Some time ago, I was working with a client who had just begun recovery from alcoholism. As he sat down at the beginning of one of our sessions I asked, “How are you doing?” A simple enough question; a question I have been asking clients for 20 years; nothing fancy or intricately therapeutic about it. But his response taught me (reminded me) of a valuable lesson.
He began his response with a question of his own. “Are you asking me how I am ‘doing,’ or how I am ‘feeling?’ Because I am ‘doing’ very well I think. And I ‘feel’ like sh–.”
In fact, he was ‘doing’ very well: staying sober, going to support meetings, calling his AA sponsor, spending time with his family, and showing up at work every day.
But he was not ‘feeling’ well in ways that are predictable for early addiction recovery: he was experiencing anxiety, confusion, shame, and depression. He was feeling overwhelmed, and due to restless sleep, he was physically tired. He ‘felt’ bad in these many ways, but he was feeling something else, something directly related to how he was ‘doing’ well. He felt good about himself. At the end of the day, no matter how bad he might feel, for the first time in a long time, his self-respect was in tact.
I spoke with this client recently, and he reported that he continued to ‘do’ well, and that he was now also ‘feeling’ very well. His willingness to persist in taking the right action has paid off, but like most good investments, the pay off was not immediate. I think this is a good reminder for us all.
At the end of the day, as you turn off the light, ask “How did I ‘do’ today?”