Excerpt from ‘Presage in a Bottle,’ by J. L. Forbes

Presage

Twice in my life I nearly drowned in the undercurrent of the ocean. Both times I was caught off-guard by waves of mass erosion sucking and folding me into the lethal body of water like a listless rag-doll. In milliseconds, the shoreline morphed from beauty to beast; first fulfilling my soul, then virtually robbing me of my young life. One of those times, my head crashed into the seaboard. I spun mercilessly inside the rifting tide, which harshly indicated my own vicinity between the water and the land beyond the whirlwind. I was lucky to hit my head regardless of the pain and shock. I dizzily anchored my knees and palms into the sandy floor, offering me enough leverage to stand and save myself. Both of those perilous times, I was dragged, hurled, slammed, twisted and regurgitated. I panicked in the terror of death’s taunt each time, and was instantly alleviated when my pleading lungs sucked in air instead of salt water.

Years later I dreamed of saving a drowning baby girl from a ravage river. Saving her almost took my own life. I pulled her in from the back of a moving speed boat; painfully gripping the wooden swim step with one hand while pulling her out of the river with the other. She was going to die if I didn’t use every fragment of my own strength to rescue her. My heroine tactics sufficed. The girl was brought to surface and survived. She was an infant. I lifted her, handed her over to the people aboard the boat, and then pulled myself to safety.

Upon awakening I knew exactly what the dream meant, although it would be several years before I took heed and followed the path of my heroine self. I fervently remained a drowning child in the hollows of alcoholic bottles and benders with every intention of dying drunk. At the end of my drinking I didn’t care about living. Problem was, I could not drink enough to die. At the end of every bottle and blackout, I found myself awake in the same world I was trying to drown myself out of. Each time I should have died, I awoke in a hospital attached to needles pumping liquid life into me. Goddammit I wanted to remain asleep. Where is my Vodka?

Washing up into a detox facility was me finally saving myself. It was my decision to go. Still drunk from several days of heavy boozing, I was stained with urine, bruised from tumbling on sidewalks and streets, scratched all over from trying to sleep in bushes believing it would be a great place to hide from my desperately searching husband. My right knee was inflated with fluid from clumsy collapses. My palms scraped and bloodstained; face, stomach, feet and fingers swollen with liquor, skin dehydrated and taut, eyes bloodshot and expressive of exhaustion, terror and humiliation. Facing myself in the mirror was seeing an enigma of myself. Who is this lost girl? Where am I?

Cherry Hill Detox felt like shore to me after many nights of drifting out at sea. Even the dry ham sandwiches and watered down tea were satisfactory, as well as the thin plastic mattresses and ongoing commotions from people suffering in withdrawal. Their horror was all too familiar. Sometimes I laughed in sinister appreciation, but mostly I related and empathized in quiet agony and sadness. Opiate detox is excruciating and messy. I’d been in their sweaty sheets a few times when I’d swapped alcohol for pharmaceuticals in a shallow and brief attempt at sobriety. Before my own alcohol wore off during the first night in the facility, I observed what was ahead for me in the likes of other addicts; my hopeless brothers and sisters. What should have been disturbing felt harmonious in comparison to the drunken awfulness of passing out alone in the back seat of my car, or in vacant fields where I always hoped to wake up before being discovered by someone who would overreact at the norms of an everyday drunk.

A presage is a foreboding of things to come. Negative things. An omen of sorts. It isn’t a word I even knew while facing my alcoholism in the end, but you don’t have to know fancy words in order to make intuitive decisions. Intuition does not require any thinking or logistics. It’s a simple knowing of things to come and which direction to follow. Both intuitively and cognitively I knew my ass needed serious help. I had been identifying myself as an alcoholic for seven years by this time.

The morning I went into detox, I was so frightened of my self-destructive behavior, that I completely embraced everything that resulted after walking through those clinical double glass doors. I was in a state of complete surrender, and this is where one needs to be in order to recover. It’s really the bottom line. Surrendering is the foundation of true recovery. And the surrender must be eternal. There is no wavering here. There is no taking back the reigns. You are fucked if you think you get to ever be in control again. When I say “fucked,” I mean, rock bottom becomes a deeper and denser pit. This pit is muddied with terror and self-deprivation. Once you start sliding down that pit, there is less and less in this world, and of yourself, to grab a hold of. Once a person has given up on themselves, all hope dissipates into the wasteland of their own disgrace.

