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.

Getting Past the Physical and Emotional, Into the Eternal

Path of Light

Over the course of a couple of years, I keep running into parallel situations where I am confronted with circumstances beyond my capability for immediate resolve.  The circumstances are stressful beyond measure.  Two times, I could barely get out of bed because of the weight I harbored, but I reached out to my friends or family each time, who helped me find the strength to trust in the outcome.  What am I asking for in my life?  I have to reflect on this, knowing these situations are created by an inner desire for something.  I am of the understanding that I am the creator of my own life experiences.  The answer is that I want to move past some of my old ways of thinking, especially about money.  For years, I have “never had enough,” and in each of these situations, I’ve been stretched and pulled and contorted into a place where I’ve finally had to let go and trust that there would be enough, and there always has been more than enough in each of these situations, although in the moment, I would have never guessed that I would be even better than ever, if I merely looked past what was right in front of me, and how I felt at the time.  The one thing I did not do was go down a dark path of thinking.  I acknowledged my fears, but did not get caught in their trap, and I know now, that this is key in overcoming the most difficult situations.

I find myself almost laughing today because here I sit with another circumstance that has me mentally contorted.  My roommate is basically bailing on her responsibility for the remainder of our lease.  We have seven more months on our lease and rent where I live is not cheap, which is why I got a roommate in the first place.  I can’t exactly get another roommate because of the way our apartment is set up.  It would have to be with a close friend or family member because of the space.  My roommate was like family, so it worked out okay, but I cannot replace her, nor do I really want to at this point.  My children and I need our own space, and none of my family lives near here, so it’s not like I can offer anyone close to me a place to live.  I’m on my own now.  Suddenly.  Just got an income increase two weeks ago, and a week later, my roommate tells me she can’t pay the rent.  Kind of ironic, and yes it’s a blessing about the income increase, but how incredibly scary and frustrating.  I was going to buy a laptop with that extra money so that I could work from home. Now I’m spending that extra money (and some) to pay the rent.  So much for the laptop… (but, wait)…

Yesterday I was riding with the Realtor I work with as his Transaction Coordinator.  We were going to look at a historic house that is going on the market with the two other Realtors I work with, as their Transaction Coordinator.  During the drive, he asked how I was holding up with the “roommate situation.”  I told him that I was bummed because I needed to buy a laptop with the extra money, so that I could work from home.  He knew that I was looking at laptops just a week prior. The device that I was using was a tablet, and it was quirky with some of the online systems we use, so it was taking me several hours to do what would normally take a half hour on a PC.  We were on the way to his house to grab some signs.  He just bought a device like mine, but newer, so he mentioned that he had a laptop just sitting around collecting dust.  He grabbed it when he got to his house, bag and all, and plopped it on my lap.  “Here you go.  All you need to do is erase all my crap.  It’s a good laptop.”  I opened the HP and was surprised to see that it was in great condition.  I’m using it now and it’s faster than my device, plus much more convenient.  It is everything I need to work from home, and it has all the bells and whistles that my device doesn’t have.  Sure, I would love to have a brand new system, but I didn’t have to pay a dime and I got something handed to me faster than I could have done research on what to purchase.  This is how life unfolds for me.  What I need is provided.  When I ask, I receive.  When I let go, things fall right into place.

I don’t exactly know how I’m going to manage the next few months without feeling overwhelmed, but from experience, I know that it will all work out.  My roommate situation wasn’t exactly convenient like I had hoped anyway.  There were several issues, and I wasn’t happy the way things were, so having her move out is a very positive thing, emotionally.  Usually when you remove negativity from your life experience, it makes way for more positive things to come into fruition.  I’ve noticed that when I am emotionally tired, or stressed or frustrated, it is difficult to write, but when I am at peace, the writing flows.  Other things flow better too, like money, and good relationships with like-minded people.

One of my very close friends got really angry in empathy for me when I explained what was going on with my roommate.  I was too drained to take on any anger at the time, nor did I want to sink into my frustration like that.  It just takes too much energy, but it also reminded me that I’m no longer caught up in the physical appearance of things like I used to be.  I am aware that something greater is unfolding for me and my children.  It isn’t apparent yet, and it is scary as hell, but I truly have no control.  This is all beyond my capability for immediate resolve.  After my friend had his fit of anger (which was really entertaining, btw) he told me something he had told me once before a couple of years ago while I was going through something similar.  “The universe won’t let you fall,” he gently said.  This was after I mentioned that if I couldn’t make it, I would be okay.  It isn’t the end of the world if I have to start from square one again, but he assured me that the universe won’t let me fall because I’m doing everything I can to take care of business and keep a roof over our heads.  I knew he was right, so I relaxed into the couch (thank god it’s mine) feeling very grateful for his affirmation.

