Learning to Trust Myself

Image

Like many people who have grown up within the walls of religion, I was taught that I should be listening to the voice of God, which was so obscure, while the noise of my mind was loud and clear.  I was taught that Satan was always at my heels trying to get me to do everything wrong.  The thing that was never taught to me, was how my own body has it’s own voice, and my intuition is my inner-compass.  I feel like intuition is rejected in the church (at least the one I grew up in) and that we are taught that God is something outside of ourselves.  If I would have learned to trust my intuition early on in my childhood, rather than going outside of myself for answers, I’m certain that I wouldn’t have been so confused about my life, nor would I have condemned myself for making mistakes along the way.  If you teach a child that bad decisions derive from the devil, how does this translate when the child is learning to navigate in this world as a teenager, or an adult?  Guilt and condemnation shrouded me during the years when I should have been exploring myself and my environment without the fear of going to hell keeping me at bay.  It obviously didn’t work for me.

As a recovering adult, I spent my first year sober… scared of myself.  I think this is common.  When you spend most of your adult life self-destructing, and then you take the drug of choice away, it’s like removing a binky from a child.  There is a lot of fear involved with this, and the free time felt a bit like being blown in the wind without anything to anchor me down.  This is when support meant everything (it still does), and honesty became my constant companion (it still is).  Self-awareness is imperative because if I’m not privy to my own thoughts, how am I supposed to make good decisions?  My greatest desire during this time, was that I learned to trust myself.  If I could merely trust myself, then I was no longer left to fate, or balancing between the voice of God and the demise of the devil.  I discovered for myself in my addiction, that my own body is made up of both fear and freedom.  On a daily basis I have to choose between the two paths.  This understanding of the way things work is much more palatable to me then feeling like a helpless ragdoll sitting between good and evil in the whole scheme of my life.

Finally (nearly three years later) I’m in a place where I can actually hear myself clearly.  It took a lot of effort on my part to discover the difference from my own intuition, and the conditioning of my childhood.  I was my own greatest judge, and learned early on that curiosity was a bad thing.  Exploring myself and trusting in my own curiosity has proven to be a walk on the path of freedom, rather than scooting along in the demise of my own fear.  I ask myself a few questions before I make decisions now… “Will this harm me?  Will this ultimately harm another person?  What are my intentions here?”  If I’m clear on these three things, then I’m free to continue.  This way of maneuvering through my life has been an incredible path of self-discovery and one filled with joy.  I’m even aware if other people are there to bump me off course, teach me something along the way, or if they are along on my journey to learn something from me.  There is nothing more liberating than knowing where I’m standing after so many years of feeling completely lost.

It is easy to become discouraged when difficult things arise or when I’m presented with decisions that may change the course of my life, but the dynamic thing about this is that once I answer the three questions above, I’m free to move about my life in whichever direction I choose, without condemnations hovering over me.  Sometimes the choices presented are not about right or wrong; they are simply different experiences along the same path.  I know this now, so making decisions is no longer so daunting.  Whatever way I choose to go, I’m always supported and guided in some way, shape or form.  There is much less “wrong” and “right” than I ever imagined.  Life is simply a place of learning.  I feel like a child now, exploring the world around me.

We all go through life with fears, expectations, notions and influences.  I think of these things as skins that must be shed in order for us to be liberated in this lifetime.  I’m not afraid to walk through my fears, let go of my expectations, blow the lid off my notions, or disregard the influences of others if they no longer serve a purpose in my life.  If I can move past all this, then I have just discovered myself; the only person who is with me from my first breath until my last breath.  It’s pretty important that I get to know who I am during the course of my life, and that I’m able to trust myself while I’m here. 

We are all capable of letting go and trusting the inner voice of ourselves.  It never leads us wrong, and it sees beyond the five senses of the body.  It has a path it wants to take, and a purpose for being here.  I know this now, and I’m so incredibly grateful that recovery has given me more than I ever imagined.  It has brought me back to myself.

 

The Benefits of Sitting Quietly with Ourselves and… Our Anger

Image

Details make up our conversations, and emotions fuel our responses, but how many of us take the time to actually step outside of the words we speak to feel, or to explore ourselves through the currents of our anger, or the vastness of our happiness?  How many of us have a relationship with ourselves, or love ourselves deeply enough to create space in this busy world to find out what it is we need and what drives us?  A bit of anger came up for me recently and I (of course) reacted (badly).  I was driven by a monster inside of me that wanted to claw its way through the likes of another, but when it did enough damage, it backed down and I was left sitting alone with myself.  Where does this derive from, I have to ask myself. 

