Thursday, February 16, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

I recently saw a fascinating study about PET scans (brain scans) of golfers.  The study compared the brain scans of beginning golfers with brain scans of professional golfers.  The study showed that the beginning golfers spent a lot of their mental energy thinking and worrying about their swing - presumably how they had to swing their club and how well it was going to work out.  The professional golfers on the other hand, had almost no brain activity in either the thinking or the worrying areas of the brain.  All of their brain activity was just in the doing.  They were "in the zone" - and the results showed it!  Their scores were far superior.  Of course, the truth is that to get into the zone, the professional golfers had to put in hours and hours, and years and years, of practice.  They needed to do the same behaviors over and over and over again and then it became automatic. 

Recovery is the same thing.  First, we need to learn what actions to take to stay off drugs and alcohol and then we need to repeat those actions over and over and over again.  When we do that, staying clean and sober becomes automatic - we are in the zone!

I have often used the analogy of riding a bike to represent recovery.  When we start out, we are wobbly and sometimes we can fall off if we go too fast or take too many risks.  It is best if we have a teacher to show us the ropes and it is best if we ride in a group with other people.  We can learn some things from them and we can teach some things to the new riders in the group.  It is also more fun riding with others.  As we get better at riding, we can take some trips and we can look around and appreciate more and more what a great thing it is to be a rider. 

After we have become good at riding a bicycle, we almost never fall off.  Unless, of course, we do stupid things - like take our hands off the handle bars, or not look where we are going.  We may have to negotiate difficult terrain at times, but we can even do that if we take it easy and if we are careful.  It is usually best when riding in difficult terrain like this if we have some friends with us, especially ones who have been on this trail before. 

Similarly, recovery becomes as easy as riding a bike.  After a while, it is easy and fun and most people never fall off.  We do need to keep our wits about us and look out for tricky situations - loss of a job, conflict with spouse, death of loved ones, etc.  But even these don't need to trip us up if we are careful.  In difficult times, it is especially important to ask for help and get support.  As we learn to navigate even these difficult times in life, our confidence improves, our happiness expands, and our appreciation of just how fabulous this life is continues to grow!

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