Episode 40: Something Bigger than Ourselves – Finding Meaning in Recovery and Life

The Journey of Integral Recovery Podcast

Dec 01
Something Bigger than Ourselves - Finding Meaning in Life and Recovery

Episode 40
something bigger than ourselves:
finding meaning in recovery and life

Is recovery heroic?

On the outside, our heroes may be different. Some of us consider the athlete at the top of her game, like Florence Griffith Joyner, a hero. For others, a hero is an entrepreneur like Elon Musk, who persisted against all odds to deliver innovative new technology to the market. Some of our heroes, like Martin Luther King, Jr., stood up for ideals like freedom and equality in the face of oppression. Others, like J. K. Rowling and John Lennon gifted the world with beauty through their art.

Not all heroes are famous or well-known. The single mother, working multiple jobs to provide a better future for her children is a hero. So is the firefighter, the police officer, or the soldier who risks life and limb to protect their community, their country, or their planet.

Different as they all may seem, our heroes all have something in common: They believe in something so deeply that they’re willing to endure any hardship. The hero persists through grueling physical and psychological challenges because what they believe in is more important than their discomfort, and sometimes, even their life.

The hero’s “why” is bigger than he is.

Making it through early recovery challenges and tests us in every conceivable way. We face an uphill battle in all four quadrants of the AQAL map as we embark on the journey of daily practice to heal and strengthen our physical bodies, our minds, our relationships, and our place in society. And through the devastation caused by our addictions, we’re starting from behind. The journey of personal growth and evolution requires us to challenge ourselves again and again as we push beyond our comfort zones.

It takes no shortage of grit to stay on the path. The little voice inside knows exactly how to spin a situation to trick us into giving up. Without a compelling reason to empower our recovery, we can backslide into our addictive behaviors.

Recovering from addiction is one of the most heroic endeavors we will ever undertake. It requires courage, and a willingness to embrace our pain. And it requires a compelling “why.”

That “why” will be different for each of us. We’re unique people with unique desires and unique typological combinations. We have different histories, different values, and different dreams. Finding a “why” that works doesn’t mean adopting someone else’s. It means doing the work of digging deep, learning what you value, and why it’s worth the fight.

If you’re struggling to find your “why”, it’s okay to start small. Whatever gets your foot in the door is enough for today. But as you begin to heal, and your life begins to transform, your “why” will transform, too. The “why” that will sustain you, that will give meaning to your life, your journey, your suffering, and your sobriety, is bigger than you are.

In pursuit of something bigger than yourself, you’ll grow. You’ll evolve, slowly but surely, into the best version of yourself, not for your own sake, but for the world’s. And the world needs you.

Episode Resources:

Strong Medicine
Man’s Search for Meaning
Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction (SUNY series in Integral Theory)
The Religion of Tomorrow: A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions-More Inclusive, More Comprehensive, More Complete
Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, Second Edition
Profound Meditation Program
Profound Releasing
Stealing Flow: Complete Brainwave Suite for Flow State Mastery (iAwake Technologies and Doug Prater)
Deep Recovery – a guided meditation from iAwake Technologies

In this episode:

