Fear is a Fraud

Lush No Longer

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My dogmatic and religious upbringing (via church, pastors and mothers), generously offered me mega doses of fear as a reminder that the margin between heaven and hell was razor thin.  If I didn’t behave In accordance with the Christian doctrine, however, there was always God’s son, Jesus, there to cover my ass.  It was heavily suggested that I ask him into my heart so that I was under a broad umbrella of salvation during random acts of sin.  I bought into this for over 20 years, eventually questioning the entire Pentecostal system.  Nobody I grew up with was anywhere near following all those rules they laid down on us every Sunday, and I was getting tired of always asking the Big Guy upstairs for forgiveness.  Wasn’t he getting tired of my infinite apologies?

It’s a miracle that I even curse the good lord’s name these days, after growing up in such a fear-based church community and home.  I was convinced that I was going to hell for eternity if…

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My Moment of Clarity in Recovery

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During my two weeks in Detox, I carefully looked over the list of local rehabilitation centers, spoke to the counselors about each place, and chose one that felt right.  It was a Behavior Modification program and therapeutic community located in the Berkeley Hills.  I have been on a lovely path of reconnecting to my intuition ever since.  Six months of my life was spent in this sacred space of getting to know myself.  It was rigorous, raw, challenging and refining.  I was brought face to face with myself on a daily basis.  There were many tears, much laughter, frustration galore, moments of gratitude, and days of monotony.  Time went by very slowly and time went by fairly fast.  I was surrounded by many people just like me.  I related with them and I segregated myself, until I realized that I am no better than anyone.  I am exactly equal to every human being on this planet, no matter how rich, how poor, how smart or challenged; we are all equal, and this was an important lesson for me to learn, because I was under the belief that I was something special.  We are all incredibly special.  We are all gifted and universally valued.  We are all unique, and we all have the ability to overcome our obstacles.

I believed because I had an eighteen year career, naturally red hair, a published poetry book and a manuscript written, that I was somehow above most of my recovery peers.  I even thought that I had all of the answers at times.  I believed that I was incredibly unique compared to everyone else.  The truth was very clear, however.  When it came down to it, I was an addict and an alcoholic.  I was self-destructive and I was a liar.  None of my features, accomplishments or experiences made me anything more than an addict and an alcoholic.  

I recall one of the counsellors looking me at the face one afternoon and saying, “Clearly, intelligence has gotten you nowhere,” leaving me standing there alone in shock.  She was on to me!  But here I was in rehab because I could not keep a liquor bottle out of my mouth.  She was absolutely right. 

During the last month of my rehabilitation, I was moving fast, and feeling incredibly strong.  I was quickly approaching the end of my treatment, and would soon be “crossing over” into the real world.  Every other day I left the facility on my own to go on job search, and everything was going according to my plan. 

In this program, each one of us in treatment were given temporary job functions, which could change from week to week.  Somehow I kept the same job function for three and a half months.  I was a “Greeter.”  I loved being a Greeter because I had a lot of privileges and much more free time than most of my other peers.  As a Greeter, I “supported” the thirty day clients in the rehabilitation facility next door to ours.    All I had to do was be friendly, get people to groups, keep up on the house cleaning, sit through a few extra groups, and set up meals.  There was space for me to do my assignments, along with extra time to read.  Taking care of people filled my maternal void, which alleviated some of my discomfort from being away from my children. 

I followed the rules of the program, and stayed out of trouble, for the most part.  I was on-time to everything and completed my assignments effectively.  I followed the program the way I was supposed to.  None of this was difficult for me to do.  Before my teenaged years, I was one of those annoying kids that colored perfectly within the lines, and showed off to my teachers.  I followed instructions.  My “look good” exterior was impeccable.  I knew how to hold it together.  I was almost an expert at holding it together.  Luckily, my savvy counselors saw right through this, and graciously came to my aid.

At the end of my treatment, I self-sabotaged by going on job search without getting written permission.  We were never allowed to leave the facility without getting a proposal signed by staff, but because I wanted to get a job as soon as possible, I manipulated my way into getting out one day, without a signed proposal.  It was difficult to get away with anything in the program, because eyes were everywhere, and it was each client’s responsibility to inform the staff of any misconduct.  I was caught, and consequences were immediately imposed.

