraged when the client on the other end of the line, or sitting before me stops, and takes the time to ponder in response to the inquiries: who are you? what are your strengths? I have found that these questions are powerful. Of all the things that failure seems to surround you with, here is a window of opportunity to begin the process of discovery and recovery.
This is what I believe is the true fruit of failure. This is the point at which we begin to surrender, and begin to make the change towards new beginnings, when we remember not just who we are, but what we can possibly hope for. Through failure, so many of us have come to see that we are indeed in need of a higher power that helps us get to that ‘one day at a time’ kind of success. Discovering ourselves once again, and connecting with others in our raw humanity. It is scary, but every journey of discovery is worthwhile!
Recovery shows us the flip side of failure. From struggles, poor decisions, and rejections, we emerge with new strengths, new friends, new values and ways of being in the world. I don’t dare to propose that recovery is an easy road. It’s a road so difficult, that people fail at it all the time. With a new perspective about failure, the change and growth are endless. Whether you are in recovery, or in your addiction, I leave you with one final quote: “don’t look at where you fell, but by all means, discover where you slipped”
Tiffany Smith, MSc. MBPsS RAS