This was the presage in my bottle. The emptiness of every dry liquor container mirrored my internal state of desolation. I knew what was at the end of every bottle. It was more disconnection from who I was, and all of the dreams I ever had for myself, which were many. It was despair beyond measure. No matter the size of my bottle (a half pint, a pint, a fifth, or a five-bottle box of cheap wine), there was never enough. Never enough booze to wet the desert inside of me. It wasn’t even numbing me out anymore. It was scaring me and sucking the life out of me, yet it wasn’t killing me.

I would eventually cry. Tears would come in ample time, but now I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings. Relief and the need for survival in this rancid place dammed my frolicking emotions; parting them from the single particle of sanity burrowed in like a calcified gem within the twisted and haunted confines of my mind. You dare not mix one last morsel of sanity with ravaging emotions. In inconsiderate monstrosity, emotion shall devour sanity.

There really is no diversity in addiction when I think about it now. There is no skin color, fat, thin, tall, short or intellectual vs. idiot. The only difference between us is what drug we abuse the most. Even that doesn’t matter because real addicts only care about one thing and one thing only – where their next hit is coming from. We all relate and empathize with one another on that wretched level. There is a safe and harrowing bond between us all.

(Coming soon to Amazon)

http://www.amazon.com/J.-L.-Forbes/e/B00HS980ZI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1426859153&sr=1-1

What Path of Treatment is Best for You?

Path toward Mt. Tam

Each time I go to an AA meeting with a speaker who says they got sober in AA, and they have several years sober because of AA, and they are living it up (thanks to AA) – I stir in my seat.  AA works for a lot of people.  That rigorous honesty thing and sponsorship is the answer for many.  It also doesn’t work for many because some of us are too clever for our own good.  I remember often wanting a drink after some of those meetings.  It takes a willingness beyond the desire to drink in order to do the work and to surround yourself with people who can support you along the way.  It takes discipline, and that’s a word I couldn’t relate to back then.

When I first started going to AA, I had no idea how self-centered I was, and I was one of those who worked my own program.  I thought I was being honest with my sponsor, but in retrospect I see that I had my own agenda.  Some people realize early on in their drinking (before several multi-car train wrecks) that they need help, and they are smart enough to get their ass straightened out before it gets rock bottom embarrassing.  Not me.  I wanted to see how far I could wrestle with my affliction of alcoholism before it took me to places that I wouldn’t dare confess to a priest (although I’m not Catholic, but they supposedly hear a lot of terrible things in those little booths).  I had to scrape my ass on the rocky bottom of the hole that I dug myself into (not once, but several times over).  It was a seven year rock bottom for me.  AA was the piece of cake that I ate during those seven years, which kept me briefly sober.  In other words, I needed something more intense than a meeting once or twice a day.  My self-destruction and self-loathing was beyond those thin walls that displayed posters of steps and helpful sayings.  I know I’m not the only one here.

I had no idea that there were several treatment centers in the Bay Area (where I live) that were county funded.  If I had known it during those seven years of my toilet bowl spiral, I would have most likely got the help I needed a lot sooner, but I may have not been so desperate for help then, to choose the most intense treatment center of the bunch (besides Delancey Street in San Francisco, which is two years of militant rehabilitation).  I may have gone for easy-street and chosen a program that let me do whatever I wanted, which was mostly sit around and watch tv, eat garbage and drink coffee.  I know a lot of people who go into treatment for a sabbatical from life.  That doesn’t work.  I went to a sixth month program that ripped my head out of my ass and slammed it into the mirror until I saw my bad behaviors around my drinking so clearly that I pretty much left there licking my wounds.  I was chastised and humbled and awakened.  Reality slammed me in that program like madness into the Hatter.  I woke up to myself and saw what I was, which was a piece of shit.  But six months of that, plus ten months of sober-living and aftercare, brought me to complete wholeness in myself.  I know a lot of people who go to 30-60 day treatment programs and come out of it feeling refreshed and alive, just to discover that they can’t cope in the real world.  You’re safe in those programs, you see, and then suddenly you’re exposed to reality again.  When I graduated from New Bridge Foundation (in Berkeley), I not only coped in the real world, but I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted in the real world, and I knew how to go after it, sober.  That’s the place I wanted to be, so that’s why I chose a behavior modification program as opposed to a cushy institution with TVs and endless pots of coffee.  I was willing.  When I first got into New Bridge, everything was weird and regiment.  The clients wore slacks and button down shirts.  There were a thousand rules to follow, and a hundred plastic red chairs.  The counselors kept saying, “hold onto your red chair.”  It was confusing at first, and everything got under my skin.  I was angry often, and bored, and annoyed, but I kept sitting in those red chairs, and standing in their infamous mirror, and eventually, I “got it.”