Instead of judge the beast who ruled me that day, I sat beside her, figuratively placed an arm around her and allowed her to be part of my experience.  I am not perfect, and although I know a lot about spirituality, I’m not always a “spiritual” person.  I’m human, and I have human behaviors, human responses and human feelings.  This is important for me to accept about myself, otherwise my inner judge will overrule me, and I will not have the space to explore the beast.  It’s been a few weeks and the beast is sitting quietly, but she is still right beside me, simply waiting to be provoked.  She’s pretty full of herself, and her claws are sharp.  I wouldn’t mess with her if I was an outside party, but I’m the only one who has the power to control her, so instead of allowing her to lash out, I’m embracing her and gently reminding her that I’m aware of her presence.  She’s been with me for a very long time and I’m going to finally take the time to face her.

It seems that everyone in my life right now is pointing me to my beast (the anger).  Well, not everyone.  I have two children and a few co-workers who haven’t provoked the beast at all.  It’s like I’m surrounded by both ultimate acceptance and harsh judgments.  I suppose this is an organic reflection of what’s going on within me.  I’m dealing with accepting myself, and judging myself here.  I could reprimand the beast and question her… “What are you still doing here?  I thought I dealt with you?  You don’t belong with me.  You are screwing up my peace… etc,” or I can enter this darkness within myself and realize that it is yearning for exploration.  The ones revealing this beast to me (the provokers) are my greatest advocates (on a soul level).  On a physical level, they don’t even know how important their role is in my life, or perhaps they do… what do I know?

What I do know is that I don’t reject this part of me.  Instead of block her out, pretend she isn’t here, distract myself, or lash out at the people reflecting her to me, I’m asking her questions.  I’m discovering her place in my life.  I’m allowing her presence to overcome me once in a while without reacting.  I’m feeling the hurt that comes up as I allow her to overcome me.  You see, she has more depth than I realize.  She is full of fear and in order to protect herself, she masks herself with fangs and claws.  Beyond this, however, she is merely a vapor of fear that I have never taken the time to face.

This is so deep… tell me about it.  But what I’ve realized in my sobriety, is that having a relationship with myself is so incredibly dynamic and liberating.  If I’m walking around the planet in a state of confusion, or without awareness of myself, then I am setting myself up to self-destruct in the midst of my anger, because this is what I’m accustomed to doing.  We all play a role in each other’s spiritual development, but how many of us sit with ourselves and take the time to acknowledge what everything means on a soul level?  How many of us give ourselves compassion when we are feeling afraid?  Or do we harshly judge ourselves for being completely human?  If you are judging, then you are stifling a beautiful and natural process called healing. 

I’m holding hands with my beast because she is part of me, and I don’t want to reject her anymore.  She obviously has a voice (a pretty loud and sarcastic one at that), and she desires my full attention.  Instead of distract myself from her, I’m regarding her.  It doesn’t matter to me how long she hangs out.  She is a guest in my home right now, and we’re finally getting to know one another.  She is actually pretty harmless when I give her the space to breathe instead of the ignorance of reaction.  She makes me feel extremely uncomfortable at times; agitated and raw.  She irritates me, and makes me feel weary, but if I don’t finally give her my full attention, she is going to have her way with me for the remainder of my life, like a neglected child who raises havoc when least expected. 

I’m angry.  There, I said it.  But this is not who I am.  I run deeper.  The anger is merely a fragment, like a prism of light reflecting something that needs to be recognized in order to be set free.  If it’s fear that I’m harboring, then it’s time I walk through it, and when I’ve finally overcome this fear, I will gladly thank the people in my life who have given me the organic mirror to face this longtime passenger on my journey.

Discovering My Balance in the Midst of Chaos

Image

During a “getting caught up” phone call with a good friend last night, I was giving her the scoop on all the craziness currently surrounding me.  I am definitely going through something, but I’m not feeling out of control.  I laughed when she said it sounds like I’m really handling everything well.  “Perhaps,” I replied, “But I feel like I’m on the awkward side of clumsy through all of this.”  She described a perfect image of one of those wobbly dolls bearing a weight in its center.  The doll moves around, but never losses its balance.  Yeah, that’s about right. 