We all want life to be a certain way and to unfold at a certain time.  From tons and tons of experience with sudden changes, my life rarely goes according to how I want it to go, or in my timing, but I have also grown incredibly strong and wise during my journey.  I don’t have control over most things, but I certainly have control over myself.  I have control over how I think, what my vision is, who I hang around with and how I respond to circumstances.  I have control over what is important to me and identifying those things that are not a priority.  My journey has been more about me than it has been about the outside world.  In the meantime, I’ve grown closer to my children, my friends, and my family, and I have a very good working relationship with the several Realtors I assist.  I am so incredibly fortunate to live in the area I live, collaborating with down-to-earth people, and that I have a positive outlook, rather than a negative one.

There is still a lot of work to be done, and I can improve in many areas of my life, but I know that when I focus on that which is beyond the physical and the emotional, the knots in my life work themselves out.  If I need help, I ask.  If I need a friend to talk to, I reach out.  If I need support, I go to a meeting.  If I’m overwhelmed to the point of feeling paralyzed, I turn it over to the great HP and focus on being of service to another human being.  There is an eternal place with an abundance of grace.  This is where I go when the skin meets the pavement in my life.  This is the space where I am set free from the burdens of everyday uncontrollable circumstances.

When Life Is a Big Fat Question Mark

What Next

Not knowing what comes next

has its benefits

something greater than me

has my back

This mystery is not a tragedy

merely a vestige to remain

on track

Everything You’ll Ever Need, and More

The eternal you

Perhaps it’s just me, but I am not the sentimental type.  I enjoy the occasional laugh about a funny past experience, but rarely do I go deep into contemplation about how things were during a different time of my life.  I have lived several lifetimes in just this one.  Ten years ago seems like a chapter in someone else’s book.  My twenties are something to be admired because I was trying to figure out what I know now, but going back there in my mind is like visiting a ghost town.  There is nothing for me there.

Sentiment is not my thing.  I have a handful of material treasures that I keep because they mean something to me, but I try to keep those meaningful things to the bare minimum.  I don’t like being attached to material items, or to memories.  It’s not because I am cold or that I lack depth.  It’s simply because I’ve witnessed too many people being held back by their sentiment, and stifled by holding on too tight to the past.  Many people do not like “letting go” of anything.  The fear of letting things go is much more difficult than the actual process of letting go, however.  There is no pain or sorrow after you have moved away from that which you were holding onto.  Clearing out the old makes room for the new.  I am constantly making room for the new.

I’ve walked into homes that feel heavy with sentiment.  There’s a stagnancy in this type of behavior.  You can feel it in certain places, around certain people.  It’s a heavy feeling; sometimes it’s also empty.  After two-plus decades of being in the real estate profession, I suppose I am just sensitive to energy in rooms,  I’ve entered into thousands of homes.  You can feel a divorce.  You can feel abuse and neglect.  You can feel heartache from a death.  You can also feel when someone is in complete acceptance that life is changing and they are ready to move on.  There is a lightness to that way of being.  You cannot hold on to anything in the physical realm.  Nothing here is eternal.

In recovery, it’s so important to constantly let go.  If you hold on to the past, it will take you out.  If you hold on to the moment, it will swiftly pass you by.  Regrets are futile.  Life is about shedding old skins and growing out of old ways.  It’s in constant movement.  It’s a river of change.  Once you embrace the movement, you will be set free.  The eternal stuff is invisible.  It’s wisdom and knowledge.  It’s your soul – that part of you that keeps being, even when everything around you keeps a-changing.

When I think of myself twenty-five years ago, I recall being on rollerblades upon a levee.  I skated to high school on that levee each morning.  Sometimes I go back to that teenaged girl and stand back inside those rollerblades.  I look down at myself and see that my body has changed significantly, yet I am still me.  Back then, I still felt like me – the way I feel now – and it kind of blows my mind how I have always been me, no matter the circumstances.  I’m always this person with the same mind, the same sense of humor and the same concerns.  Back then I was just as curious and adventurous as I am today.  That was me, and THIS is me.  It’s such a strange thing to stand back in those rollerblades upon that levee, realizing that I felt the same then as I do now, because it has always been me.  The innate ME has not changed, although mostly everything else has.

