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Familiar Suffering

12 Oct

17 percent:
the success rate of the oldest residential drug & alcohol treatment facility in the world.
17 percent
of people stay sober for a year after they leave.
17 percent.
And it’s the highest success rate of any treatment center in the w h o l e world.
17 percent.

*Data from the book A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, published in 2003.

One of the most recent studies on recidivism rates – which most often refers to the rate at which a person relapses back into criminal behavior after being released from prison – showed that 67.8% of people were rearrested within 3-years of being released from prison, within 5-years that number increases to 76.6%. And of those prisoners, a little more than half were arrested by the end of the first year of being released.

I often ponder why it’s so hard to break our cycles of detrimental behaviors and habits. These are more extreme examples, of course, but the thread is the same for all of us. We all have a hard time letting go of the suffering we’ve grown strangely accustomed to. Even when we know what we’re doing is not working. Even when we’re miserable. Even when we’re crippled by shame and guilt and fear.

A common deterrent towards making positive changes that I’ve heard often from people, in a variety of contexts, involves the deeply rooted and long-held view that they’re broken, un-fixable, damaged beyond repair. My husband used to think he was one of those people. I have at least two friends and a family member I can think of that feel this way, too. And it makes sense to me that if we think we are broken then there’s little sense in trying to change course – because there’s a core belief that nothing will work.

“Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to spiritual growth.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

The other day, I had a friend confess to me that she didn’t know how to stop doing what she knew wasn’t working. She didn’t know how to do things differently. And I didn’t know what to tell her. I wish I did. Sometimes we’re not through with something until we’re through with it. No one else can do the work for us and no amount of intellectualizing or rationalizing will create the shift so many of us are desperately seeking. Sometimes we just have to hit bottom until we’re jolted in our skin enough to change our trajectory. Sometimes our habit of suffering is so entrenched in us that we simply don’t know any other way to be.

I don’t have any tidy way of wrapping up this post other than to say that sometimes asking questions and continuing the dialog is more important than trying to come up  with answers. Sometimes all there is to do is seek to understand – and then stay open to what unfolds.

 

 

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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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