Raising an awareness of our behaviors—our self-destructive thought processes, feelings, and actions—is what allows us to recognize where change is needed. If we want to live in health, we have to risk change. Change not only requires risk, but also a willingness to embrace the truth regardless of the consequences. It is having a perspective and mindset of “reality at all costs.”
Think of it this way: “Reality at all costs is not a mantra of extreme commitment or will power, but a state of mind—of being present and aware. Reality at all costs is about knowing the truth and being willing to admit where my behavior does not match.”47
In this lesson, we will discover an amazing tool for helping us maintain a clear perspective of our behaviors—not that we will always like the results, but so we can continue to move toward health through realistic self-awareness. We cannot change our behaviors if we fail to recognize where change is needed. When pursuing health, change is inevitable
I have always been an overachiever. I grew up in a home where achievement was highly valued and this shaped much of my identity. Throughout my childhood, career, marriage, and even in parenting, I always aimed for perfection. I know no one is perfect, but my expectation of perfection was part of my core beliefs, and from time to time this would cause problems.
In an effort to overachieve in all areas of life, I often neglected my feelings. I had trained myself to push past any negative feelings, not allowing myself to really feel the pain. I stayed very busy, which allowed me to have very little time alone and kept me from experiencing negative emotions. By staying busy, I also neglected my self-care on a regular basis. I got very little sleep, spent no time with God or friends, and experienced days when I felt too busy for basic necessities like showering. Those who knew me would never suspect any of this—I always gave the impression that I had everything together. I was admired for how much and how well I accomplished things in my life.
In my early 30s—juggling the demands of parenting, work, marriage, and trying to keep my house clean—I really started to break down. My lack of emotional awareness pushed me further and further from health. I continued to move past any negative emotion without dealing with it. Eventually, I had pushed aside so many negative emotions that one day they all came to the surface. I exploded in anger and yelled at my young children.
I didn’t know where this anger was coming from, but it continued to show its ugly face on a regular basis. Now that it was coming out, I felt like I couldn’t control it. I honestly believed that I had never been angry in my life. In reality, I had been repressing anger and other negative emotions my entire life. I lacked so much self-awareness that I really didn’t know how to process any emotions. Despite the guilt I felt for my uncontrollable, explosive anger, I was completely at a loss. I didn’t know how to fix this or how to begin working on self-awareness
The FASTER Relapse Awareness Scale48 (referred to as the FASTER Scale) helps us identify and understand our current behaviors in order to change our future behaviors. This unique tool is designed to raise awareness of the self-destructive patterns often exhibited in a person’s life. The intent is to provide an intervention or an escape from relapse. One of the greatest things we can do for ourselves is learn why we do what we do.
Many times, when we feel overwhelmed or stressed, we relapse or return to our previous coping behaviors in order to gain control of what’s happening. When we discover the trauma at the core of our addictive and compulsive behaviors and process our fear and pain, it leads to restoration and health. It leads to the behaviors we previously discussed (chapter 2, lesson 1) that become a continual part of establishing sobriety.
Every letter in the word “FASTER” reflects a downward step toward relapse.49 Each step describes behaviors, attitudes, and feelings that hide or protect our pain and fear. While the behaviors may be the result of environmental or neurochemical factors, the pattern of progression toward relapse can become more obvious over time. Developing an awareness of our unique relapse patterns is critical for helping us create a mindset for health, as well as the strategies needed to avoid future relapse.
The FASTER Scale process is made up of two parts.50 Part One helps us recognize the specific behaviors, attitudes, and feelings that are currently true about us in each section. Part Two allows us to focus on the most obvious behavior, attitude, or feeling with which we are struggling and answer three important follow-up questions.
In Part One we will go through all the steps on the FASTER Scale and circle what we identify with in each section—that we are experiencing on a daily or weekly basis.
In Part Two we will identify the single behavior, attitude, or feeling that is most powerful or problematic within each step and write it next to the corresponding heading.
