Often, we are traveling along the road of life, arm out the window, enjoying the scenery, lost in thought and we come upon a traffic light that is there to give us instructions. Even before we could drive, we knew that green meant go, red meant stop and yellow meant caution/slow down. If we are conscious and aware, our minds register what we are to do next.
For many addicts, the metaphorical message either doesn’t register or is ignored, and the safest choice isn’t apparent. The action may be to put the pedal to the metal and charge through the light – the obvious adrenalin-rush choice – and then find ourselves being slammed broadside by an oncoming 18-wheeler.
The Lights in Our Lives
The red lights in our lives are warning signals that tell us to stop right where we are and do absolutely nothing until we know it is safe to take the next step. The messages may come from friends and family, a therapist, our own intuition, or even our bodies (in the form of illness, for example). When we don’t pay attention to the whispers, sometimes roars become necessary. How many times have you seen the crimson beacon that communicates “Put down the bottle/pill/joint/needle,” and ignored it? Many addicts know cognitively what is in their best interest, but take reflexive rather than reflective action.
The green lights are full latitude to move ahead, certain that the way is clear. Opportunities arise to do things we have always wanted to experience; people show up, seemingly by engraved invitation and by special delivery. Sometimes, even when we see the door open before us, we remain stuck in freeze mode because we fear taking the next step, wondering if the door will close as we are halfway through or because we don’t believe we are worthy of those gifts.
The yellow lights are there to remind us to take stock and do a cost-benefit analysis before we move on. It is more action-oriented than if encountering a red light and less so than charging ahead with confidence. It is also a resting place in which we can ease back a bit.
Questions to Consider
Take a few moments with a journal or paper and pen and ask yourself these questions:
- How would you describe your real-life green lights?
- How would you characterize your real-life red lights?
- Write about some scenarios in which you listened to messages and when you didn’t.
- Was the outcome as you anticipated?
- What would you need to do to create more green-light scenarios?
- Can you see how this might apply to your recovery?