I have studied people all my life, not in a creepy way, but with a lot of curiosity and interest. As a result of wasting so much time people gazing, I have accrued a cache of information about people and myself. One thing I’ve learned about myself is how little I understand people!
When I was young, I used to think that sincerity was the key to an abundant life. It’s not. Sincerity has very little correlation with mastering change or receiving the gift of transformation. I learned this from working with guys from a treatment facility in our community. The newbies that come through the program show up after detox with the same wild variations in disposition and personality that the rest of the human population possesses. Some are sincere about getting sober, others are surly and resent the program. It is completely impossible to pick out which guys will run the distance and which ones will relapse.
Sincerity disappoints me more often than not.
But what has worked for people is this more elusive component of change called determination. Determination is a nice, sturdy word, but don’t let that fool you. A person can practice determination with as much creative expression as an artist.
There was this guy who started attending our church while in treatment. He was not peppy. He was pitiful. At 65 years of age he had not been sober in a sustained way since he was 10 years old. He had no expectations that the program would work, but it was winter and we were in the middle of a particularly cold spell and he was court ordered to attend a program and this was the only one he could afford (free). He didn’t like the 12-steps or the program director. He didn’t make friends easily and he was kind of a whiner. He was constantly living with consequences for misconduct. But he kept at it. Today he works a full-time job, owns a home, returns to the treatment facility to volunteer multiple times a week and has acquired a small but faithful bunch of buddies who encourage and support one another in sobriety. At a public speaking engagement recently he said, “I never even considered that I could one day not live under a bridge.” He was NOT determined to live a big dream or dare to be great - the world knocked all that out of him at an early age. But in desperation he followed instructions one day and then two and three until he had amassed a boat load of days - he determined to simply do what it took to stay in a building that also happened to have a recovery program experience. Determination. One step at a time. What do you need to determine to do?