Last week, our family group discussed the topic of Letting Go of Expectations. In the Big Book of AA we find where it says: Expectations are Premeditated Resentments. When you find yourself feeling resentment, you can almost always trace it back to your expectations. Usually it indicates that you tried once again to control or manipulate a situation or outcome and was resentful when it didn't turn out the way you expected.
Why is that? First, unrealistic expectations often lead to disappointment and frustration because most people resent any attempts at control or manipulation.
Second, pushing unrealistic expectations can really be a stumbling block to your own personal recovery and therefore, to the client's. We have also learned that placing high expectations on someone with a drug/alcohol addiction, may create added pressure and fuel a downward spiral.
There is no "quick fix" in the recovery process - it takes TIME. When all the focus is on the client and not yourself, then resentment sets in when progress is not made in the way you had hoped or expected.
So, what’s important is to keep all expectations at a realistic level. Keeping expectations realistic and appropriate helps family members to focus on the good things that are happening, instead of having expectations about a future that has not yet arrived.
It’s obvious that most of us have goals for ourselves, and spend a great deal of time trying to get our family members to work toward and achieve goals for themselves. Often times, parents can get really involved in trying to direct their son's goals, instead of allowing him to set his own personal goals.
As family members, the idea is to allow others to grow and change in their own way instead of being caught up in how things “should be”. We learn to accept things as they are and be open to the future rather than trying to create it with expectations.
The issue of expectations goes back to knowing that we are responsible for identifying our needs, believing they deserve to get met, and discover an appropriate way to do that in our life.
Letting Go and Letting God allows each of us the freedom to set our own goals and plans, while allowing our family members to do the same. By allowing them to make their own decisions and experience the consequences of their actions, you are releasing them with love. You are actually saying that you have confidence in them and respect their ability to make decisions.
Another one of my favorite slogans to keep my expectations in check is:
Happiness = Reality Minus Expectations
Simply put, when we align our expectations with reality, we are never disappointed. We can't blame people for disappointing us; we can blame ourselves for expecting too much. When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are, instead of what you think they should be.
Through recovery, we learn to accept our powerlessness over trying to control another person's behavior by our expectations. In the 12-Step recovery process, we learn more about ourselves and the nature of acceptance. As Step 3 says, "made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand him". Today, we invite you to find true happiness by letting go, letting God. By letting go, we come to realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.