Here I am nearly four years later, and I know beyond the shadow of doubt if I were stuck on a deserted island out in the middle of nowhere, by myself, with a shit ton of fermenting fruit surrounding me, and there were no AA meetings to speak of, I would not get drunk.  That’s the place I wanted to be in my sobriety.  More than anything, I just wanted to trust myself, so I guess the question you have to ask yourself when choosing a route of sobriety is, where do you want to see yourself at the end?  What kind of sobriety do you want?  Do you want to live your life to the fullest, or do you want to struggle for the remainder of your life with your affliction?  Do you want to know how to live a fulfilling existence sober, or do you want to just get by?  Because it really is your choice.  I don’t go to many AA meetings.  I go hiking.  I go to the beach often.  I write as much as I breathe.  I meditate and listen to positive speakers on YouTube.  I spend a lot of time with my family.  I surround myself with people who are filled with integrity and who love me dearly.  I laugh often.  I go to meetings sometimes to recall what it was like.  I do a constant inventory of my life, and when I’m wrong, I admit it as soon as possible.  I know a lot of people go to meetings to give back to Newcomers, and I think that’s amazing.  I try to give back to the world everyday I’m in it.  I do my best with what I have.  I put up a lot of boundaries with people, even if it means pissing them off, because it keeps me centered and sober.  I stay spiritually connected and surrender to things I have no control over, everyday.  That’s what treatment did for me, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way, even though it sucked much of the time.  I’m eternally grateful for that place.  I still have friends from New Bridge, and most of my graduating group is still sober and very strong as a whole.  That’s pretty incredible right there.

If you are trying to figure out how to stay sober, you’ve got to be willing to do the work.  It isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do everything at once.  You get to do it one moment at a time, and there will be a lot of support around you during the process.  Whether you choose AA, NA, or a rigorous program like I did, do it willingly and with discipline.  Do it to the point that you get to a place where you completely trust yourself.  Because until you completely trust yourself, you are a slave to your drug of choice.  So ask yourself exactly what it is you want, and then go the distance.  There are so many resources and programs that are county and state funded.  If you are worried about leaving work behind, and leaving your family during treatment, think of how not-present you are for your job and family now.  Ninety days or six months of treatment is a drop in the bucket.  When I got out, I found a job immediately and my family was happier than ever to see me.  They rooted me on throughout the entire process, and they supported me going in there because they were tired of my shit.  I have a friend who’s job was waiting for him a year later.  The universe will fall into place for you when you get the help you need.  It truly will, so do whatever it takes, and do it as intensely as you went after your high.  That’s the way to go, and if you have any questions about my journey, please feel free to write them in the comments below, or email me at ArticulatingMagic@gmail.com.

From A-Z Why Recovery is Easier than Addiction

Ultimate Freedom

Acceptance and Awareness

Better perception of reality

Clarity

Doing what you dig

Experiencing emotions

Freedom from fear

Growth (mental, emotional, spiritual)

Having choices

Intelligent decisions

Just being yourself

Kindness toward yourself and others

Laughing comes easier

Mindfulness

No hangovers

Open to life

Playfulness

Quiet mind

Restful instead of restless

Surrendering to what you have no control over

Terrific sleep

Unity with yourself and others

Valuing yourself

World opens up for you

X marks the spot for new beginnings

You (underneath all those layers)

Zeal for life

It’s Important to Know Your Limitations

Limitations

When you navigate through life with direction and have a sense of self, sometimes you hit a wall.  The wall is unexpected and it can be maddening, but only if you try to break through the wall instead of just standing there in awareness of it, and then accepting that it’s there.  The wall can be anything, but mostly it’s a place where you are reminded that you are not invincible.  After a long run with tons of momentum, the wall presents itself, making it abundantly clear that you need to slow down and change things up a bit.  If you don’t do it, the universe will do it for you, and from experience, I’ve learned that the universe’s way of getting my attention is not usually subtle.  The wall is kind of subtle, so if you’re aware of it when it arises, then you can overcome it without too much of a struggle.

