Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 28th - April 4th, 2010

Sorry we missed last week! My computer had issues. :)


Consequences. There are two types of consequences, short-term and long-term. I can do something now and it will have a consequence. Like, for lunch I had that one extra donut. What is my consequence? Short term, I feel over full. Also short-term, I might not progress as well this week with my weight loss, long-term? Probably not much of an impact will be felt long-term. Although, looking into the choice a little further, do I regularly overeat? Is it a habit it of mine? If yes, then a long-term consequence for having that extra donut is that I am making a bad habit even firmer. It will be more difficult to unstick it.

So if  eating an extra donut can effect so much, then think how much more so will over drinking, dangerous sexual activity, anger acted upon, misuse of prescription drugs, self harm, etc.

These very things are often what we are experiencing when we decided we needed change in our lives. Reflecting on consequences can help us to set up boundaries. These boundaries can help to reduce the amount of suffering we are having.

I encourage each of you to mentally note (or literally) two behaviors are marked for change in your life. Make a list of their short-term consequences, and then list their long-term consequences. Make a note of some actions we can take to help break us of this target behavior. Now, those action we have chosen to help break us of the target behavior, we also need to understand their consequences. Are we simply exchanging one bad habit for another? One dangerous action for something else equally dangerous?

For example: Let's say a girl has a target behavior of self harm,  she has taken care to educate herself of the consequences of this action. Based on the long-term consequences, she has decided that instead of causing lasting damage to herself, she will instead inflict minor pain, with less permanent damage.  This seems to be a reasonable first step in recovery, and it is, however, if she goes about her recovery without addressing what sort of consequences her alternative action can have, is she really recovering? The notion that she needs physical pain to cope is still being used. She is still training her body to respond to the emotional pain, by inflicting physical pain. The nature of that pain, and the magnitude of it have changed. Which for the short term is great! It is exactly what she needs in order to get the ball moving. But the long term effects are just as damaging.  She is setting herself up for failure if she doesn't understand that since her long-term consequences have not changed, then what she has chosen to do needs to be temporary. Allowing the alternate self harm for a time is a great idea. It can help her to still relive her suffering immediately, not cause morbid damage and leave her mind clearer to learn more tools. Those tools will be what helps her to find yet another alternative to the self harm, and yet another one and another one, so on and so on, until she has one that does not have damaging long-term consequences.

This idea works the other way too. Let's say a guy uses his prescription drug to calm his nerves, but instead of taking the prescribed dose, he doubles it, even triples it in order to get the desired effects. Clearly this target behavior needs to be changed. What sort of steps can he take? He can try to take half of what he is used to each time he feels he needs some. That may work, sort of as a stair stepper. But ultimately he will need to take the prescription as it is or he will no longer get refills. Refusing himself the extra doses has horrible short term consequences. He is irrational, easily frustrated and hard to be around. However, he has carefully weighed his options, continuing to use his prescription outside the prescribed boundaries will in the long term harm him. He will no longer be allowed the drugs. However, his choice to stop overusing, his short term consequences are severe. Of course the long term for using only the prescribed amount benefits him well.

Each one of us has a responsibility to seriously reflect on our course, and meditate on consequences, short and long, for our choices.  Knowing how each choice we make in this recovery process will impact us can be a safeguard to our mental health.


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