“How many of you have ever run from the cops?” That’s the question I often ask as I stand before a group of the newly sober, inspiring them to be part of a Strides in Recovery team. The response usually starts off as nervous laughter; but, as I explain the benefits of this life experience, the energy of the group quickly shifts to one of pride and empowerment.
Strides in Recovery is relapse prevention program that teaches life lessons while promoting physical, emotional, and mental healing. Because we do it through running and walking, and I know that many think they can’t run, I like to remind prospective participants that many have run successfully in the past, even if it was just for short distances. I also let them know that walking in our groups is fine too. But that’s not the point. The point is that we can frame life experiences as something to be ashamed of, or something to draw strength from.
If you’ve ever run from the cops, you already have at least four strengths.
Let’s start with the moment you realized that the risk of being caught while engaged in illegal activity had suddenly gone way up. You could see or hear the police approach, or perhaps someone warned you. Did you organize a committee to spend months studying the problem and evaluating the various alternatives? I doubt it. Instead, you quickly assessed the situation. You decided on a course of action even though you may not have had all the facts. Then, you executed your plan. Run! Even a split second of hesitancy could have made the difference between success and failure. Running from the cops requires quick thinking and a willingness to act. You were decisive. You took action.
Once you started running, you probably encountered some obstacles. There may have been walls to hop over and fences to climb. You scaled both. The road may have been bumpy, hard to see, or difficult to navigate. But you kept going. When you realized the road to your goal would be difficult, you didn’t stop in your tracks and think “I can’t”. You took on the challenges and overcame them. Running from the cops implies a willingness to overcome whatever obstacles may appear in your path.
You overcame those obstacles, and then you encountered temptations to stray from your goal. You passed your favorite coffee shop. You saw the store where you usually buy your smokes. Did you let those temptations and distractions derail you? Did you stop for coffee and a new vape pen? No. You kept on running. You didn’t even take a break to catch your breath. You had a goal in mind, and you directed all of your energy into achieving that goal. You stayed focused on the long-term goal of evading capture, and you kept pushing ahead.
As you continued running, you started to get tired. You were alone. Nobody was cheering for you, encouraging you to keep going. Did you lose the motivation to keep going? No. You chose instead to dig deep within yourself to draw upon all the power you have. You pushed harder than you thought possible. You may have had thoughts of “I can’t keep going”, but you pushed forward anyway.
Decisiveness. Perseverance. Focus. Drive.
These are all strengths. If you have ever tried to evade law enforcement, you have those strengths. As you look to rebuild your life and harness your strengths to achieve your goals, remember that you are already strong. While active in your addiction, you simply misdirected your strengths. But now that you are sober, you can use those same strengths to move yourself in a more positive direction.
Think back on what you may have done in the past that you are ashamed of, running from the cops, other actions, or simply using addictive substances. Using is not easy. You had to make decisions about how to acquire your substances of choice. You had to act. You may have had to overcome obstacles, and when it became more difficult to get what you craved, you had to motivate yourself not to give up. The end result of your actions did not have a positive outcome; but there are many positives that came from the experience of preparing to use. Whether you’ve run from the police or not, if you were able to secure your substance of choice no matter what stood in your way, you have strengths that can be harnessed for more positive long term outcomes.
You are decisive. You persevere. You stay focused. You have internal drive.
How will you use your superpowers to achieve the life of your dreams?