Let’s Agree that Skepticism is Acceptable, Advisable.
Long, long before my son’s addiction, I was introduced to a book called The Four Agreements. It spoke to me with its clear message about authenticity and fulfillment. If you’re not familiar with it, I highly recommend picking up a copy or Googling some summaries online. The author is don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a book I frequently give as a gift to others – it’s great for college graduation, marriage, life transitions, hard times, you name it.
A few years later, the author came out with a sequel called The Fifth Agreement, and it is this agreement that I’ve been focused on of late.
Here’s a quick synopsis of the Agreements, which are based on ancient Toltec wisdom:
1) Be Impeccable With Your Word. The implication here is that words wield incredible power, so say what you mean and speak with integrity. Words have the power to encourage, the power to destroy. Your word is your reputation. Do what you say. We have a choice with the words we use, and those choices create our realities. Use your words for the purpose of truth and love.
2) Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nobody does anything because of you; they are only projecting their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim who suffers needlessly.
3) Don’t Make Assumptions. So much of what we assume is wrong, so muster the courage to ask for clarification and validation. Doing so will help you avoid all kinds of misunderstandings and drama.
4) Always Do Your Best. While your best will change from minute to minute, day to day, based on whatever is going on in your life … always do the best that you can. When you do your best, you avoid self-judgment and regret because you can’t expect yourself to be better than your best. This recognizes that your best will be different when you’re sick vs healthy, happy vs sad, busy vs relaxed, but in any given scenario you can ask yourself to do your best and then be satisfied that that was exactly as you could do.
5) Be Skeptical (Learn to Listen). This implies that by questioning the why and how, we can discern truth. Often we believe things without exploring if something is actually true.
These agreements have transformed my approach to life, and were absolutely important guides when we began our son’s addiction journey. These led me to becoming informed and involved in addiction matters. These prompted me and guided me to family and self recovery options before our son was ever headed for his own treatment and recovery. I draw upon these daily as I weather the inevitable ups and downs of life.
This journey always has me questioning things and coming to acceptance. The five agreements are as essential as many of the things I’ve learned through Al-anon and its 12 steps. There are many parallels.
Over the last few days, my mind has been going round and round about my son’s recovery program. I feel very excluded, uninformed. I want to be respectful of the space and time he needs, but I also want to participate to the extent it will be helpful. I admittedly want to be assured that he’s interested and committed to recovery because I continue to witness and experience words and actions that indicate otherwise. (Agreements 2, 3 and 5 come to mind.)
Based on my feelings, I know I need to put everything in the context of not taking it personally (agreement 2) that my son is not including me/us/the family. I need to not assume that he is or isn’t committed to recovery, but to have the courage to ask and consider what’s truly going on (agreement 3). And, I need to be skeptical, to use my doubts help discern truth.
A week or so ago, I said that my son’s actions would speak his truth whether he was using again and would go to the halfway house recovery program. He did. I know for a fact there are some non-recovery behaviors happening, but I will apply the Agreements to help discern truth and find my own peace.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The Serenity Prayer