It’s good to know your limitations.  It’s not good to walk around the planet thinking you know everything.  Nobody knows everything.  I don’t care who you are.  Self-awareness isn’t about life always being simple and trouble-free.  It’s truly about knowing the circumstances and how you are feeling and being in acceptance of everything right here right now without trying to outsmart any discomfort that you feel.

Last night I was in a Restorative Meditation class, and the instructor kept bringing us back to our bodies, asking us to feel anything that may not be comfortable.  She kept returning us back to our bodies, although my mind was off in the distance.  Each time she brought us back to our bodies, I felt something I hadn’t noticed before.  We did a stretch that brought pain to the palms of my hands.  It was incredibly uncomfortable, but during that time, I wasn’t thinking about anything else except for the discomfort.  When I directed my attention to my uncomfortable hands, and then accepted that they were uncomfortable, I felt myself relax into the discomfort.  The weirdest thing was that I actually became grateful for that pain because it made me feel alive in that moment, and none of my thoughts had any momentum over that pain.  The pain was a gift because it brought me into focus.  I wasn’t trying to avoid the pain, or turn off the pain.  I simply accepted it and decided that I was not yet strong in that portion of my hands.  I didn’t judge myself for it.  How often do I lay upside down and hold my feet up in straps?  Never.  So, how could I build that muscle if I didn’t allow the pain and discomfort to overcome me while I was stretching that untrained muscle?

What muscle am I stretching right now in my real life?  I’m not certain.  I know one thing is for sure – I’m not comfortable at all.  I’m feeling things in my body, mind and emotions that feel a lot like a wall.  I feel a bit blank because I don’t have answers for myself right now.  I’m at a loss.  The good news is, I know this is nothing more than an opportunity to quiet down and be aware.  I don’t have to have answers, and I’m certainly not going to avoid the way I’m feeling – the rawness, the numbness, the blankness.  It’s not going to kill me.  I know nothing right now, thank god.  I just know there is a wall, and I am standing before it and it’s incredibly annoying.  I don’t have it all figured out.  I’m vulnerable.  I’m human.  I’m fallible.  That’s actually incredibly refreshing.  If I knew everything, life would be dreadfully boring.

We all have limitations.  It’s ok to admit this about ourselves.  There was a time in my life when I pretended to know what I was doing.  That got me nothing but a lot of unwanted wake-up calls.  When you get to a place where you are ok with feeling vulnerable, and perfectly fine with not knowing what the hell is going on, then you’re actually getting somewhere.  I may not feel like I’m getting anywhere right now, and that’s ok.  This is a good place to ask for help, or to accept advice, or to be open to receiving some clarity.  It’s not a time to beat myself up, or to shut down.  Somehow I’ll befriend this wall and the wall will become uncomfortable with my acceptance, so it will shift, and I will gracefully walk past it.  Until then, I’m in a place of not knowing anything, and for once in my life, that’s perfectly alright by me.

Being Positive Doesn’t Mean Painting Yourself Pink When You’re Feeling Olive Green

Think Positive

For some reason I found myself surrounded by a lot of negative thinking people when I was first out on my own as a sober person.  I kept running into skeptics and cynics, and it was difficult for me to understand how people could live with the attitude that life was pretty shitty.  I was the Yang of that Yin.  No matter where I went, however, I couldn’t get away from people who made me feel like I was in La La Land.  I was in Berkeley too, which I thought was more of a hippy-happy place, but no – people were pissed off and convinced that if you think positive, you’re being delusional.

I took this as a challenge and began looking at how I viewed things.  In treatment I learned to notice my emotions arising when other people were in my presence.  I learned to stop and feel my emotions rather than reacting from them.  I had been out of treatment for about four months by this time, and hadn’t even considered my emotions in situations yet.  I was walking around in a bubble of positivity, constantly being grateful for everything from top ramen to minimum wage paychecks, and trying to find the silver lining in everything.  The thing was, I felt really good most of the time, but I was also ignoring when I didn’t feel good.  So I began getting real with myself and I stopped painting things pink when they were actually olive green.