It’s incredibly profound to know that no matter what occurs (as long as I am still here), I won’t disappear or fade.  No matter what is taken away from me in life, I am still me.  That ME has always been here, and I have learned to really love her.  I think that’s what we should be focusing on – you know – the eternal.  To learn to love and accept that being of who you are, no matter what occurs and changes around you, is where the focus should be. Why? Because the only thing you’re guaranteed to have throughout your life, is YOU. Nothing else will remain the same, so the best thing you can do is embrace who you are and learn to love yourself.  Everything else you can let go, because those people, places and things will change and fade.  Anchor yourself in who you are, not what you have, and you will discover that you are truly everything you’ll ever need, and more.

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

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

More Than You Can Handle? Time to Reflect on What You’ve Been Asking For in Your Life

Overwhelmed

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”  Well, that’s just vague.  Human beings are incredibly resilient creatures.  We can handle just about anything, so the saying should be, “God knows you can handle more than you know you can handle.”  That sounds about right.  There are times in my life where I’m carrying a load bigger than me.  I’m an ant hauling around a crumb as big as a beetle.  That’s what it feels like, especially today.  The circumstances being presented to me are much greater than my capacity to figure out how I can manage the quickly incoming changes.  BIG life changes.  Nothing I was expecting either, and it certainly feels like more than I can handle, but after knowing how the great HP works in my life, and in understanding that I directly create my experiences, I have to open myself up to the possibility that I am being lead toward the desires of my heart.

When I’ve been zeroing in on what I want for my life, and begging God for help, and something suddenly gets dropped on my plate that looks more like a pair of boots than a delicious meal, well then it’s up to me to shift my thinking around it.  Why would a pair of boots be offered, rather than the abundance of food I’ve been asking for?  It doesn’t even add up.  AH-HA!  Well, that’s because someone upstairs is trying to show me that it’s my own thinking (perspective) holding me back from the experience I’ve been wanting.  In order to help me to change my perspective, I’ve been given something that doesn’t make any sense so that I become curious.  Curiosity leads to exploration, and exploration leads to discovery.  At the end of this little journey, the boots should make perfect sense.

We’ve all had this experience, and we all resist these experiences.  We want what we want handed to us on a silver platter.  Am I right?  “I asked for prime rib, Dude, and you’re delivering a pair of boots.  Are you out of your freaking mind?  I can’t eat boots!”  Yes, the universe is out of its mind because the universe has no mind.  It is a place where all things are given to us in great abundance. We are the ones who need to get out of our minds in order to receive clarity of the abundance that has been placed before us – which may appear as a pair of boots, but when we put the boots on (rather than rejecting them) something incredible happens.  We realize that the boots are there to help us along the journey.

Why all the obscurity along our path and the pressure in the process of receiving?  Because without it, there would be very little spiritual progress.  Often we want great big changes in our lives.  We ask for our dreams to come true, but when the skin meets the gravel in the physical realm, we suddenly forget our spiritual path and subscribe to the pain and pressure surrounding the experience, rather than waking up and noticing the bigger picture.  These are little tests of faith offered to us in order for us to seek clarity.  With the conditioning of our society, and the way we think, its like there are cobwebs blocking the view of our lives.  We need to clean the cobwebs so that we can see.  When we ask for certain things, the universe immediately responds, but what happens is that we haven’t changed our thinking around how we receive what we are asking for, so instead of delivering what we want on a silver platter, we get something that will assist us in a change of perspective.

For example – We often think that in order to get anywhere in life, we must work really hard.  With this way of thinking instilled in us, how are we able to receive a gift of financial abundance if we don’t believe it is available without hard work?  We create our own blocks by how we are conditioned.  If we want financial abundance, it is available to us, but the hard work must be done internally.  We must dust away the cobwebs (or the programming of our mind) in order to receive the financial abundance that we so desire.  If a pair of boots gets dropped down to us, rather than a pile of money, well then get curious about the boots.  Know that they are par for the course.  Put the boots on your feet and ask for some intergalactic clarity.  Forward march.  Trust the experience and keep your eye on the prize.  If the boots are heavy, get curious about that too.  If they are dirty, ask yourself why?  Don’t reject the boots, or toss them aside, or assume that God doesn’t hear you, or give up on your desire.  We are always being guided toward the desires of our hearts.  It’s a matter of us becoming aware of the journey.