Image  This is me right now, and I know we’ve all been here.  It’s not exactly my world that is caving in, but I’m standing in the middle of something that feels like a mild hurricane.  Things are getting thrown at me from several directions, and people are challenging me without even knowing they are doing it.  It’s part of their role in my life right now.  I’m being provoked because I’ve been desiring to become more independent and I’m desperately trying to listen to my own inner voice, which often gets eclipsed by the needs and wants of others.  How many times in my life have I disconnected from my own self in order to please another person, or to win over their approval?  How many times have I compromised my own values so that I feel safe, instead of stand strong and trust that I will be provided for when I follow the right path?  Too many times to count, and I’m not doing it anymore.  I may be wobbly in thought, but I’m not being pulled by someone else’s idea of what is right for me.  And then there’s the question nagging inside of me… Am I being to stubborn, or too selfish?  This is when the wobbling begins.  I often doubt myself because I haven’t had a lot of practice listening and following my own inner voice.  The outside voices are louder and some of the choices I’m offered to make, appear more cushy and safe than me trying to stand on my own two feet for once. 

But then I recall my past, when I did make those cushy and safe choices in my life.  Where did I end up?  Oh, that’s right… DRUNK.  The further I get away from myself, the closer I am to picking up a drink to drown out the calling of my soul.  I have this really assertive soul, you see, that does not rest.  It beckons me like a beacon light… I’m telling you.  It’s like it came here to accomplish specific things and when I stray away from my path, I’m insanely unhappy.  I realize I may be different from a lot of people, and perhaps no one can relate to me here, but this is what I deal with in my life.  I’m clear about my path, and sometimes I’ve got to stand up for myself when other people are telling me which direction to take, because they are not living inside my body.  They don’t know what I need.  Only I know this.  “To thyself be true.”  Someone wise said this.  I’m pretty certain he was a fellow writer… 

I’m still coming off as rebellious and perhaps a little immature, but it’s my inner child screaming to break free this time around.  I never let that little one have her way while I was growing up.  I shut her down and oppressed her.  To quiet her, I poured drinks inside my body and took drugs.  Now she is free, and I’m unaccustomed to allowing her to lead the way.  I’m giving her a voice now, but she’s undeveloped and sometimes stomps her foot and throws little tantrums while my adult-self is lost in the shadows of her zeal for life. As a whole,  I am still breaking free from the restraints of my childhood, and I’m not perfect at this endeavor.  But for once in my life, I am not afraid.  I do not fear walking along the right path.  I may offend some, ignore others, and bark up the wrong trees at times, but I think of this as my soul learning how to navigate through the noise of other people.  From the outside it may appear that I’m a little off-balance, but from within (from this perspective), I’m becoming aware of my place here.  This is nothing short of a miracle. 

I’m discovering that by taking a chance and allowing my voice to be heard for once, I’m offering myself unto the judgment of others.  I also hear my own inner judge, but I’m not letting her rule this time around.  There is a little word I heard about in treatment, called compassion.  I’m giving myself compassion right now.  I’m not perfect.  I’m still on the awkward side of clumsy, but I’m ok with this.  I have been in much more compromising positions in my life than this… in front of the whole world (literally), and I suppose this is why I don’t have a problem with judgment any longer.  People judge.  This is the nature of humanity.

As I walk into the chaos surrounding me today, I’m just going to wobble my way through, and trust that inner weight of my soul has the courage to keep me centered.  I’m not allowing the world to sway me from this awkward balance of mine.  Pretty soon, I will be more like a sturdy oak tree with arms extending out into the world so that I can help others like me.  But for now, I will be the little wobbly doll, and I am absolutely ok with it, because at least I am not drinking.  This is why I consider my chaotic life an absolute victory.

How Long Will the Cravings Last?

Image

The obsession to drink and use can become so overwhelming in early recovery, that we give in just to stop the noise of our minds.  I recall a desperate time of my addiction when I was in a constant battle with myself.  More than anything, I wanted to quit drinking, but my thirsty addict-self was a monster inside me, breathing down my neck in repulsion of my weak sobriety.  For me, it took getting into a treatment program to save me from that monster, but many people tackle the beast by simply getting a sponsor and working an honest program, or by recognizing the voice of the addict and not giving in to its desire to use.  As a chronic relapser, my monster was well groomed by the end of my drinking.  It knew if it became loud enough, I would do whatever it took to get it a drink.  This was how the beast grew and overwhelmed me in the end.