This was supposed to happen.  The whole point of this program, was to identify behaviors which lead us to our drinking and using.  One of my behaviors was getting whatever I wanted by manipulating my way through life.  I shoved through things to get what I wanted.  Because of this, I was removed from my cushy job function, placed on restriction for two weeks, and demoted back to Orientation.  I was not even allowed to socialize with any of my own peers.  Anytime I needed to go anywhere, including to the bathroom, I had to take “support.”   Support was supposed to be a “senior” peer, although in actuality, I was the senior peer.  Needless to say, this was incredibly humiliating, especially after five months of basically floating by and “looking good.”

My false sense of entitlement was radically eliminated.  All of this angered me to no avail.  I was in such a rage, that I could not stop crying.  For about two days solid, I wept.  I identified myself as a Greeter.  I identified myself as a Senior Peer.  I also identified myself as someone who knew what they were doing.  I was completely stripped of all of these things.  It was terrible, but deep down inside, I knew this was essential.  I knew I must go through this process, and in the end, it would benefit my recovery.  I let the rage fume and I allowed the tears to flow.  This was one of the only emotions I fully experienced in rehab, but since then, I have come to know many more.  Anger was the one emotion I could not hide, so it was a great gift when it arose, because I could not pretend to be anything other than angry. 

At the end of two days, I was exhausted from being angry and sat in a chair at the back of a group, quiet and humiliated, yet this is when something wonderful happened.  I became genuinely grateful for the whole experience, and suddenly my anger began moving inside of my gut.  I literally felt my rage transcending into joy.  It was occurring deep inside of me, so completely and wonderfully.  I had never experience this kind of emotional alchemy inside my body before.  A smile filled my face as the anger ceased while joy consumed my being.  It was liberating.  The counsellors constantly told us to “sit with ourselves” and our emotions, but this was difficult to do.  Our first instinct is to react.  They also told us to get out of our heads, and down into our bodies.  I never knew what this meant.  I was used to living inside my head and dropping down into a bottle.  It frustrated me when they told me to get out of my head. 

When I finally dropped down into my body, or into my emotion, rather than resisting it, or reacting, I experienced myself like never before.  It was as if I became one with myself, and finally entered into the comfortable and cavernous place of myself that I was forever running from.  I slept heavily that night, on the bottom of an old wooden bunk bed beneath a woman who gave me incredible support and love.  Our dorm overlooked an enormous sprawling oak tree.  It was so grand that I often meditated upon its greatness, observing squirrels and birds, and imagining what it would be like to be a child again.  If I were a child in my bedroom, instead of an addict in an institution dorm, I would climb out of the window onto the tree and ascend into the limbs as far as I could go.  I would take a fabulous book with me, and spend an afternoon reading upon the sun-soaked branches.  If only I could go back to that time, and begin my life again.

The next morning I awoke, provoked by an unusually bright sun.  All was quiet, luminous and incredibly serene.  What I experienced was beyond anything I have ever felt before in a life filled with heaviness and confusion.  Right now was immaculate stillness and acute awareness.  Everything was vivid and my mind was transcendent and silent.  For the first time in a long time, I woke up without my thoughts galloping like wild horses inside my head.  There I sat up in my bed with the keenness of a hawk and calmness of a gentle summer breeze.

I slowly sat up touching my arms and my face.  There was no electricity running through me.  I was simply there.  I was so naturally and brilliantly alive.  It was me.  I was simply me.  I was completely awake to who I was; to who I am.  I was all that I was, in one blissful arrangement of my entire wholeness.  There were no fragmented parts of me, or questions unanswered.  I was not any different because I was no longer a Greeter, or any less than because I was demoted back to Orientation.  I was not fearful or deep in dread over being pulled out of my job search.  I was not lacking anything.  I was simply myself, and myself was pure, complete, and unidentified.  My self was not caught up in an image; nor was it terrified of being simple, without a persona to sustain.

That eminent morning, I just was.  This was beautiful and wonderful, and so dynamically liberating.  All this time I believed it was the end of me, if I had to let go of my images.  I feared what would happen without my precious identities.  Beyond my images revealed a dynamic awareness of myself.  I understood then that I was richer than all of my quick-changing characters combined.  I was not short of a single thing, because I was everything.

I am me… I AM.