Yes I was grateful for both of my two jobs, but there were several things about work that I was unhappy about.  I began noticing those things.  I began feeling how annoyed I was half of the time, and also there were people I came into contact with who made me feel inferior.  I began feeling that insecurity out in myself.  When I was bored, I admitted to myself that I was bored.  When I wanted to throw chicken at an entitled customer’s ugly face, I felt the anger come up and allowed it to hang out with me.  No I didn’t react in my emotions, but I stopped lying about them.  After about a month I realized how negative I felt inside regardless of my positive attitude.  Sometimes life was just shitty, and I was finally willing to take that in and allow it to consume me once in a while.  But I will tell you what – that wasn’t going to work for me forever.  I had to find a way to balance the Yin and Yang out.  I wasn’t going to live on the opposite side of the spectrum now that I was getting honest with myself.  So I got quiet and began reading books on the subject.  What I discovered was that our whole entire experience of life is projected by how we think.  Our experience of life is induced by our emotions, and our emotions derive from what we think about.  Ah-ha!  The bottom line was that I needed to change my thinking in order to enhance my emotions so that the experience of positivity could be genuine.

This took me about a year, but I made the decision to do an experiment.  I was about to move into a new place where I rented a bedroom inside of an older house with a woman who I knew nothing about.  At first I was terrified of it being a wrong decision because I was leaving my recovery peers in order to learn to balance on my own two feet.  I had outgrown the need for “support” which wasn’t feeling like support anymore.  The only thing I went on was my gut, and my gut was telling me to make the move, although my brain was incredibly insecure about the whole thing.  Instead of buy into what my brain was telling me (that the carpet was not clean enough for me, that it was too small of a space, that I would lose touch with my peeps, etc…) I decided to change my thinking.  I had about nine months before my daughter would be moving back in with me.  I had nine months on my own.  This would be a perfect time to complete the manuscript that I was writing and spend some quality time getting to know my sober self in relation to the real world.  I had a simple life and I could either buy into my fears, or I could tap into the place of myself that I had been ignoring for years.  I could really dive into my writing and move forward with an attitude that life keeps getting better.  I decided that I would write that damn book and trust that when I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing in life, it just keeps getting better.  It did.

Instead of living on the surface of myself and of life, I began feeling everything.  I didn’t deny when I was afraid, which was often, but I also didn’t buy into the fear either.  I somehow developed the courage to walk through it, and life began feeling legitimately magical.  Great things began happening.  I was more motivated.  I felt more joy.  Positive people entered into my experience.  Within those nine months my life accelerated beyond anything I would have ever imagined.  Two years later, I am living a completely different lifestyle – the one I was dreaming about while living in that bedroom with the dirty carpet.

It really boils down to two things – fear and freedom.  You either buy into your fears about life, or you trust the deeper part of yourself that longs to be free from that overbearing fear.  If you buy into the fear, you’re going to be riding on unpredictable waves your whole life.  If you dive past the fear, you’re going to find freedom.

No, things are not perfect and yes, I do have bad days, but I continue forward marching with the attitude that life keeps getting better, and it does.  I am not lying to myself when I say this.  I am certain of it.  I know it to be true because my little experiment worked.  Instead of pretending that I don’t feel “negative” emotions, I acknowledge them and allow them to be with me, but then I change my thinking around situations by saying things like, “It’s going to be ok.  I’m always being guided.  I’m exactly where I need to be right now.  I’m loved beyond measure.  I’m going to move through this with ease.  Some days are better than others, and that’s ok.  Emotions are temporary.  They are not eternal.  Whatever I need is given to me at the exact right time, and right now I may need this challenge in order to grow.”  The inner dialogue has changed, and so has my life.  It’s getting better and better all the time.  My relationships with my family is so much healthier.  I have several friends now instead of acquaintances.  My job completely accommodates my needs and wants in life.  Both of my children live with me because they actually want to be around me.  That in itself is nothing short of a miracle.

It’s not about being positive and ignoring the negative, or searching for a silver lining in the grand scheme of life.  It’s about going deeper.  It’s about getting real with yourself.  If you are unhappy – admit that shit.  Feel that negativity so that it can move through your body.  Be aware of it, but then change your thinking around it so that things will transform for the better.  Accept things for what they are, positive or negative, but learn to smile with life.  It’s always changing – it’s constantly on the move.  The question is, can you move with it in ease, or are you going to resist it by ignoring what’s really going on with you?  Once you began acknowledging what’s really going on with you, the negative emotions begin clearing much quicker.  They simply want your attention.  They draw you in so that you remember yourself – so that you can rebalance and re-center yourself, instead of getting lost out there in the chaos of the world.