In treatment, I spent six months with a mindset that I was never going to have a drink while I was in there.  I had no money, no friends or family nearby, and no transportation.  Leaving the facility would be a shot in the dark to nurture the beast, so he remained silent, but when I left the program to enter the real world, I would face the greatest challenge of my life.  You see, the beast was growing inside of me all of those months, and now I was dealing with a terrorizing bully inside of me. He arose when I was at my weakest, and he caught me off-guard.  

It was about seven months after treatment… one year and three months into sobriety, when the bully shadowed everything I learned in recovery.  He was not backing down while I was emotionally grieving for the first time since I left the doors of the treatment center.  The monster was so loud, it eclipsed my instincts to call a sober friend, or to go to a meeting.  I was alone and it had me captive, so there I was face to face with my addict-self, and it was winning, but suddenly I whispered something that saved my life, “God, please help me right now.  Please help.”  My body was shaking as I thought about buying a pint of vodka, knowing exactly which liquor store I would make the purchase, and as I salivated for that warm buzz.  Nothing was about to stop me, but when I whispered those words, I grabbed my backpack and ran; not to the liquor store, but right up the Berkeley Hills where the treatment facility was located.  I walked into the sacred place and slid down into a wooden bench in front of the front desk where one of my closest peers just happened to be working that day.  I melted into tears and told on myself, “I was just about to drink…” 

I spent the remainder of the day inside that facility, joining my peers in groups and telling the woman what it felt like to be defeated by my emotions.  I spoke to a couple of counsellors and went home feeling both drained and victorious.  I had never overcome a craving of that magnitude, and it was empowering.  What I didn’t know was that I was well on my way to defeating that beast inside of me.  My cravings are far and few in-between these days, and they certainly don’t last very long when I stay with them and allow them to be part of my experience, without giving in to their greed for my sanity. 

I’ve been sober for two years, eleven months and four days.  The obsession to drink is far removed, but I’m not going to lie and say that I have won this battle.  Just a few months ago I was side-swiped with devastating news and the first thing I wanted to do was buy a bottle of vodka.  This came out of nowhere.  Sometimes I can go months and deal with many emotional upswings and downswings without thinking about alcohol, but once in a great while, it will overcome me, and usually when it’s least expected.  I think of recovery as a practice of NOT DRINKING.  Every time I move through a craving without picking up, I’m exercising my sober-self, and my beast is finally backing down.   

What keeps me from taking a drink these days is the self-respect I feel, the love I have for myself, and knowing that taking a drink will not solve anything.  It will set me back and I do not want to feel like a failure.  I have never felt so good about who I am, where I’m going and my sobriety.  I’m simply happy and life is so much easier without an addiction to battle.  

Although I can’t give you an exact day when the obsession to drink and use will diminish, I can tell you that the more you practice NOT using, the stronger you will become.  And it certainly gets easier as time goes on.  Think of the cravings as the treacherous road you must travel in order to get to your destination.  Allow them to overcome your body once in a while, knowing that this road is temporary on your long term journey.  The cravings won’t last more than a few hours, and usually they diminish within an hour.  Sometimes we’ve got to walk through the fire to get to the oasis.  Don’t let the beast take over your soul.  It is your battle to win, and you are strong enough to claim your victory.  Discover this for yourself; it is incredibly empowering!

http://www.amazon.com/THE-DEVILS-ALTAR-Dynamic-Recovery-ebook/dp/B00FO72854/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395671279&sr=8-1-fkmr1&keywords=the+devil%27s+altar+by+J.+L.+Forbes

A New Season for New Beginnings

Image

As I sit behind my desk enjoying the twilight view from my window, I’m refreshed to know that when the sun finally makes its appearance this morning… it’s officially spring.  I’m grateful to embark upon a new season.  I noticed it yesterday while driving through my oak tree adorned neighborhood.  I don’t exactly know when it occurred, but leaves have replaced the stark and barren branches of the sprawling, giant trees.  Squirrels scurry, not looking for nuts to bury, but in a playful fashion; suggesting they too, are enjoying the fertile grounds.  Lately I’m waking up to the songs of swallows rather than the hollow squawks of crows.  It’s time to spread out my arms and embrace the luscious beauty surrounding me, and to enjoy evening walks again as the gracious sun remains above the backdrop of rolling hills in the west.

