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September 02 • I Expect

Day 786

It has been a while since I've revisited my expectations — those mixtures of hopes and entitlements that I've used to motivate myself, measure myself, and disappoint myself. I almost laughed out loud the first time I heard someone in a 12 Step meeting recite that

"...expectations are disappointments under construction..."

That was spot on for my own realizations; apparently, it's been cited so often that the phrase is now attributed to that anonymous speaker of truths.

Expectations can be powerful tools for raising children, guiding employees, and many other applications, so nothing is inherently wrong with expecting certain behaviors. Even in the most legitimate cases, disappointments or resentments are still common when people we have some responsibility for do not perform as directed, so the statement is true even then.

As an addict, I expected that I could have sex of some sort whenever I wanted it, that I was righteous in satisfying my desires, and that I could get away with victimless crimes and deceits because no one was being hurt. There is nothing but crash-and-burn at the end of that road under construction. Been there, done that.

Does it have to be that way? Is this quip of wisdom a true truth that cannot be avoided? That's a very personal question. I cannot tell someone else what to do with their expectations, or whether they are setting the stage for disappointment. I had to figure that out for myself, and I would not want to deprive anyone in recovery of that painful, wonderful world of discovery.

In addition to asking my Higher Power to remove those expectations of my defects altogether, I've learned to include a new expectation in my planning for each day's activities. This new anticipation is acknowledging that a significant percentage of my expectations may not be met. In some crazy world, that means that even when I fail to meet or receive a desired outcome, I can still categorize that as one of my successfully anticipated expectations, meaning I still get to win, at least a little bit.

There are many layers to this, including the difference between the way an addict deals with missed expectations versus the way a sane person can cope with the same situation.

This journal entry is not an answer for one-stop-shopping, except for this: when expectations are not met, it is still on me to decide — and to be prepared to decide — how to respond. No one has inflicted me with disappointment; that is an emotion I shoot into myself as surely as a drug addict self-injects poison into their veins.

Many years ago, I learned the art of 'not caring' as a defense against missed expectations. That is an awful answer and one that seems familiar to other addicts. The hope of not being disappointed is not a solution, and neither is denying that we are disappointed.

What I do with my unavoidable disappointment will determine whether my response is 1) healthy, 2) another pothole on the road to recovery, or 3) another detour (excuse) around the construction site on the path of relapse.

I cannot avoid expectations without giving up on healthy living. I can develop new tools to help me respond in respectful, constructive ways. The 12 Step program is teaching me that these ways exist; I have options when confronted with missed expectations.



It's the finest line

A missed opportunity or the perfect time

You must not despair

You'll recognize it when you're there

So understand what I mean

There is a time and place for you to have your dream

–Mike + The Mechanics, “A Time and Place”



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