I can't give you the context for this, but trust me that it comes from wisdom (you know the kind: it's gained through experience).
I learned four important things lately, or, perhaps more accurately: I was reminded of some things I already knew (though in truth it's a mix). The spoiler alert here is that nothing that follows is particularly earth-shattering, and may be obvious to many.
#1 I think everybody has to make a conscious decision about how they want to live their lives, and do so fairly often. Just think in terms of very high-level buckets, and pick any continuum you'd like:
"Do I want to be angry or do I want to be happy?"
"Do I want to be a consumer of goods or a producer of culture?"
"Do I want to give to the people around me or take from the people around me?"
"Do I want to be surrounded by love or by anger?"
"Do I want people to see me as I am or for who I think they should see?"
These are quite useful even when fairly abstracted: "give vs take", "awake or unconscious", "consumer vs producer", "angry vs happy". They can then be made more concrete. E.g.: "What kind of house do I want to live in? (in terms of emotional tenor)" "What kind of people do I want to surround myself with? "Do I want to help people or do I view them as a means to an end?" "Do I cause more hurt in the world or do I take away other people's hurt?"
Now these may seem so obvious that they're trivial. After all, who would choose to be surrounded by anger? And yet: I've known an awful lot of people who have chosen this.
The modern world is so full of fast-paced distractions I think it's easy to lose site of these incredibly important things (and one could argue it's precisely the intent of the modern world to do exactly that). That's why we all need a periodic reminder.
And so I think we need to take a step each day to re-evaluate where we are on those continuum, to see if we've gotten off-track. I think the metaphor of the frog who's being boiled alive is actually pretty useful here. Day after day, over a long period of time, we can fall progressively more asleep, and then one day and you wake up and the water is boiling. And then you kind of look back and think: "How did I get where I am right now?" (and sort of scratch your head in wonderment).
And I think it sort of starts with how we treat other people, and in turn that will dictate, or help direct, how we are treated.
#2 I'm fairly confident that people are generally born to be thoughtful, kind, and loving, and it's only in how we're raised that people both un-learn this: sometimes just taking these things away over time, but also sometimes replacing them with cruelty, hostility, or selfishness.
I don't recommend thinking about this too much, as it's sort of heartbreaking to consider just how much neglect, abuse, etc that little kids have experienced since beginningless time, and how this has shaped who we have all become as we got older.
It's undoubtedly a sad situation you'll find yourself in if and when you have to remind yourself that you should be surrounded by people who love you, and lift you up, and support you as you strive to live a meaningful life. It's the kind of thing that shouldn't needed to be stated, and so if you one day find yourself having to remind yourself of this: I'm sorry.
I think it says a lot about a person's internal state when this happens. If we teach people how to treat us, then what does it say about someone when they end up being treated poorly?
#3 I also learned that people sometimes need a reminder about how to treat you. They need to be guided, sometimes gently, and other times with great conviction. Other people can be as unconscious or as asleep as we can, and so in that case we need to wake them up from their slumber and say "Hey, be more respectful" and "Why are we doing this? (Why are we here?) (Why are we together?)" and hope that they also wake up and see that the water is boiling and then understand that they too can re-evaluate the same continuum that we can.
And the day you find yourselves on the opposite ends of a particular continuum (one of those fundamental ones, the ones that help shape the course of your life), that's when you know you're in trouble.
#4 And the last thing I learned is that addiction is hard. It's really hard. And it's heartbreaking. And I knew this, intellectually at least: I knew it at the beginning, I still believe it, and that if you're working with somebody who has a substance use disorder you have to understand that things might not work out (and it's much more likely the case that they don't work out than it is that they do). Right at the very beginning you have to understand that this might not go the way you'd like. And then you sort of have to be okay with that outcome.
And interestingly enough, you have to sort of get to the point where you're equally okay with either outcome. If things turn out well, well, that's just fine. And if things turn out poorly, that's going to have to be fine also. And I think that's the hardest part. Not being attached to he outcome (at a time when, paradoxically, you need to have a lot of hope).
At the very start you need to admit to yourself: "I know I might end up on the wrong end of this." "I know it might not turn out the way I hope." "I know I might not be able to help this person, or at least, not for very long." "A lot less of this is within anyone's control than I understand."
And I know that all of that has to be okay. There can be no kidding about this, about how it might go. You can't fool yourself. And then when it goes that way, it will be excruciating. And heartbreaking. And no amount of knowing beforehand about the potential outcomes will make it any easier.
And you'll be left back at the beginning. Which is: "How am I going to spend my time?" "How do I want to live this short life to it's full potential?" "Who do I want to be?" and "And how do I want to treat the people around me?"
You're left back at the beginning with those important questions that I'm completely convinced we don't ask ourselves enough.