Spring is such a glorious reminder from the universe, isn’t it?  A reminder that we are generously and continuously offered new beginnings.  A reminder that most things (like dreadful winters) are not eternal.  A reminder that after a cold and damp darkness, sunlight does return.  A reminder that it doesn’t matter how desolate the earth seems during winter; the flowers will always re-bloom and green fields will replace the naked land.  It’s the natural order of things, and this applies to the inner workings of life as well… “As above, so below.”   We as human beings, are part of nature, and have an innate ability to rebalance and grow throughout our lives.  Nothing we feel is eternal, but without the darkness, would we even recognize or appreciate light?

Contrast is the soul’s way of remembering.  Without a dense and dark playground, such as the physical realm our earth provides, our souls have no way to explore and discover it’s own innate wholeness.  It is during our darkest hours that we learn our greatest lessons; and as we return to our natural state of joy after such harrowing experiences, we are awakened to this wholeness of ourselves.  It is a constant cycle of humanity.  Individually we all must experience these cycles and allow them to be, without meddling with the flow and order of things.  In our addiction, we were meddling, but in our recovery, we are discovering that life effortlessly unfolds before us, like a celestial path of self-exploration.  Resistance of this path creates turmoil, like a brutal winter storm we must endure until we finally surrender to our experiences, realizing that all is actually well.  Everything harsh passes, and if we don’t resist the occurrences, we emerge with great insight; like a blooming garden after a callous winter.

For those who think you have too much work to do before you can experience an internal spring, stop telling yourself this.  You can begin a new season with where you are right now.  The universe is waiting on you to be present so that it can abundantly provide you with everything you need to recover.  This is not the land of punishment; this is simply the soul’s playground.  Once you understand the physical realm in this manner, nothing you face will deem impossible, or even difficult to overcome.  It is simply an obstacle course in support of your spiritual growth. 

Ah… the sun has finally illuminated the green hills in the west, and the sky is mellow blue with a slight marine layer offering beautiful contrast.  I’m grateful to embark upon a new season.  It’s a reminder that I can begin a new season in my own life… this very moment.

If you would like more information on the soul’s dynamic journey through recovery, here is a link to my memoir:

http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Altar-Dynamic-Journey-Recovery/dp/1492957798/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395325580&sr=1-1&keywords=the+devil%27s+altar

And if you own a Kindle, you can download it for 0.99 http://www.amazon.com/DEVILS-ALTAR-Dynamic-Journey-Recovery-ebook/dp/B00FO72854/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395326763&sr=1-1&keywords=the+devil%27s+altar+in

Don’t Worry. About a Thing…

Image

Just recently I was able to introduce my eleven year old daughter to Bob Marley.  This was a proud day for me to share with her;  playing music with her that has brought me great joy since I was a kid.  While we discussed his music and his message of hope, she recognized the song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”  Of course she did!  Who doesn’t find themselves smiling, singing, movin’ and groovin’ to this simple tune every now and then?  It simply resonates with our souls.  Generations have grown up to these simple and sacred words.  This song was destined to be written.  It was already in the stars awaiting formation when good ole’ Mr. Marley came along and took the grand opportunity to embrace the universe with his music.

It applies to everything doesn’t it?  Yesterday I was talking to a friend in jail who is awaiting his destiny via the judge.  He’s been sitting there for months while the court takes their sweet time to give him a “yay” or “nay” on rehabilitation versus a pretty wretched prison sentence.  I know he’s antsy and nervous about the whole thing, but he is safe right now, off the streets and sober.  Although it’s not the ideal setting to be behind bars, there are three meals a day, a place to sleep, and showers.  Many people don’t even have the luxury of a warm place to sleep.  Even more people are starving everyday.  I don’t mean to downplay my friends anguish, but when I was in rehab for my alcoholism, embraced by the walls of an institution, I thanked God everyday that I was still alive, and that I could still feel joy even if it was through the likes of a small thing like being able to sleep through a night with covers to keep me warm.  I was humbled in that place of refuge, and brought face to face with the fact that life isn’t about what you have, who you know, or your social status.  When these precious things are ruthlessly removed from our lives, we quickly discover that we are still here.  We don’t fade out, or disappear when our world comes crashing down.  On the contrary… we are quite THERE and vibrantly alive in our rawness and humiliation, and we are closer to God or our Higher Power, than we have ever been.

