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Familiar Suffering

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

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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in Everyday Practice

 

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Looks ARE Deceiving

We can never know what’s going on for someone else.

I was at the Tuscon airport a couple of days ago, preparing to fly back home here to Montana. I sat down at the terminal, in close enough proximity to a woman who’s cell phone conversation I could hear very readily. She was an attractive woman. Shoulder-length blonde hair, middle-aged. She was sitting at the electronic port station situated in front of a large window overlooking the tarmac. Although there was little I could do not to overhear her conversation, I felt badly for eavesdropping, so I quickened my pace in getting the music going on my iPod. In the meantime, however, I learned that she was leaving her 20-something-year-old son behind, to return back home, after situating him into a rehab. He was not at all well – detoxing, incoherent, unable to care for himself. His girlfriend would be not be allowing him to move back in when he got out. And there was a real possibility, and seemingly well-grounded motherly consideration, that he wasn’t done yet “out there,” using. It was hard for her to leave. But she seemed sturdy in her composure and confident in the decisions she’d made.

In looking at her I never would’ve thought to myself: I bet her son is going through a ravaging, brutal detox right now. I bet she just spent the last few days forcing him into rehab against his will and supporting him at his bedside as he went in and out of consciousness. And I bet she feels hopeful/broken about the whole messy situation.

And it’s like this with everyone we meet. We see someone, whether a stranger or even a loved one, and think we have them all figured out. And we totally don’t. We have no idea what’s going on for someone else.

I wonder why it’s so common for us to think we’re experts when it comes to other people. When we attach ourselves too strongly to our perceptions, it’s a recipe for creating separation and misunderstanding. As Thay teaches: 99% of our perceptions are incorrect. And ultimately it’s our mis-perceptions about ourselves, others, and life itself that causes the greatest amount of our suffering.

Today: I will practice to look beyond the surface, in order to connect and engage with others in a way that opens and extends my understanding and compassion.

 

 
 

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