Procrastination and isolation are two behaviors found consistently in all the steps of the FASTER Scale.51 When we are faced with having to do something that is unpleasant, we often turn to procrastination and isolation. However, this has the tendency to make things worse over time. Failing to deal with what is happening in our environment moves us down the FASTER Scale and further from trusting God—toward relapse. Through the support and accountability of our group, we can overcome the behaviors that keep us stuck in addictive, compulsive patterns and continue on the path toward health.
Adapted with permission from the Genesis Process by Michael Dye
Circle the behaviors on the FASTER Scale that you identify with in each section.
RESTORATION – (Accepting life on God’s terms, with trust, grace, mercy, vulnerability and gratitude) No current secrets; working to resolve problems; identifying fears and feelings; keeping commitments to meetings, prayer, family, church, people, goals, and self; being open and honest, making eye contact; increasing in relationships with God and others; true accountability.
FORGETTING PRIORITIES – (Start believing the present circumstances and moving away from trusting God. Denial; flight; a change in what’s important; how you spend your time, energy, and thoughts.) Secrets; less time/energy for God, meetings, church; avoiding support and accountability people; superficial conversations; sarcasm; isolating; changes in goals; obsessed with relationships; breaking promises & commitments; neglecting family; preoccupation with material things, TV, computers, entertainment; procrastination; lying; overconfidence; bored; hiding money; image management; seeking to control situations and other people.
Forgetting Priorities will lead to the inclusion of:
ANXIETY – (A growing background noise of undefined fear; getting energy from emotions.) Worry, using profanity, being fearful; being resentful; replaying old, negative thoughts; perfectionism; judging other’s motives; making goals and lists that you can’t complete; mind reading; fantasy, codependent, rescuing; sleep problems, trouble concentrating, seeking/creating drama; gossip; using over-the-counter medication for pain, sleep or weight control; flirting.
Anxiety then leads to the inclusion of:
SPEEDING UP – (Trying to outrun the anxiety which is usually the first sign of depression): Super busy and always in a hurry (finding good reason to justify the work); workaholic; can’t relax; avoiding slowing down; feeling driven; can’t turn off thoughts; skipping meals; binge eating (usually at night); overspending; can’t identify own feelings/needs; repetitive negative thoughts; irritable; dramatic mood swings; too much caffeine; over exercising; nervousness; difficulty being alone and/or with people; difficulty listening to others;
making excuses for having to “do it all.” Speeding Up then leads to the inclusion of:
TICKED OFF – (Getting adrenaline high on anger and aggression): Procrastination causing crisis in money, work, and relationships; increased sarcasm; black and white (all or nothing) thinking; feeling alone; nobody understands; overreacting, road rage; 84 Lesson 2: Self-Awareness constant resentments; pushing others away; increasing isolation; blaming; arguing; irrational thinking; can’t take criticism; defensive; people avoiding you; needing to be right; digestive problems; headaches; obsessive (stuck) thoughts; can’t forgive; feeling superior; using intimidation. Ticked off then leads to the inclusion of:
EXHAUSTED – (Loss of physical and emotional energy; coming off the adrenaline high, and the onset of depression) Depressed; panicked; confused; hopelessness; sleeping too much or too little; can’t cope; overwhelmed; crying for “no reason”; can’t think; forgetful; pessimistic; helpless; tired; numb; wanting to run; constant cravings for old coping behaviors; thinking of using sex, drugs, or alcohol; seeking old unhealthy people & places; really isolating; people angry with you; self abuse; suicidal thoughts; spontaneous crying; no goals; survival mode; not returning phone calls; missing work; irritability; no appetite. Exhausted then leads to the inclusion of:
RELAPSE – (Returning to the place you swore you would never go again. Coping with life on your terms. You sitting in the driver’s seat instead of God.) Giving up and giving in; out of control; lost in your addiction; lying to yourself and others; feeling you just can’t manage without your coping behaviors, at least for now. The result is the reinforcement of shame, guilt and condemnation; and feelings of abandonment and being alone.