 

(Excerpt from ‘The Devil’s Altar’ – on Amazon)

Being Patient with Yourself

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More often than not, I get ahead of myself.  I plan, over think
things and analyze my life more than I’d like to admit.  Lately I’ve been feeling extremely uncomfortable and restless.  This occurs about once every four months or so (I’ve skillfully observed), but it certainly doesn’t last more than a week when I’m willing to shine a light on it and not buy into the discomfort as an eternal state of being. If I allow it to be with me, and even invite it into my experience, it will gently pass, and usually there is some emotional and spiritual growth involved. 

Because things are going pretty well for me, and I feel good most of the time, I find myself thrown off by these uncomfortable moments in my sobriety.  My relationship seems futile.  My nerves are exposed.  My thoughts are a wasteland of incomplete… I can’t even think of the word I’m looking for right now.  It’s just frigging uncomfortable, and I’m feeling a little bit like a failure this week.  I wonder when I’m going to be like a complete human being after so many years of self-sabotaging?  Things go great for months at a time, and then something will arise out of nowhere, reminding me that I’m not emotionally capable of a lot of things that “normal” human beings are naturally equipped with, like say… nurturing.  I get reminded of this all the time through the mirror of my relationship. 

I don’t usually feel “less than,” but just yesterday while sitting in an office meeting with several successful co-workers (appearing polished and successful myself), my inner voice screamed, “You fraud.  You are nothing like these people.  You are still at the bottom of the totem pole.  FRAUD.  FRAUD.  FRAUD.”  I slipped out of the meeting immediately after it was finished, so as not to further present myself like I have it together.  I’m good at bullshitting, but I’ve somewhat relinquished this mask.  I only use it when absolutely necessary, and yesterday it was more necessary for me to get back to work. 

You know, I’m doing my best with what I have.  Sometimes it’s completely overwhelming for me, but I still move forward in my recovery.  I continue to face the mirror when it presents itself, although there is still the inner tug of resistance.  I’m making progress, although quite slowly at times.  My boyfriend keeps reminding me that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  I know this, but it’s frustrating to wake up some mornings knowing that I have a long way to go, when just yesterday I felt like I was at the top of a mountain.  It’s these ebb and flows in my life that create inner havoc, reminding me that I must slow down and be patient with myself. It’s perfectly ok to feel incomplete some days.  It doesn’t mean I am.  It’s simply a feeling, that I certainly do not have to buy into. 

It is important for me to write this today, because I often have an extremely positive attitude.  My writing is on point most of the time, and I’m excited about my life more often than not… Yet then there are these dreadful moments, which are so important to acknowledge.  I know others can relate, and I just want to remind myself today (and whomever else needs the reminder), that in recovery, we are doing our best.  We must not compare ourselves with people who haven’t been down our crooked street.  It will rip you apart if you do.  Please remember to have patience with yourself during moments of restlessness, boredom, or discomfort, because they will surely pass.  Let others know what you are experiencing, so that they have the opportunity to offer their patience as well.  Be open to these experiences and allow them to move through you without buying into the belief that they are eternal.  I’m going to spend the remainder of my day sitting with my discomfort, rather than lashing out at the world and my loved ones because of it.  This too shall pass…</p>

Letting Go Is Giving Yourself Wings

Lush No Longer

Letting Go

In treatment, we had a really intuitive counselor who would look directly at you, and see right through your elusive bullshit.  She was good at what she did.  Her method was very effective, and I’m pretty certain that she saved my life.  I endearingly call her “The Ego Eliminator,” because she saw right through my nonsense, and spoke assertively to the part of me that always wanted to destroy my own life.  While she was doing this, she also saw the essence of who I was beneath my shackled mind, and reminded my spirit that I could live a life a freedom.  It was harsh, the way she spoke to my ego, and sometimes it felt like she was stabbing my face.  Deep down, however, I knew I was getting the truth, and I was at a place where I could take the heat, in order to finally heal.

Part of my problem, as with most addicts and alcoholics, is that I always had to…

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Change Everything By Changing One Thing

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What do we do when we see others suffering?  How can we help when we feel so hopeless?  This goes beyond the alcoholic suffering we witness in our fellow addicts when we become sober.  I want to talk a little bit about the state of the world.  Looking back into history, it seems as if we are finally evolving as humans; realizing that we create our own experience here.  Many of us understand that suffering does not have to be part of that experience, but for most, it is still a prominent state of being. 

