The older I get, the more I don’t like change.
I’m sure it’s rooted in a character defect, but I suspect it also has to do with getting older. There are more years behind me than there are in front — I suppose I could live to 98, but I’m not sure I want to — and when change throws me for a loop, I feel like Grandpa Simpson, clawing frantically at the door to Homer’s house and mewling, “I’m cold, and there are wolves after me!”
It didn’t used to be that way, and even today, it’s kind of fascinating, when I look at it from a rational perspective, what does and does not interfere with my serenity. Crisis management? That’s where I excel. Put me in the hot seat over here in the Internet Marketing Department, throw a dozen projects at me at once with a deadline, and my poor ol’ laptop is smoking by day’s end. It’s like “Days of Thunder” up in here.
On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago my middle child came down with a case of the flu, and my carefully constructed schedule was thrown into flux because I needed to work from home for a few days. Although it was no big deal, and I still managed to get quite a bit accomplished, it disrupted my routine, and I found myself restless, irritable and discontent.
Why? I wish I knew. I’m sure it has something to do with unrelenting standards and perfectionism and control issues and any number of other Schema packets I could probably stand to work on, but it comes down to the simple fact that whether I’m older or whether I’m an addict … I don’t like change.
It turns out, I’m not alone. Generally speaking, a lot of folks are more fond of consistency than they are change. There was a study conducted in 2010 that demonstrated those findings: Test subjects who were told that acupuncture has been around for 2,000 years expressed more favorable views of it than those who were told it was only 250 years old. In another study, subjects who looked at a painting and were told it was created in 1905 said it was more pleasing to the eye than the same painting others were told was created in 2005. Yet another study showed that individuals admired a tree described as being 4,500 years old more than others looking at the same tree but were told it was only 500 years old.
Those studies, detailed in a piece on the website Huffington Post, were fascinating glimpses into the way we look at change: “The bottom line is, unconsciously we all believe that longevity = goodness. There are, admittedly, plenty of instances where this is perfectly rational. When a particular product or way of doing things has stood the test of time, it is probably superior to alternatives in at least some respects.”
Unconscious bias, it turns out, is pretty universal. Combine that with the self-centered nature of addiction, and voila: You have individuals who are set in their ways and get perturbed when those ways are upended. There is, I’m fond of saying, comfort in familiarity — even when the familiar is miserable.
That’s why I lingered in my addiction for so long. It was miserable, but it was comfortable, because I knew what my life involved. From the second my eyes opened up to the moment I passed out at night, I knew what my day would entail in the getting, using and finding ways and means to get more. It was horrible, and I contemplated ending my life more than once, but I knew what was going to happen.
Recovery? That was uncharted territory. That was an unknown wilderness, and traversing it terrified me, at least until the pain of staying the same became greater than the fear of change.
And fear of change is a very real thing, for addicts and “normal” people. Evangelist and author Chuck Lawless puts it this way: “Change often means loss. To move in one direction usually means moving away from another direction. Adopting a new program requires giving up an old one.”
That can be difficult for any of us, whether we’re giving up our old way of life or giving up, even temporarily, the comfort of routine.
It’s important for me to remember, in those instances, that change is temporary and quickly compensated for by the luxuries I’ve accumulated — the ability to work from home, and the good graces of a supervisor who gives me the OK to do so. Any other discomfort is purely a result of my own twisted thinking, of which I still struggle and likely always will, given that despite how much time I have clean and sober, I’m by no means “cured.”
When I take a step back and accept that change, along with my hesitation to do so, I can see those “wolves” for what they really are — whispers of reluctance, built on the comfort of familiarity. They are not the things in the trees with fangs and claws that once stalked my damaged soul and wounded heart, and for that, I’m grateful, so very grateful.
Here’s your Friday motivation, friends. Roll with the changes today, and don’t mistake puppies for wolves.