Think of Yourself as a Manuscript (Review, revise, resubmit…)

Manuscript

Yesterday I took a short walk in town and observed the people around me.  Some were focused.  Others were in a hurry.  Many were lining up at the sport’s bar excited about football.  There is a small redwood tree park I walk through to get home and two men were jamming on their electric guitars on one of the pathway benches.  They had some real harmony going on and I wanted to stay and hang out, but that would have been kind of weird.  They were just practicing, not performing.  The cases to their instruments were closed – not open for spare change.  Obviously they were playing because they loved playing.

This weekend I kind of just took it easy, which is rare for me.  I’m always on the go, but one thing I did do was write, which is something I used to procrastinate doing.  When I used to sit down and write, it took a lot of effort.  It was like trying to tame a wild boar inside of me that was more interested in distractions than the discipline of writing.  The irony was, if I wasn’t writing, I felt like I was wasting my life away.  I think most writers can relate here – we just have this innate need to write.  If we don’t do it, we feel awful about it.  So for most of my life, I have written poetry or short stories to calm down that inner stirring to write, but when I got sober, I knew where I wanted to place my life’s focus.

I’ve never had any doubt that writing was what I am supposed to be doing.  The hardest part about writing is following through and finishing the manuscript, so I challenged myself to complete my projects.  It was not easy.  There was no one there to root me on, or any indication that what I was writing would be worth reading.  If I liked what I was writing, it was a good indication to me that other people would enjoy reading it, but there is a huge process to achieving the goals I have for myself.  Editing my own work is a never-ending task.  Every time I re-read my completed manuscripts, I find errors.  Writers not only have to complete their manuscripts – we have to re-write them.  Then we have to go through them with a fine-tooth comb.  After that, there’s the cover art, marketing, social media networking, soliciting for representation, self-promotion, etc.  It’s a huge commitment.  I mean, I don’t honestly know what drives me except that I told myself a long time ago that I was going to do this.  I got behind the wheel of this ship and focused on the horizon up ahead.  Any challenge that comes between me and that horizon is worth taking-on.  I’ve made that commitment to myself, you see.

Sometimes I’m hard on myself because I want something other than what I have right now.  I’ve been struggling with this a lot.  I mean, I blog about living in the moment and being happy and accepting of what I have right now.  For the most part, I am happy for what I have right now, but there is also this drive toward that horizon.  Last night I was at a meeting listening to someone’s story, which was pretty mild in comparison to mine.  She drove drunk with four children all the time and never got a DUI.  She was never arrested or evicted or publicly humiliated.  While she was speaking I was staring at the floorboards of the room, listening and looking at all the little grooves in the wood.  Something occurred to me that all I am in life is one of those little grooves among endless other little grooves.  Even if my story is a powerful one, it may never get heard the way I desire it to be heard.  My manuscripts are the same thing.  Little grooves in the wood among many. What even drives me I ask myself?  Some people make it big while others do not.  It’s a crap shoot really.  The truth is, when you’re driven to a grand horizon, you’ve got to accept the fact that you may never make it there.  That’s really important to grasp.  You’ve got to do what you love doing for the love of it, just like those guys with the electric guitars in the park.

I had to surrender last night to my drive.  Instead of beating myself up for my desire to have something more than what I have now (which, again, is like taming a wild boar), I decided that I would surrender to the fact that I have no control over my drive.  It’s always been there.  Even when I was darkly failing myself, the drive was there deep down inside.  It’s one of those things I cannot deny about myself, or pretend that it doesn’t exist.  I would love to say that I’m completely here and now, and satisfied because of my here and now.  I have goals for my life, and that’s always been the case.  I have a fire under my feet.  It’s ok.  I’m going to accept this about myself now and just hang out with it.  Whether it’s good or bad, isn’t the question.  The question is – am I willing to accept this about myself?  I can allow the drive to lead me and taunt me and holler at me, or I can just stop and feel out this inner pulling of mine.  I’ve never really done that before.  All along I’ve been identifying with it and allowing it to lead the way for me.  I’ve never really denied it, but I also haven’t been completely honest about it either.

Surrendering is a constant thing we must do.  Self-awareness is part of recovery.  If I go along my life succumbing to this drive, I may find myself tortured if my goals are not accomplished.  For the longest time, I thought this drive was normal, but last night I realized that I haven’t even acknowledged it or faced it, or separated myself from it and become the watcher of it.  But this inner boar – it’s been part of my identity for quite some time.  I just realized that the drive is not “who I am” – it’s simply another facet of my personality, which I haven’t taken the time to observe yet.  I observed other people yesterday without even noticing how driven I was to complete a manuscript I was writing. What is this drive of mine even about?