[2:54] Are you at least 51% committed to your recovery, and do you have the courage and the self-awareness to be able to answer that question honestly?
[4:16] No matter how committed we are to our recovery, currently, examining our commitment can facilitate an examination of the greatest impediments to our ongoing recovery. It’s only when we understand our obstacles, blocks, and hesitations, that we can work to change them.
[5:15] What’s your greatest incentive to recovery? There’s no question this journey is hard work, so what is it that’s motivating you to continue? Understanding the deeper meaning of our recovery and having a compelling reason to lean into the work can be the catalyst we need to overcome the obstacles that are keeping us stuck, so it’s important to get clarity on our motivation.
[5:50] For many in recovery, the largest compelling why is something outside of yourself. Family and friends, loved ones, a worthy cause – something worth devoting our lives to is often something that’s bigger than the individual. We can use this to garner strength and find meaning when we’re feeling stuck.
[6:30] Each of us must find our own version of this in order to make it in recovery. We have to find a reason beyond ourselves that gets us dedicated to the practice
[7:07] The integral model is evolutionary, and as we move up the ladder of development, our capacity to understand and care for others increases. Addiction, though, is a devolutionary disease, and is it progresses, our ability to see beyond the immediate needs of the finite self goes downhill. The cure for this regression to egocentrism in addiction is to deliberately expand the “self” to seek meaning and purpose outside of the self.
[8:42] There is an egocentric motivator to recovery, which involves the desire to avoid death or a life in prison, but a person who would respond to these egocentric motivators has generally lost the capacity to listen to anyone, so pleas and petitions to the egocentric nature are met with hostility.
[9:16] As we grow into the journey of Integral Recovery, what we care about begins to expand. It’s a natural consequence of doing the practices. This doesn’t mean that we no longer care about ourselves, but rather that we’ve expanded that foundation. We’ve transcended and included the self in our sphere of compassion.
[10:03] As we celebrate our veterans and their sacrifices, we pay attention to what we can learn from the men and women who’ve served in the armed forces. One of the fundamental drivers and most powerful, life-changing transformations that happens for veterans is that they’re serving something bigger than themselves. Whether that’s your country and your people, an ideal like freedom or democracy, or just to protect the person next to you from harm, it’s service outside the self that enables our warriors to survive.
[10:52] That drive to push yourself beyond yourself to become a better version of yourself is the same thing that must bring to recovery in order to overcome the insidious disease of addiction and its devolutionary push.
[11:02] Our culture, though, with its focus on self and self-centeredness, stands in direct opposition to this growth. Only by learning to consider what lies beyond the self will we grow as people and as a society. Addict or not, failing to grow in this way as a people puts us on the fast track to self-destruction.
[12:05] Addiction is like steroids for narcissism. To combat it, we have to figure out what’s worth living for and what’s worth dying for and hold our conclusions front and center.
[12:48] Our sense of purpose grows and expands as we evolve. Just as people don’t necessarily enlist in the military for high-minded reasons, but discover their deeper sense of purpose through their experience, we don’t necessarily need a noble or high-minded reason to begin the journey of recovery. The journey itself transforms us, so whatever gets us in the door is good enough to start, so long as we continually revisit the questions of purpose and motivation. Because, as we grow through the practices, the selfish reasons that got us in the door may longer be enough to sustain us as our perspective expands.
[13:55] The practice of drilling down to find your why, and why it’s important to dig deep through self-examination and question to uncover a motivator compelling enough to fuel our transformation
[14:55] Each of us has different root values and different core motivators, and these, in part, are determined by our typology. Though “transcend and include” and “something bigger than ourselves” applies to all types, the root values behind the perspective growth will be different for all of us. And that’s why we must do the work of uncovering our own values, because those will be our most powerful drivers.
[15:45] The practice of using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a blueprint for gratitude practice, and how Dr. Bob Weathers incorporates this powerful practice into his routine.
[16:18] As we move through Maslow’s hierarchy, we can examine the growth of motivations at different levels and the way that each lower level’s motivator is a necessary antecedent of an expanded perspective’s motivation. The earlier levels lay the foundation that enables all the rest.
[17:12] We need to be healthy, and to lay a foundation of security in the material world before belongingness becomes a primary motivator
[17:43] When we feel that we belong, we will, more often than not, do the right thing. Many of our bad decisions and destructive behaviors come form the sense of being lost.
[18:30] When we look at attachment theory and relationships alongside addiction, we can clearly see how these lower-right quadrant factors contribute to addiction, and why this sense of belongingness must be repaired for recovery to take hold.
[19:45] Self esteem, and then self-actualization, are situated on top of the satisfaction of the other needs. But meaning – the key driving factor to empower our recover – is embedded within each of these levels.
[20:00] Following self-actualization, we enter service. We see the evidence of this in the examples of rock stars, athletes, and entrepreneurs who have achieved a level of success and then devoted their lives to giving back. The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous, too, emphasizes service and contribution as the final and ongoing act that empowers sustained transformation and recovery.
[21:34] We all have a need to belong, but we must exercise our judgment in choosing what we want to belong to and understanding why we desire to be part of a particular group. Criminal organizations, gangs, and cults, for example, exploit our need to belong to fit their own ends, so unless we take the time to understand our motivations and choose to pursue “belonging” in groups whose values align with our own, we set ourselves up for trouble.
[23:34] Often, with drug use, part of the appeal is acceptance among a new peer group, and our perceptions of the glamor of that lifestyle, combined with the confirmation bias of our new peers, blinds us to the destructive potential that awaits when we aren’t careful about filling our desire to belong in a healthy way.
[24:40] As we traverse the spiral of development, we go through phases of establishing connection and contribution and then returning the focus to ourselves as we incorporate what we’ve learned, so that we can then enter and belong to new group at a different level.
[25:33] In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl differentiates between those who rose to the challenge and lived with integrity through finding a deeper reason and those who didn’t, becoming less than animals. Frankl quotes Niche, in the book, saying that “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. In Frankl’s view, those who had a why that extended beyond themselves were the ones who made it.
[27:08] Everyone has a need for meaning, and until we find it, we’ll never find our magnetic north. We need the people who have found it to help the haven’t yet found their why to find it.
[28:14] Finding our meaning, our why, and our reason is, in one sense, almost always related to the cessation of suffering. In the early stages this can be the cessation (or reinterpreting) of our own suffering, and in the later stages it becomes helping to end the suffering of others. Addicts searching for meaning, then, can use the cessation of their own suffering as a starting place, and allow it to expand into the suffering of cessation for others.
[30:10] How do we embrace our noble suffering and eliminate the pointless suffering? How can we tell ourselves different stories about our experiences to reinterpret and transform our pain?
[31:30] What is the gift inherent in our addiction? The gift in hitting bottom? (Stay tuned for a future episode for a thorough exploration of this topic.)
[32:14] When we suffer, in boot camp or in early recovery, it catalyzes transformation and growth. The pain and the suffering born of these challenging experiences is what enables us to grow; it’s the fire that burns away our impurities; it’s the pressure that creates diamonds.
[35:08] In the course of those trying experiences, like boot camp or buds, the bonds that form are critical. It’s the willingness to help others that gets us out of the limited self. It’s the strongest who make it through BUD/s, but the ones who are most willing to help their teammates, who become SEALs.
[36:02] And this focus on helping each other need not be limited to the military. Our society and our culture, on balance, could evolve and thrive if we could learn to shift our focus to helping one another. When greed is our highest value, we’re headed for disconnection and destruction. Care and compassion are the foundations of a healthy lower-right hand quadrant society.
[37:45] We have to evolve our way out. The guiding light for Integral Recovery is to evolve into more caring, kinder, more compassionate human beings, taking care of one another, because we realize that we’re not so different.


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12/1/2017, 40:38, 27.91 mb (Audio)

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