Any time change is needed, we face a double bind: a lose/lose situation.52 We have a choice to make and we don’t want to do either option. However, when recognizing a choice is required, the right choice becomes obvious—not because it’s the easier choice, but because of the direction it takes us. One choice will lead us further into isolation— stuck in our addictive behaviors—separated from God and others. The other choice will lead us toward relationship with God and others. In fact, many times the more obvious choice toward health is the most difficult choice.
When we face a double bind, we are facing our fears, just like we did when we anticipated removing the masks we wear (chapter 1, lesson 3). A double bind requires that we face our fears and step in the direction that we’ve been avoiding.
As with most choices we make, there are consequences. The same is true when faced with a double bind. Let’s see if we can identify the double bind in the following story.
I am happily married. I love my husband and think our marriage is better than most. However, if there was one area that could use a little work, it would be in our communication styles. Whenever I initiate a conversation about something, especially a topic I’m passionate about, my husband interrupts me, takes over the conversation, and shuts me down. When this happens, I feel disrespected, unloved, and silenced. I don’t feel like I have a voice.
Lately, this pattern has become more frequent. I spoke with a trusted friend about it and she advised me to discuss my feelings with my husband. I’m afraid that if I bring this up with him, he’ll get angry and say, “You’re too sensitive. You’re overreacting again!” But, if I don’t say anything and let this pattern continue, it will become divisive in our marriage. I’m already starting to feel resentful toward my husband. I don’t know what to do. The thought of confronting him with this issue makes me feel anxious and physically sick. The thought of not saying anything and letting him walk all over me with his words makes me feel worthless and a little angry.
It is normal to experience fear when trying to make the right choice for long-term health. Worry and fear can keep us from taking that step.
Something is on your mind. You can’t sleep. You are distracted. Are you worried or are you concerned? Is there a difference? Why does it matter?
When we make the choice to develop health in our lives—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—we have to be proactive. We have to put strategies in place that allow us to establish healthy control in our behaviors, thought processes, and attitudes.
• Things we need to take care of: making a phone call, finishing a chore or task, spending time with the kids, getting into group, having a difficult conversation.
• Something we have control over and the ability to change: our attitude toward our spouse when they fail to do something we expected.
• Something that is our responsibility that we need to take ownership of: finishing a task well and letting go of our compulsive, perfectionist tendencies.
• Things that are not ours to fix: our spouse’s relationship with their parents; our son’s job search.
• Something we have no control over: our daughter’s college is closing and she has to transfer; natural disaster; war.
• A future worry that hasn’t happened: “What if I can’t find a babysitter?” “What if my spouse can’t find a better job?” “What if…?”
• Irrational fears that have no basis in reality: zombies, alien abduction.
When we are concerned about something, we need to be proactive: take control. Put action steps in place to help us resolve the concern.
Do what needs to be done to minimize the stress surrounding our concerns. When we are worried, when it is out of our control, we need to be proactive: allow God to take control. In these situations, find a scripture that provides comfort and assurance that God will take care of our worries.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
1 PETER 5:7
This is a great tool for taking our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We don’t want to allow negative and destructive thoughts to control us and poison our attitude.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.
A personal promise from God is more than simply our favorite scripture. It often comes from an encounter with God—when we felt His presence in a unique and powerful way. Times when we felt God saying something to us, about us, and can link this experience to a specific scripture in His Word.
Our brain is changed through experience with God. When we see God working in our lives, experience His closeness, and hear His voice through His Word and personal promises to us, it changes us. It is this life-changing experience that leads to lifelong healing.
Complete the FASTER Scale, Group Check-in, Self-Care lesson, Thoughts/Feelings
Awareness Log, and Change & Growth Analysis in your Unraveled: Weekly Tools before
the next group meeting.