A woman I sponsor is now sponsoring her first sponsee. We were exchanging ideas and impressions about sponsoring and what works, when we found ourselves discussing the way our brains start to absorb all of this new information about life skills. It takes some time to learn how and when to utilize all the knew options – and it requires some helpful tools.
When I was first came to 12 Step programs it was hard for me to remember what to do when I felt anxious. My mind seemed to go into brain freeze, and all that could be reached on my own was the unhelpful, automatic pilot actions that I’d relied on since childhood. Often reactive, they weren’t helpful. My sponsor suggested making a list of what to do instead, the new more helpful responses. Alternatives learned at meetings and from working the 12 Steps. The list was then hung on the refridgerator where it would always be if my brain became stuck. And little, by little, the new options started to program into the automatic pathways in my brain. I was reprogramming my brain to operate in a new way – and with practice it was working. After a while the list was rarely needed.
Six years later, my brain had to start over again. A brain injury from a car accident had destroyed many of the pathways to that new information. It was devastating – but also an opportunity because this time, I was able to watch the rebuilding of my brain in a different way. The brain is fascinating to watch. Since mine worked in slow motion for a while, it was possible to watch it run (in many seconds) through the same process of internal dialogue and decisionmaking that most people process in only fractions/hundreths of one second. The injury had left my brain like a file cabinet which was at times locked. Or it was unlocked but I couldn’t find the right drawer. Or I found the right drawer, but couldn’t find the right file. Or the right file was found, but the correct paper was missing. And sometimes it was possible to find the correct paper, and the words or directions were there, but I couldn’t get the words to my mouth to say. It took years to rebuild these pathways. It required using lists on the refridgerator again – and it worked again. We all deserve helpful prompts to remind us of what works as we build a new network of alternatives and options in our brain. It takes time, and it is so worth the results when we learn to respond automatically to life in helpful, thoughtful ways. Patience, practice, and persistence pays big profits in the life skills account.
Affirmation for the Day – ” I am doing what works.”
Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.
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