Personal Progress: Cowboy Up

Personal Progression: Cowboy Up

When I say I grew up on a farm, I mean 60 miles to the closest McDonald’s 30 miles to school every day, learn how to drive a pickup by the time I was 7 years old kind of farm. I grew up hearing a simple phrase that was common to me. It is common to those who speak country. The noun, cowboy, is used as a verb and when life gets tough it would be frequently used, cowboy up.

I like how this phrase is defined by Google, to “make a determined effort to overcome a formidable obstacle.” This is certainly good. It is appropriate to meet obstacles that we face in life with increased determination and effort. In this way my farm boy roots scream, hell yes! Cowboy on up!
There are many cases where this is appropriate in life. I live in recovery from addiction one day at a time and it absolutely takes a “determined effort” to overcome addiction. I realize now though that there could be a problem with this philosophy in addiction recovery. It seems to say if I just increase effort I am strong enough on my own to overcome this obstacle.

The thing about addiction is that it isn’t simply a thing to overcome, it is more accurately articulated as a disease that needs to be healed. As I started my recovery journey I felt like I only needed a healthy dose of cowboy up to get through this problem. As good as increasing my effort and working hard at recovery was, it was not all I needed.
I already knew how to work hard, but my problem was I didn’t know how to ask for help. I learned something in recovery that I will say definitively. The pathway to recovery from addiction cannot be walked alone. When I thought I could simply cowboy my way out of addiction, I was dead wrong.

In truth, effort plays a huge part of recovery, but there are significantly more fundamentally important parts that must be understood. As Bill W. discovered in overcoming his addiction to alcohol, he needed others like him who struggled with addiction and, and he needed his higher power.

I gave myself to many thought filled moments of reflection and pondering the principles of surrender and willingness. I personally discovered how it felt to surrender, and feel humility. I learned it is significantly harder to surrender then to just cowboy up. In this attitude of acknowledging my inability to fight this battle alone I found the foundation of the solution for my addiction.

I discovered that I need a team to people who can provide a safe place to practice vulnerability and other healthy attachment skills. I felt valued in meetings I attended and saw that I contributed to the sobriety of others who were discovering these same truths in their recovery pathway. I became close friends with and cultivated healthy relationships with many amazing people.

Most possessed different understandings of higher power and I see many in recovery develop faith and grow spiritually. The common theme I see in effective use of higher power is a real belief in it. Based only on my observation, those who are successful in recovery use their higher power and develop spirituality. I love and respect other’s faiths or forms of spirituality and understandings. I happen to be a Christian, my higher power is known by many but my point is not to solicit others to use my higher power but instead to encourage others to find theirs. I read these verses from the New Testament while seeking spiritual understanding.
Matthew 11:28-30.

28 “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I have worked the first 3 steps from the 12 Steps, originating from the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, and learned for myself the need to be yoked to my team and my higher power. From that moment on I changed the phrase I grew up with from cowboy up to, yoke up.

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