Some of us have wandered around in life with everything, still vacant inside from a lack of a higher power.  We asked God to show up, and when this occurs, it’s usually not in the form of a burning bush.  No, we usually discover God in a place of humility, often followed by significant pain and sorrow.  When we are stripped of the things that we made out to be so important, we have nothing left except for ourselves.  It is then that we become fully aware of our completeness in this place of ultimate surrender.  Some of us keep our arrogance even after the fact, but this is merely an image too, and once this is finally shed, we discover our wholeness underneath all the masks we uphold to obscure our beautiful vulnerability.

What does any of this have to do with Bob Marley?  It’s his powerful message that speaks to our souls.  “Don’t worry.  About a thing.  Cause’ every little thing is going to be alright…”  Whether you are just becoming sober for the very first time, or recovering from an awful relapse, no matter what you encounter in your life; when you come to a place of total surrender, you are immediately safe.  Humility is the universe’s way of getting our attention and reminding us that we are naturally taken care of.  We don’t have to be in charge nor should we sweat anything, because everything we need is already set in motion.  All the goodness we desire, is simply awaiting our acceptance, but we need to get out of our own way in order for the good to arrive.  This is such a beautiful place to be, no matter where it occurs, because it is a place of total acceptance of all that is.  When we are in this place, there is no need to worry about a thing.  I think this is what Mr. Marley was divinely conveying to us through lyrics about three little birds. You see, they are free, and in harmony, because they trust all that was given to them without interfering with the natural flow of things. In the eyes of God, are we not more important than the birds? Exactly.

“Don’t worry.  About a thing…. Cause’ every little thing is gonna be alright!” What an empowering place to be!

How to Deal With Boredom in Sobriety

Image

This is dedicated to the “newcomers” in sobriety who are biting their nails, pulling their hair out and wondering when the hell this recovery thing starts feeling good.  I KNOW the feeling of boredom.  It felt eternal, and awful.  If drinking wasn’t sending me on such a downward spiral, I would have had a drink, but I had no choice… I HAD to stay sober.  And the first time around, it felt like I was looking at life through a dirty windshield, locked in my car with my windows rolled up on a hot summer day… without air conditioning.  I was sitting in endless traffic (figuratively speaking of course), and the only thing that could have been worse, is if I was walking uphill through the hottest desert in the world wearing a wool turtle neck sweater.  YES, the feeling of being bored in early sobriety is suffocating and yes, it feels endless, but I SWEAR to you, that this will all pass.  If you just hang in there, and keep going to meetings for your own sanity, you will slowly start to feel the wind against your face again, and life will ease up. 

Most of us go through this knowing that it sucks balls, but it will pass.  Deep down we know this is something we have to go through in order to recover, but often we need to be reminded that boredom is simply par for the course to eternal sobriety.  In our addiction, the last thing we ever did was sit still when we were bored, but now we have nothing to grab onto, so we suffer through this.  You do not have to suffer for long.  For me, this dirty windshield view of life lasted about a month, and I attribute that to all the chemicals in my body being completely screwed up from my alcoholism.  For others, it may not take this long, and for some, it may take longer.  It all depends on if you’re resisting the experience, or embracing it for what it is.  All this boredom is, is simply your body, mind and spirit rebalancing without a drink or a drug.  Balance is always occurring, so allow this hellish experience to overcome you for the time that it takes, and remind yourself that it will pass by hanging out with others who are actually happy in their sobriety.  Most people are, because life sober, is a gazillion times better than life as an addict.  It’s so much more simple, and you will begin enjoying things that you least expected to make you happy.  Instead of HIGH’s followed by intense LOWs, you will level out and see the world my more clearly.  Just hang in there, please.

Sit with the discomfort.  Welcome it into your experience.  Trust that it is just a passerby who will soon flee when you stop trying to control how you feel.  Anger will arise, and possibly a bit of grief.  You will feel restless and moody, but these short-term feelings are merely guests whom you need to make acquaintances with for the time being.  They are not eternal guests in your sober house.  If this was the case, none of us would remain sober.  We wouldn’t have the desire to remain sober if it sucked like this eternally. 

Get curious about yourself and imagine that you are embarking on a journey.  There will be rough mountains to climb, heavy storm clouds, and days of desert monotony, but the amazing view is just ahead, and this is what you’re aiming for.  Keep moving forward and know that you are exactly where you need to be today.  Hang in there, my friend… this boredom will surely pass.