At a very young age I used to burden myself with the suffering of the world.  I recall asking my higher power for wisdom at that young age, and then not knowing what to do with my insight when I was faced with reality.  If you can’t relate to me here, I apologize ahead of time.  I am aware that most twelve year old kids don’t go around worrying about the state of suffering in the world, or asking God for wisdom (what was I thinking?).  I was different, which is why I began drinking and using in the first place.  It was a way for me to feel less burdened, and to fit in with my peers.  Otherwise, I was clouded with depression and hopelessness because I could not fix anything, or help anyone.

Although I may have been a little over the top with this grandiose thinking, I’m pretty certain that many of us have felt like an ant sitting atop a mountain at one time or another.  What is my purpose here?  Who am I in the grand scheme of the world? It is troubling to feel like nothing, and I know that we can all relate to this feeling.  Comparing ourselves to others can be even more debilitating, but in my own recovery, I have realized something incredibly significant in my own insignificance.  I only have to change one thing in order to change everything… The one thing is my perspective.  The everything is me. 

By doing the hard work it takes to face the mirror in my addiction, and by changing my alcoholic behaviors, I have indeed assisted the universe in its overall balance.  We forget that everything is connected.  We walk around as if we are separate from the person walking across the street, yet we need to remember that we are all on this grid together.  I’m not talking about the manmade grid that keeps track of everyone’s social security numbers.  I’m talking about the universal grid.  How many times does a coincidence remind you that there are greater forces at work here, than what your senses are aware of at any given time, and that these forces are working toward your well-being?  This is a symbiotic world we live in.  When we become sober, things begin happening.  Little “miracles” in our lives indicate that we are on the right track.   

The whole time I was concerned about the rest of the world, I completely disregarded myself.  I was the one who needed to do something about my own suffering.  My state of being is the only thing I have real control over.  In turn, might my own awareness and inner joy be a light to those around me?  It’s such a simple solution to a seemingly gigantic problem.  Keep plugging forward in your recovery, and leave the burdens of the rest of the world to your higher power.  There will come a time when you will be able to reach out to others, but not before you are centered in your own sobriety.  By that time, it won’t seem so over-whelming because the clarity will be coming in strong, and you’ll be focused on your own corner of the universe.  You’ll begin to realize that you were the one who needed make the difference by re-aligning with your soul. 

One by one, we can all flick on the inner light.  It may take centuries for the world to become a better place, but once your light is switched on, you won’t be so concerned about the rest of the world.  You’ll realize that your inner joy is like its own sun in the solar system of your surrounding universe.  Your sobriety makes a huge difference in this world.  Change everything by changing one thing.  The one thing is your perspective, and the everything is YOU.

 

How Distractions Affect My Recovery

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If I’m running a race to win, and I step off course when I hear a commotion to my left, what are the chances that I’m going to win that race?  Exactly.  In my eighteen years of being an addict, my main focus was getting myself to a place where I felt better.  It was a bit ludicrous, considering that most of the time I drank or used to the point of feeling like shit, but it was my daily goal to get out of my own uncomfortable skin.  If I could accomplish this, then I was winning, as pathetically as Charlie Sheen.  When winning began feeling like I was failing, I had to make a change.  Eventually I had to quit running, because I was no longer ahead.

In a world filled with entertainment and people diagnosed with ADHD, it’s no surprise that recovery becomes low on the totem pole of things to do each day, but we’ve got to remember when we used to place everything on the line in order to remain high.  It’s no different in our sobriety.  Every day must begin with an intent to remain sober, no matter what comes our way and which direction we are tempted to go.  Recovery must be at the forefront of our minds, exactly like when we needed that fix.  It’s like being on the opposite side of the pendulum in order to discover balance in our lives.

It may seem tedious and a bit boring to have to focus on recovery each day, but what other choice do we have?  If you’re going to win this race, and overcome your addiction, you’ve got to stay on top of your game.  Do whatever it takes to remain sober today, and don’t get distracted from this mindset.  Allow your recovery to become the foundational pavement in this lifelong race you run.  And run it to win!

Enlightening Up After Breaking-Up (A new book by J.L. Forbes available on Kindle)

Enlightening Up Cover

http://www.amazon.com/Enlightening-After-Breaking-Up-Transcending-Heartache-ebook/dp/B00IHSWZMI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392909575&sr=8-1&keywords=enlightening+up+after+breaking+up