Why is this important?  Because if I’m being driven and not aware that I am being driven, then I am just as lost as most people in the world.  I’m always talking and writing about self-awareness, but self-awareness is a never-ending journey.  It’s like the manuscripts I’m constantly editing.  I’m basically like a walking-talking manuscript.  There may never be a masterpiece here, but I’m always chipping away at things that no longer serve me, and noticing what run-on sentences are in my train of thoughts.  I’m constantly in a state of surrender realizing things about myself that I hadn’t previously considered.  This drive of mine – I hadn’t considered.  So what it is it about?  Why do I identify with it so deeply?  Why does it have so much power over me? Surrender, acceptance, surrender, acceptance… surrender.

We all have things we overlook about ourselves.  We all identify with elements of our personality that are not truly “who we are.”  What I mean by this is that who we are is greater than the mere personality of ourselves.  We are infinite beings; limitless souls.  The personality is a road block, so it’s good to observe it once in a while and to chip away at it – surrender to the parts of yourself that aren’t serving you any longer.  What part of your personality have you not considered?  It’s a good question to ask, because it brings you back to that place of humility.  It centers you.  It keeps you present.  As much as I want to be present, I’m constantly on the go to get somewhere.  I don’t have to beat myself up about it.  I simply have to know this about myself.  I have to know what’s getting in the way of the greater part of me that exists in a place without desire or longing.  It’s that desire and longing that keeps us in a state of suffering, you see.  And the state of suffering is easily eradicated with a simple declaration of surrender.  It’s a constant thing we have to do.  It’s a discipline.  Like my writing, self-awareness does not promise that I will ever achieve anything.  It’s merely a thing I do because it serves the purpose of keeping me sober and steady.

So we must constantly ask ourselves, what is it about my personality that I haven’t yet considered?  What is blocking me from who I truly am?  And we must chip away at these facets of our personality by surrendering and accepting.  The goal isn’t to become enlightened.  The goal is always to continue discovering ourselves.  It is a never-ending journey, but the journey is always now, and now is always the goal.  There is nothing in the horizon.  The horizon doesn’t exist, and it is also not something separate from us.  It is not up ahead.  The horizon is you.  The horizon is me.  If you don’t understand, just keep chipping away at the personality.  Continue surrendering; continue accepting.

Is Your Direction Purely Consumption?

Consumption

We are a generation of insatiable consumers.  Everywhere we go there are advertisements working overtime on our human desires in order to get us to buy something we probably don’t need.  Commercials take up a third of our show’s airtime, and companies who have money to spend (like Apple and Pepsi) advertise their products right inside the shows we watch.  We are not only consumers of products, we are consumers of entertainment.  This is probably the worst form of consumption because it comes across so sparkly and harmless (most of the time).  The problem is, when we are constantly needing to be entertained, we lose ourselves in things outside of ourselves.  This is exactly what addiction is, and it comes in the form of many faces.  Some addictions drag you through the mud and rip your life apart, but many addictions are subtly and slowly removing you from yourself.  So what’s the problem you ask?  I don’t know – perhaps I think too much about the day I die and having regrets about things I didn’t do while I was alive (because I was too busy trying to fill up the empty spaces by consuming, instead of enjoying the precious moments of my life).

Lucky me – I know a lot of people who simply enjoy their lives, who are not the mainstream type of consumers.  This is refreshing.  I’ve been on both sides of the equation, and I still love my shows – they make them so funny now that it’s difficult not to watch them.  Not that watching shows are bad, but it’s how much time many of us spend zoning out in front of the television, or with anything that takes us away from ourselves.  I enjoy good writing, and I watch shows and films with good writing because it is inspiring to me – not just entertaining. I read books that inspire my craft. I enjoy beautiful artwork because it lifts my spirits. Not that I am immune to zoning out in front of the TV. I do that too.

Consumption is not a direction in life, however.  It’s a filler.  If you have direction and you know where you are headed, I would say that a little TV is probably ok, but like anything in life, there has to be a balance.  If you’re finding yourself unhappy when you don’t have people, places and things keeping you distracted from yourself, then it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate your life.  What do you want out of your life?  Where do you want to go?  Where do you see yourself five years from now?  What are you missing out on because you have lost touch with yourself?  If you continue doing what you are doing, where are you headed?  If what you are consuming isn’t inspiring or assisting you toward your dreams or goals, then it probably isn’t worth your time.