 

What Does it Mean to Get Out of My Own Way?

Image

The constant conundrum of addiction: HOW TO GET OUT OF MY OWN WAY.  What does THIS MEAN?!  If I knew what the hell it meant, I would have GLADY moved out of my own way several years ago, but it was the biggest mystery of my life.  Of course I knew I kept messing things up and destroying my life.  If not completely destroying, I was always a hair follicle away from the edge, but what was this self-destructive factor that I needed to remove?  It’s like a blind spot.  I drew a complete blank when I was faced with the idea of “getting out of my own way.”

Perhaps I’m a little slower than others, or maybe I over-analyze, but when I finally began getting out of my own way, it was through the saying, “Do the next right thing.”  This little ditty was a damn life-saver for me.  It was like someone finally threw me a bone and gave me something to chew on.  Doing the next right thing became a tape I played in my head at all times, yet still, I had no clue that this was the simple answer to my enormous problem. 

Doing the next right thing is valuable.  It’s NOT picking up a drink or drug under any circumstance, because that would be the WRONG thing to do.  It’s NOT being an asshole when I’m angry.  It’s NOT putting myself first above others.  It’s NOT manipulating, lying, running from life, or trying to be in control of everything.  Doing the next right thing is basically telling my addict mind to take a flippin’ hike, while my soul leads the way.  This keeps me out of trouble, and helps me stay present.  It gives me the ability to take a step back from my reactive thoughts, and to make better decisions.  What a phenomenon! 

They say that most addicts are intelligent… PSHHHH!  Why do such simple concepts boggle our minds? 

Most human beings try too hard, and most addicts think way too much.  We are in our heads more often than not, and when it comes to moving down into our emotions, we would rather go down into the bottom of a liquor bottle, or into a baggie (depending on what kind of addict you are).  It’s equivalent to telling a fish to spend a day on land.  FEELING to us, is foreign.  Thinking is what we do best, but obviously the result is dismal.  So instead of forcing myself to drop down into my emotional body all the time, I’m whispering to myself, “Just do the next right thing.”  This is the quickest way to become humble and to get back down to earth, out of the demise of my addict mind.  There are no reactive actions, no dramatic Jerry Springer moments, and no destructive behaviors with this. 

We all like quick fixes… well, here’s the greatest quick fix there is…. DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING.  Be aware of what you are about to do in any situation, and immediately switch it up with this shot of reality.  And if you’ve already stepped into a messy situation due to anger, or just out of habit, it’s not too late to stop yourself from going further into the drama… simply DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING, my friend.  That’s what I’m doing today… before I self-destruct!

Man, There Are So Many of Us in the Reformed Drunk Club

Comradery
The one good thing about being a drunk, is that we are not alone.  There was always a poor sap around to join me at the bar; to help me feel better about myself for loving the booze to the point of no return.  Laughter and tears were dramatically shared between me and whatever current drinking buddy was keeping me company at any given time, but the day came when my drinking was done in solitude, laughter was terribly amiss, and tears morphed into an eternal plea for death.  I was desperately alone at the end of my drinking, and no one knew how to help me, so it was up to me, which left me to my own demise.  If it wouldn’t have been for my cry aloud for help, I don’t know if I would be here today, thoroughly writing about my recovery.

Entering into a detox facility, where everyone had at least one thing in common, was alleviating during the first moments of dread and fear.  The tremors, terrors, cold sweats and anxiety didn’t overwhelm me so much when I suffered along with others who completely understood the inner hollows of addiction that raped me of my self-worth.  We were chained to our drugs of choice, but we were there to maybe find a way out.  At that point, I was determined, and willing.  I surrendered in the cold dorm room of the institution and made a decision to turn my life over to my higher power… completely this time.

It doesn’t matter where I go in the world today; I’m pretty much guaranteed that there are others like me there.  Every job I’ve taken, most parties I’ve gone to, and in just about every crowd, there is another reformed drunk who is more than willing to be a friend, if even for the moment.  It’s a camaraderie we have in the rooms, which trickles out into the world.  We are not alone, and this is how we do this thing… this living sober thing.

