At BRC Recovery, we take a holistic approach to recovery from addiction by implementing a number of traditional and non-traditional practices to better connect our residents to the principles of living life in recovery. That’s why we incorporate “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruíz into our programming.
Ruíz was inspired to write “The Four Agreements” after a near-fatal car accident changed his life forever. He sought an apprenticeship with a healer and shaman in his native Mexico and decided to spend his life teaching what he has learned to others.
“The Four Agreements” is based on ancient Toltec wisdom and embodies some of the most important behavioral and spiritual principles necessary not just for the improved quality of life, but lasting recovery. When residents make these agreements with themselves, they can let go of the things that do not serve them and experience freedom from addiction.
What Are the Four Agreements?
Ruíz defines an agreement as a code for communication and understanding, such as language. For example, in the English-speaking we world, we agree that the word “tree” refers to the tall plant with a trunk and branches full of green leaves.
Like language, we don’t have much choice in the agreements that have been passed down to us through our family or culture. All of the agreements we’ve made with ourselves, whether we are aware of them or not, are inherited from our belief system, and our belief system controls our lives. If you want to change your life, you have to change your agreements.
1. Be impeccable with your word.
Speak with integrity, only saying what you mean. Avoid speaking derogatorily about yourself and gossiping about others.
Words are powerful. They can uplift and empower, or hurt and destroy. It’s so important to be truthful with ourselves and others because honesty is key to laying a solid foundation for recovery. So much of substance use is wrapped up in lies and secrecy, but being impeccable with your word can help you re-establish respect for yourself and re-gain respect from other people.
Additionally, if you’ve ever relapsed, you may have made an agreement with yourself that you are destined to suffer forever, which just isn’t true. Relapse isn’t a sign of failure; it’s a part of recovery.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t suffer needlessly.
We all live in our own minds and act on our own agreements. Other people say, think and act based on what’s going on inside them. You may get some feedback that rubs you the wrong way or hear someone say something emotionally triggering, but you must remember that nothing another person says or does–whether or not it’s directed towards you–is ever about you.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
Find the courage ask questions and express what you really want. Communicate with others clearly to avoid misunderstandings.
In recovery, it’s crucial to have clear boundaries and communication, so think or ask for clarification before you apply meaning to something. We assume that we know what someone else is thinking or feeling, and we also make assumptions about our own abilities, which sets us up for disappointment when we don’t meet those expectations.
4. Always do your best.
Your best changes day to day. Doing more than your best will leave you feeling drained, and doing less than your best will make you feel unfulfilled and disappointed in yourself. To avoid self-judgment and regret, just do your best under any circumstance.
Why Living the Four Agreements Can Be So Challenging
Abiding by the agreements isn’t always easy. Although the agreements open your eyes to a more positive, promising way to live life, actually overcoming the mind’s resistance and living out each agreement 100% is challenging.
Our agreements are deeply entrenched in our being. As children, we learned behaviors and habits in school, at home, from adults and from children, and we were rewarded when we did something good and punished when we didn’t. Other people’s opinions and reactions to our behavior became highly influential in the habits we established for ourselves.
Through this process, known as domestication, we made agreements in our minds about who we are, who we aren’t, who we should be, and who we shouldn’t be. We grew to live our lives based on the agreements we made with ourselves–the agreements that stemmed from the opinions of others. In other words, the lives we lead are more driven by the opinions we learned from others than the ones we would choose on our own.
Adopting the Four Agreements doesn’t mean the mind will automatically start working how you want it. If anything, “The Four Agreements” is an awakening that challenges you to challenge the deeply held beliefs and habits you’ve practiced since childhood domestication. At BRC Recovery, we seek to empower our residents to confront the long-held agreements they’ve made with themselves and establish new ones so they can overcome negative belief systems and experience lasting freedom from addiction.