A thought provoking entry by Steven Johnson, CPRC, DP-C, Counselor, Big Rapids
We love to give our future-selves credit for doing all the things we don’t want to do ourselves here and now, but they are just as lazy and procrastinating as we are. Technically speaking, they are still us. The things we put off today are the same things they put off tomorrow or next year. “One day I’m going to write that book about recovery!” my past-self would say, and my other past-self – who at one point was my first past-self’s future-self – then put that burden onto another future-self. The can was kicked on down the road endless times with no commitment to honor any of my past-selves’ wishes because every version of myself was assuming my future- self was going to get things done right away, despite evidence to the contrary. This self, the one putting foot to pavement and writing this thing, isn’t doing so at the command of any past-self’s order. It’s because this present-self decided to pick up the pen and do it.
This applies to things both big and little, and rest assured, our future-selves don’t want to do anything our present-selves don’t want to do. The only difference will be if we actually do it this time or put it off once again. Ever sit home on your day off and tell yourself that after you take a little break and watch TV, you’ll get up and clean the house? At the time, we have every intention of following through. We don’t feel like it at the moment. We wanna chillax for a while. We think after a little “me time” ‘, we will be motivated to do all the things we ought to do and will do so with a skip in our step about it! Wrong! We are just as resistant to do it later, maybe even more so after a few hours of idle couch-potatoing. We don’t want to!
This is the problem. Wanting to. We want to do things when we feel we want to do them. But whoever really wants to do something they have to do? Especially things that are boring, tedious, or systematic? Forget that! I would rather binge-watch the new show on Netflix on my day off than clean the house. I work all week; I deserve a break. So what if the dishes are a little piled up? At least they’re rinsed, and no roaches are migrating in because of it. Is laundry a little overdue? I can re-wear some of those pants and spray a little cologne on them. Problem solved. Been a while since the car needed to be cleaned out? No worries. If I need to pick someone up, I’ll throw everything in the back seat.
If any of this sounds painfully familiar, trust you are not alone. Even in recovery, I still suffer from severe procrastination and motivation with things. I haven’t been magically cured of all things… yet. And my future-self still won’t bail me out of all the things I don’t feel like doing because, by the time I get to my future-self, I’m the one who shows up with a laundry list of tasks my past-selves have delegated me to do, on top of the things I have to get done for myself today.
What’s the magic word? Action! Get off your tail and do something. Don’t think about it, don’t sit and wait until you feel ready; start doing it. If you have a full day off and want to split it up between what you want to do and what you need to do, start with some of the needs first. Earn your free time rather than accepting payment ahead of time and spending the money before you even do the job. Mommy isn’t here to tell you to stop playing your video game and clean your room anymore; it’s on you to self-motivate. And sitting around waiting to feel ready is like sitting around waiting to feel better when you’re in a bad mood. It just reinforces the thoughts and feelings that are already there. Motivation comes from doing things and accomplishing them, not thinking about them.
If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ve said, “I’ll quit (when)” at some point in your Using career. “Just one more time” is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves as addicts, and one we truly mean and believe when we say it. We swear this is the last time, I need one more day, and I’ll buck up and do it tomorrow. Pfft. Yeah right. Or vow on December 20th to quit smoking or start working out as a New Year’s resolution. Do you want to stop on the 20th? Then do it! What are you waiting for? You’re just trying to buy yourself a little guilt-free time to use until then because, deep down, you know you aren’t quitting on January 1st. You probably won’t even give it a decent try.
Do you know why all that is? Because your future-self isn’t any less resistant than you are. He is not motivated to do things he doesn’t want to do. He is not stronger, more patient, or willing to do whatever it takes to get sober. He’s just not. Stop making him out to be some God of Man and immune to the same human condition we all suffer from. Stop giving him jobs to do for your lazy behind. Get up and do it or accept that you’re the one who’s just not going to do it or have what reward it comes with. Plain and simple. You want the rewards of recovery, but you want your future-self to earn it for you. You want a clean house, but you want your future-maid to do your bidding. We obviously want the things we are putting off to be done. Otherwise, we wouldn’t even think about them. Still, we can’t put the hard labor on someone else, even ourselves. Things will only ever get done now. It’s always going to suck and be scary, but it’s ALWAYS going to be worth the effort. Always.