Why We Need to Escape the Performance-Based Life to Recover

I recently taught a class on 12-step spirituality for those who are not necessarily in recovery but would like to embrace the 12-steps in a way that enhances their own personal belief systems and world views. It is always interesting when we discuss step work with those outside of the rooms of recovery because we find that we are all basically human, flawed, and resorting to pain management whether the performance-based life has landed us on the spectrum of addiction or not.

As I approached Step 6 with the class, “Were ready to have God remove all these defects of character,” I realized there were two key words at play here. The word ready, and the word God or our Higher Power.

Our discussion began to center around the fact that we have to come to the end of ourselves and surrender to something greater than ourselves in order to experience freedom. The God of our understanding, the power of the greater good of a group of people we love and trust, or the principles of love in action are all something that could be considered greater than ourselves and certainly part of the process of letting go of what the steps refer to as character defects.

To be candid, the word “defects” was giving me a lot of trouble in my own journey into sobriety. After all, I was already sufficiently shame-filled for what I had engaged in. I certainly didn’t need to add being “defective” to it. Not long into the process I was told to replace the word “defects” with “attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors leading to self-destruction.” That felt true and doable to me and I was able to begin to see the need to ask for the removal of these things much more freely.

How to Escape the Performance-Based Life

I was certainly ready to let go of those attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that led me to self-destruct, or so I thought. However, I then faced the temptation to believe that those things were mine to erase. I somehow forgot the part about surrendering to a Higher Power to remove them from me.

If I try to take on the responsibility of changing those attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors on my own I will likely try to do it quickly and painlessly or I will resort to trying to alter the perception of me if it isn’t happening quickly enough. In other words, I will attempt to create the person I wish I was and then try to parade it around in public masquerading as me. Most of us lose ourselves by resorting to personas when change isn’t happening quickly enough to suit us. If we can’t change our realities, we try to change the way we present them, or at least the way we want people to perceive us to be living them out.

We didn’t adopt and adapt to these broken coping mechanisms overnight, and we aren’t going to lose them overnight. What matters most is that we allow ourselves to be who we are in the process and not create a persona to fast track the perception that we are okay.

  • Author — Last Edited: October 30, 2019
    Photo of David Hampton
    David Hampton
    David Hampton has lived in the Greater Nashville, Tennessee area since 1988, where he enjoyed two staff writing deals with major Nashville music labels. David served as the Director of Worship Arts at Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN for nearly two decades. David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker (represented by ambassadorspeakers.com) and the author of two books, Our Authentic Selves: Reflections On What We Believe and What We Wish We Believed (Lighthouse Publishing), as well as his most recent book, After the Miracle: Illusions Along the Path to Restoration (Morgan James New York). David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast available on iTunes and Spotify, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with Nashville area treatment centers, nonprofit recovery organizations, and consulting with faith-based groups trying to bridge the gap between the recovery communities and faith-based organizations who wish to understand addiction.

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