I love you guys, man.  I love it that you overcame something that most “normies” would probably take their lives over.  I love it that you have the strength of a super hero, the courage of a warrior, and the willingness of a champion.  There is nothing like a reformed addict.  We are the salt of the earth if you ask me.  We have been through the fire (willingly), and suddenly discovered a dynamic purpose for our lives, even if that purpose was simply to live.  We climbed out of the pits of hell with every morsel of self-worth remaining in our drunken bodies, deciding once and for all, that we had a choice in the matter.  We are not like the Jone’s, or the Smiths.  We do not blend in with the masses.  We are the ones on the sidelines, standing atop the mountains, who broke through the sleepy masses.  We were heedlessly handed a death card, carried it around like it was our destiny, and then one day we discovered that it was ok to lay it down and walk away into the land of freedom.

There are so many of us in the reformed drunk club.  I am one of them.  You are one of them.  Within your circle, there is another.  We are a force to be reckoned with, and we help one another.  We laugh together and cry with one another. We are a team, a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a godsend of people who know what it’s like to wallow in the depths of hell, and then to shout out… VICTORY!

Recovery is Doing the Opposite of What We Know

Image

Waking up with a mindset that today is another one without a drink, was kind of like changing sides of the bed and wearing someone else’s shoes in the beginning of my recovery.  Facing my problems after running away from them like a train was always at my heels, is strangely relieving, and feeling my emotions as opposed to altering them, has woken me up to the fact that I am susceptible to being moved in life, rather than feeling numb all the time.  All the discomfort in the beginning of my sobriety has shifted to curiosity.  At age 38.5, I’m still learning how to navigate through my days as if I were a child.  It’s kind of incredible, and somewhat embarrassing that I’m a little bit behind most people in their late thirties.  Perhaps I’m just telling myself this, however.  I know a lot of “normies” my age who are still confused as ever.

I’ve learned that I’m either living in the emotion of fear, or the emotion of love.  There is no in between when you get right down to it.  And fear is simply an arrow pointing me into the right direction (most of the time).  If I’m scared to do something, out of insecurity or pride, but I know it’s something I need to do, then by all means… I must go forth.  Most of the time, I’m creating a monster out of a mouse, and it’s important for me to know this about myself today.  How many monsters have I created throughout my life, which were simply guiding posts into my own liberation?  I’m thinking about the times I wanted to quit drinking, yet I feared my life without a drink.  How miserable would I be living like a Quaker in a world filled with partiers?  When I finally faced that fear, I was surprised to discover the immense clarity I received, and the excitement of getting to know myself on a much deeper level.  Most people aren’t walking around drunk or high all the time.  This was news to me.  I didn’t know how people functioned in the world without a substance to keep them happy.  This was all a delusion in my own mind.

I used to wake up feeling horrible, longing for something to make me feel better.  I got out of bed late, stumbled around confused and barely made it into work wearing a fake smile across my bloated face.  If there was any drama going on, I was usually the center of it, and if there was trouble lurking, I was drawn in like a fly toward dung.  It was ridiculous how I was flung around in life instead of standing tall and walking in complete awareness of where I was going.  This is how my own recovery has changed things up for me.  I’m CLEAR now.  I don’t need all the drama or the nonsense, which was simply a means for excitement when I felt so damn empty inside. 

In sobriety, it’s like we shed old skins which used to feel so comfortable while we were using.  They no longer serve us now.  We don’t need to pretend to be something we’re not, or fake being sober.  We don’t need to create diversions so that people don’t catch onto our antics.  We don’t need to create soap operas out of daily endeavors.  We simply learn to BE, like a tree standing firm in the vast field of life.  We can take it all in now, rather than lashing out at the world.  All that craziness we thought was occurring, was really just a delusion in our minds.  We made monsters out of thin air… remember those times? 

Today when I’m feeling anything, I just feel it as it comes.  When I’m confronted with life, I really try to face it rather than run away.  When things hurt, I allow the pain to overcome me.  There is something incredibly beautiful about being able to take it all in now, rather than batting it away.  Even in moments of monotony, I enjoy the realization that I don’t have to drink or use over anything anymore.  It’s so liberating to not be shackled to the bottle… wouldn’t you agree? 

For me, recovery has been like flying after several years of drowning.  I’m getting to see the world from a much broader point of view.  It’s fascinating and a little bit scary, but it’s so worth walking through all the fear to discover life is simply an experience.  It’s not a monster, or an impending train at my heels.  It’s not that bad, actually.  In recovery, it may feel awkward in the beginning, but keep marching on.  It DOES become easier.  It certainly FEELS better.  And it is so much more exciting! You don’t ever have to use or take a drink again. You really don’t… and neither do I.