I know what restlessness feels like and how disturbing it can be when you are left alone with yourself with nothing to do but spin your wheels.  It’s a terrible feeling – I KNOW, but it’s often a good place to be because without anything to relieve your restlessness, you can discover a lot about yourself.  What is your ingenious brain telling you to do while your feeling restless?  What does it desire?  What is it begging for?  What does it crave?  When I am feeling restless, I find out (really fast) what distractions are calling out to me, and it can be a brutal space to hang out in, but once I get past the squawking parrot in my head (the consumer), everything becomes incredibly settled and calm.  I realize all of that squawking was nonsense.  I don’t DIE, or end up disappearing when I don’t feed into the restlessness.  In fact, I become much more aware of myself, and of the deepest part of myself that longs for space to simply feel alive, rather than feeling numbed out all the time.  Even feeling emotional raw these days has such an advantage over feeling nothing, because at least I know I’m ALIVE.

I used to be bored all of the time.  I can tell you after three and a half years of sobriety and in knowing which direction I am headed in my life, I have not experienced boredom in most of those three-point-five years.  I can’t even imagine being bored anymore – even if I am just sitting on a couch staring at a wall.  I am not bored because I know who I am, where I am going, how amazing silence can be, and I am truly happy.  Life is not always a cake walk, but I am truly happy, even during off-days.  This is because I stopped filling the void and finally allowed to void to be.  I write about this a lot, but the void was simply my Self, desiring me to come home.  Once I entered into the void, I found out that I was everything I ever needed.  I recommend this course of action.  It is much better than living a life trying to keep that void filled.  You can never fill that void because (again) it isn’t a void at all.

Though many people are quite satisfied in their lives by simply living a day to day routine and enjoying the moments as they come, some of us have dreams and ultimate desires for ourselves.  If you’re one of those people, then take action toward your goals.  Make a bucket list and go for it.  Ask yourself if what you are doing throughout the course of the day is creating steps toward your goals, or taking you away from your goals.  I used to get caught in this trap of thinking that it was going to take me WAY too long to get where I wanted to go, and also, I was not up for the work that was required of me.  I suppose recovery has taught me something valuable.  Once you step toward a goal, and place your energy toward that goal, the momentum toward that goal picks up exponentially, and the spiritual, emotional and mental growth during the process is what will give you strength to continue on.  Once you get on the path, and you’re serious about the path toward your goals, the whole universe will conspire for you to reach those goals (haven’t you read ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho?  Well, you should if you haven’t).  It’s certainly not as daunting as you’re probably making it in your head.  Even after several years of writing books and not finding a Literary Agent or a major publisher to represent me (one of my goals), I am still going strong.  If it takes me another decade to get where I want to go, I’m not giving up.  I’m going to continue writing.  I will only grow better as a writer and learn more about myself, and life, in the meantime.  The path toward getting there has been that incredibly fulfilling to me.  And if I never reached my goals, I would not consider myself a failure, because at least I tried.  A failure is someone who gives up on themselves before they even try.

I have been blogging a lot for the last year, but some things have shifted in my life that require me to place my focus on completing the manuscripts I’ve started.  I write mostly in the morning because it’s the quietest time of day.  I decided to blog about once a week, and to fill the remainder of the mornings, writing my manuscripts.  For those of you who read my blogs everyday, don’t think I have given up. On the contrary. I have written a lot on this blog and I feel incredibly satisfied with LushNoLonger. I will continue blogging, just not as often.
In the meantime, I have a promotion going on from now through the end of October (2014).  If you download a copy of ‘Majestic Wonderbread – Earthbound and Seeking Hidden Treasure,’ http://www.amazon.com/MAJESTIC-WONDERBREAD-Earthbound-Seeking-Treasure-ebook/dp/B00DGZPXPI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1413208837&sr=8-2&keywords=majestic+wonderbread

Then like my FB page https://www.facebook.com/MajesticWonderbread

and write an Amazon review about the book – email me with you full name and address (Articulatingmagic@gmail.com), I will send you an autographed copy of the book.  It’s a win-win.  It is a really good book and it’s the first of a series.  I believe in this book, so I’m promoting it – it’s part of my own path toward one of my life goals.

If you need more inspiration to follow your own goals, here is a link to ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho (I highly recommend this book):  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_13?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the%20alchemist&sprefix=the+alchemist%2Caps%2C466