How Reality-Based Compassion Works in Recovery

Mar 29, 2022

When your world is spinning out of control, or you think everything is against you, you can feel out of control. Your first instinct is to find a way to pull everything together or escape. Humans like to feel they have the capacity to keep everything in line, but is this realistic? Reality lies in the in-between of having control and accepting that you don’t. Once you acknowledge your limitations, let go of the past, and consider others, you begin to walk the path of reality-based compassion.

The Two Sides of Control

The urge to take control or force things to benefit you can create a split between healthy and harmful behaviors. Those with a substance use disorder (SUD) often started to use alcohol or drugs because they felt out of control. Maybe you began using substances because you wanted to escape boredom, loneliness, pain, or life issues. When you entered substance addiction treatment, you learned about your triggers, but you also discovered the truth about life. You can’t control everything. You play a vital role in your recovery when you allow yourself to acknowledge what you can’t change, and realize that things you can change are essential for a healthy recovery.

The Serenity Prayer is a perfect example of guiding you to understand your role in change and control. The first part of the prayer asks for guidance in understanding your capacity in specific situations. For example, you can’t change the past, but your behaviors can change. So instead, reshape your thoughts to focus on your present and future.

What if you imagine not having control as a way to improve your life? Letting go of the things you cannot change, like the past, frees you to focus on growing and building a healthy life. For instance, when you follow the 12 Steps, you give yourself over to a higher power. The belief in something greater than yourself can expand your vision to include possibilities. 

Focus on Yourself

Reality-based compassion frames control issues the same way the Serenity Prayer and a 12-Step program does, by finding the middle ground between having control and not having control. Then, to move forward, you can recognize you can’t bend people or situations to your will. 

You live in a society filled with other people. What you do and how you act matter. While reaching your goals and satisfying your needs are essential, you should go about your life without being intrusive. Everyone deserves the right to seek their truth, so focus on your needs, but don’t forget your behaviors and decisions affect other people’s lives. Some healthy ways to remain rooted in the present and reach for the future are:

  • Practice mindfulness: Free your mind of harmful, stressful, or past-focused thoughts. Look within yourself to find inner peace and helpful ways to react or set goals. You can do this by practicing breathwork or performing a body scan to see where you’re holding tension. To perform a body scan, begin by meditating and visualizing your body. Then start at the toes and release any tension you may find as you move towards your head. 
  • Discover acceptance: A liberating aspect of reality-based compassion is accepting situations and people for who they are and not feeling the urge to change them. Acceptance also includes accepting who you are now and who you want to become. You define who you are each time you make a healthy decision.
  • Compassion for yourself and others: Be kind to yourself and others. Ephesians 4:32 asks you to be compassionate to yourself and others. Take to heart the words that ask you to find compassion and forgive.
  • Find a compassionate color: While you’re focusing on your inner self, introduce the question, “What color do I associate with compassion?” Find wisdom, strength, and kindness when you imagine this color.
  • Build your compassionate self: Picture yourself with the following qualities – wisdom, strength, and responsibility. Use these as a foundation to grow into who you want to become.

Compassion in a Community

Once you forgive and find compassion for yourself, look outside of yourself. Your loved ones and strangers deserve the same kindness because your decisions impact all of these people. Go forward in your effort to accept what you can’t control, free yourself of the past, and live in the now – but always remember you’re a part of a community.

Communities, in general, rely on the kindness and compassion of others. You strengthen your sobriety when you become active in a community that supports your decision to maintain a sober lifestyle. While you’re exploring new activities and experiences, remember to stay grounded by being involved in a sobriety-focused group. Reach out to your substance addiction center to learn about their alumni program, join a 12-Step group, or find a religious-based recovery group. The collective recovery community will share your joy and carry you when you need help. 

Reality-based compassion is about letting go of the past and being present in your life. The past is beyond your reach, and you can’t control people or events. Instead of focusing on what you can’t control, learn to accept what you can. Your past brought you to where you are, but it doesn’t determine who you are or will become. You have the power to change your life. Control and change come from within your ability to find compassion for yourself. Forgive yourself and create a present and future that allows you to grow into who you know you are. Renaissance Ranch Treatment Centers guide you to find the ground between having control and letting go of control. We use gospel-based and 12-Step teachings to help you find peace in your life. A life without substances is possible. Our staff is available to answer your questions about treatment, after-care services, and our alumni group. Call us at (801) 308-8898