by Kevie Simon on Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
At times in my life, it has felt like I have been asked to give up some pretty ridiculous things. Most recently, I found out that I had a fungal infection in my gut (ironic that I wrote a blog about listening to your gut just a few months ago…). In the process of healing from this infection, I gave up sugar and caffeine and complex carbs and alcohol. Needless to say, my Christmas break was not filled with sugar cookies or eggnog, but broccoli. Lots of broccoli. In the midst of this personal health crisis, I found myself entering into a spiritual and emotional crisis as well. What I found out about myself was not appealing nor attractive: I am addicted to control. I already knew this to a degree through my recovery journey, but this infection brought me back to reality that I was trying to control something that I didn’t have control over.
When I first began my recovery road as a partner of an addict, my counselor took me through an exercise that he called the “circle of control”. He brought out a white board, and drew a large circle in the center that had a “door” that would allow items in or out of the circle. Inside of the circle, I put items that I thought I had control over. I wrote down paying my bills, keeping the house clean, taking care of my dog, maintaining relationships, etc. On the outside of the circle, I put items that I didn’t have control over. I wrote down certain relationships, natural disasters, others’ secrets, etc. In the next step of the exercise, my counselor and I began to look at the items that I had put inside the circle that I thought I had control over. What if I lost my job? Then I couldn’t pay my bills. What if my dog died? Then, I could not walk him. Slowly, we took almost everything out of the inner circle except for two items: my reactions and attitude. The truth behind this exercise began to become evident to me – I only have control myself actions and nothing else.
At first, this exercise annoyed the heck out of me. How could I not have control over these items? It felt like a cruel joke. What I learned over time is that this concept of letting go of control actually gave me freedom. We don’t have control over what happens around us or to us. If you are the partner of an addict, you especially understand this truth. What felt like stability and security was all of the sudden yanked out from under you as you fell hard on your back. When I began to stop letting my thoughts obsess over issues that were out of my control, my anxiety and depression slowly lifted. I started to see the anxiety attacks plaguing my life were rooted in past events that I couldn’t change or future possibilities I had no control over. I realized all I had was the present moment and how I reacted to the reality that was presented before me.
Control is the grandest illusion of them all. What we think we have under control, most of the time we do not. What we have is power in our attitudes and responses. Everything else falls outside of our control, regardless if we accept this fact. Through battling with my fungal infection, I learned a new area in which I am still holding onto to my need to control with white-knuckled fists. This may not be a message you want to hear today, and that’s ok. You’ll come back to it. Five years into my recovery, I am still learning this lesson in all new ways. To this day in my journal or on random pieces of paper, I will draw a circle of control when I am feeling anxious. It brings me back to the truth that I only have control over my attitude and reactions. I hope that you see this as an opportunity to free yourself from the anxiety of what tomorrow may bring, and learn to live in the present. I will leave you with this question – do you have any “fungal infections” in your life that are pointing to an unnecessary need to control?