A Zen Parable
Working in treatment, I often happily receive calls from family or friends with questions regarding recovery. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to shed light on the subjects of addiction, eating disorders, and the road to a new life. During a recent phone call from a long-time friend, I couldn’t help but think of a famous Zen parable. A university professor visited master Nan-in with the hopes of learning more about Zen and the master invited him in for tea. Nan-in set about making the tea and as he did so, the professor started to offer his opinions and ideas about Zen. Nan-in brought the tea to the table and began to pour a cup. The cup quickly overfilled and Nan-in kept pouring. The professor shouted, “You’re making a mess! What are you doing??” Nan-in replied, “Like this cup, you are full of your own ideas. How can I teach you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” Nan-in is talking about teachability and it’s an important concept for a successful recovery.
Full of Our Own Ideas
Like the professor, my friend called me and was full of their own ideas. This person has had suspicions about their drinking habits for quite some time and had finally decided to do something about it. They called me for support and advice, which I was more than happy to give. My friend was receptive to the support but as soon as the advice came, the walls started going up. Referencing an earlier conversation, I asked, “What does your therapist think of all this?” They replied, “Well, I never told her. I went to her for depression and I didn’t think the drinking was related.” I shook my head, “You went to a therapist who specializes in substance abuse, you ingest a depressant every night, and you didn’t want to talk about it? You don’t see a problem here?” They responded, “Well, she was the first I found who accepted my insurance. And I don’t want addiction on my medical record.” The excuses got more frequent and ridiculous after that. So much for teachability.
Remaining Teachable Vs. Learning the Hard Way
This conversation probably sounds familiar to those of you in recovery. And as frustrated as I was, I certainly couldn’t be angry with my friend. After all, I could think of plenty of instances in my recovery where I was lacking in teachability. It’s the nature of addiction. Addiction will find a million ways to tell you everything is okay, especially when it’s being threatened with sobriety. The key is remaining teachable. If you’ve made the decision to get sober, that’s wonderful! Get ready for some extremely challenging and rewarding work. But what is the use of asking for help if you’re going to ignore the directions? I would also like to note that I’m not speaking only to those in early recovery here. It’s so easy for those of us with some years under our belts to become set in our ways and think we’ve got it all figured out. Bad move. In my experience, when my teachability is lacking, life steps in and I have to learn the hard way.
Successful Recovery Since 2002
The importance of teachability highlights the need for good teachers. Ocean Recovery has been successfully treating substance abuse and eating disorders since 2002. Our trained and licensed professionals have been studying these disorders for years. Many have first-hand, personal experience. If you or someone you love is struggling, please consider giving Ocean Recovery a call today. We offer individual and group counseling, addiction education, nutritional therapy, and much more as part of our holistic approach to treatment. Call now and start building your foundation for success.