addiction author

Why Expectations Will Always Let You Down

Do you remember being a little kid on Christmas? I do. The night before I would always have trouble sleeping because of the anticipation of the next day and the thought of all of the toys that Santa would bring me. The whole night would consist of my mind leaping from fantastic image to fantastic image and most years I would be out of bed before my parents were even up. I would run into their room and force them awake because I couldn’t wait to go downstairs and open up my presents. 

But I also remember something else. After all the presents were opened, the last scrap of wrapping paper being torn from its boxes, I would feel let down even if I got everything that I wanted. I found that my expectations of what Christmas would be and how I would feel, never matched up to reality and so after the hustle and bustle of opening presents was over; I would sort of feel depressed. This foreshadowed my inability to let go not only of expectations but also in letting go of resentments.

Now as a little kid I am not sure how aware I was of all of this, I just knew that I felt a certain way after the presents were opened, but upon reflection, as an adult, I realized that I still do these same things today and with the same result. I still set expectations on people and events and very rarely are my expectations met. When they are not met I am always let down and if the expectation is too large it can even feel heartbreaking. I recently experienced this in a way different than I ever had before and it had to do with my children.

I spent the first 18 months of my sobriety in South Florida, away from my family. This I believe was necessary in order for me to finally get sober, but the whole time that I was in Florida, my goal was to move back home to be with my children. During my time away my ex-husband and I finalized our divorce and we hashed out the visitation agreement as well.

When I finally moved back home I had the expectation that I would have something like joint custody with my ex-husband, but this is not the way that it worked out. After about six months of being home I still only had a visitation schedule with my kids.  This was not what I had hoped for or expected to happen. 

I really struggled with this and still am to a certain degree, because I had certain expectations for how my moving back home would go. I thought that since I had been sober for a while now, I had a good job, and was responsible, I even had my own house, I thought that everything would go swimmingly, but this has not been the case.

It’s funny how no matter how many disappointments I have faced as a direct result of unrealistic expectations I still continue to use them in my life.  Though there has finally been a shift as I now have an awareness that I did not have before.

These are the lessons that I am currently learning, though, that when you set expectations for yourself or others, you will almost always be let down, or as John Steinbeck said, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

The reality is that I cannot control other people or what they do and my expectations are usually the result of me thinking that I can control outcomes. You would think that this point in my life I would have learned that this is not the case, but this is a lesson that just doesn’t seem to want to stick.

I believe that it is okay to want things in life, in fact, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t, but the difference between wanting and expecting is often the difference between satisfaction and hurt. If I want something to go a certain way and it doesn’t, I may be a little upset but probably won’t take it that hard, but when I expect something to go a certain way and it doesn’t, I usually get pretty upset. 

This goes for setting an expectation for myself as well. Going back to the example of moving home, I had expectations of how I would handle the move. I have found that I usually overestimate my ability to handle change and expect myself to handle situations better than I do. Then when I fail to meet these high and unrealistic expectations I get mad at myself, which does nothing but just make me feel worse.

This has been the case with moving back home. I have not handled the move as well as I thought I would and at times it has really affected me. I am not around my original support group, I don’t have access to the same meetings I got sober in, and I have had to create a whole new recovery community for myself. This has been pretty difficult and at times it has felt completely overwhelming. It has tested my faith in ways I didn’t know was possibly, but I think the worst part is how harshly I have judged myself for not meeting my own expectations. The thing is I have a really hard time giving myself a break I always think I could have done better I don’t want to accept what I do.

Expectations very rarely play out the way we think they will and because of this we often set up ourselves up for failure when we have them. I am trying to learn to not have expectations on myself or others, but just try to show up, do the best I can, and have faith that all things will work out. This is harder some days than others, but I’ll continue to trudge this road and hopefully in time expect less and accept more.


Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

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