I’ve gotten a pair of boots in front of me today.  I’m putting them on without second guessing them. They are heavy.  They are a little too tight.  I’m a flip-flop wearing kind of gal.  I asked for something completely different.  This doesn’t make any sense at all, and I am feeling quite overwhelmed because I feel the weight and lack of resources for the present circumstance.  That’s what my eyes see and it’s exactly what my programmed, cobwebbed mind tells me is true, but I’m not buying into that old beat up tape playing in my head.  I’m trusting that these boots are made for walking and that what I’ve been asking for is right up ahead.  It’s merely a matter of me trusting that I’m being guided along my journey and knowing that I have everything I need to get where I’m going.  It’s a matter of me changing my perspective, and opening my heart to receiving all that is before me.  I will not buy into my fears, get stuck inside my limited perspective, or cave in and freak out.  As my treatment counsellors used to tell me – “Oh, you’re uncomfortable?  Ok, so BE uncomfortable.  It’s not going to kill you.  In fact, it’s the best thing for you right now.”  Yes, these boots are uncomfortable, and weird, and somewhat foreign in the scheme of my life, but instead of rejecting them, I’m completely surrendering to the fact that I have NO idea how things are going to pan out – yet I do know that they are certainly going to pan out. That’s a pretty exciting adventure right there. I’m up for it. Arms open wide.

With flying colors – J. L. Forbes

The Hawk, The Beating of Your Own Drum, and the View During Your Life Journey

hawk

For a couple of years I noticed more hawks flying above me and coming into my experience than ever before.  When I finally decided to look up the totem meaning of a hawk, it was because a hawk was perched on a wooden fence during one of my morning runs down to the Berkeley marina.  This was after noticing several hawks prior to the close encounter.  I ran to the marina most mornings through a nature path, and rarely did I see another person on the path that early in the morning, but there were always animals.  To my delight, the hawk was on that fence, not even frightened by my presence or my curiosity.  I was literally about five feet away and it completely accepted me.  I took a photo and kept running.  When I got back to that spot, the sun was fully in view over the eastern hills and the hawk was still there; keen, focused, and standing at attention amidst the sun’s gorgeous rays.  It was magical.  I felt really lucky that day.  This is when I decided to look up the totem of the hawk.  I’ve always been drawn to Native American culture and the way the people live in harmony with nature.

According to the totem, a hawk represents intuition, clarity, guidance, a message from the spirit world, and rising above details.  When I encountered that particular hawk I was making some huge decisions in my life.  For me to go through with what I wanted to do (which was to move across the Bay to Marin without a job in sight, a car, money or any reason other than a yearning to be near Mount Tamalpais and near the ocean – and also because I didn’t feel at peace with raising my daughter in Berkeley), it was going to take a great deal of faith and a quantum leap through my doubts and fears.  Seeing that hawk was inspiring to me, especially after knowing its totem meaning.  I trusted in the experience with the hawk and kept moving into the direction of my desire to move across the Bay.  Every morning I ran to the marina and gazed beyond the water at the breathtaking mountain, affirming that I would be there soon.

Within five months I had a job opportunity in Marin, a boyfriend with a car who worked in Marin and no reason to remain in Berkeley.  School was starting soon and it was time to go.  It has been over a year.  We’re tucked away at the base of Mt. Tamalpais about twenty minutes from the ocean.  My job is thriving and I’ve made several friends here.  I have my own car (I’ve had two now actually) and a really cool cat named Mogley that we rescued in Oakland in January 2014.  My relationship did not last, but we have remained very good friends.  I feel like I am at home.  I have never truly felt like I was at home until now.

The last time I saw a hawk it was in December of 2013.  I had just gotten unexpected and devastating news which sent my mind into a spiral.  I was overwhelmed with grief and heartache for my children’s father who has struggled with addiction just like myself.  When I got his phone call, my old addict-self wanted to run to the liquor store to numb everything I was feeling.  I didn’t do it, however.  After the phone call, I was driving back to work from a copy center.  As I turned a corner, a hawk dove from the sky right down in front of my car, and then flew back up.  Tears were streaming down my face at the time, but I immediately busted into laughter with so much gratitude.  I was going to be ok.  Everything was going to be ok.  There was no doubt.  That hawk was a sure sign that I was being guided – and then… that was it.  I have not seen one single hawk since that day, which is odd because I was seeing at least one hawk per day for about two years.  Once, I almost passed a hawk on a PG&E pole without noticing it, and it screeched at me.  (I swear to god it was screeching at me in order to get my attention).

It kind of bothered me that I wasn’t seeing hawks anymore.  (I mean, wtf)?  I kind of felt abandoned, so I finally questioned it aloud.  “What’s going on, man?  I’m not seeing hawks anymore.  This isn’t cool.  I need the hawk.”  Sock in my gut.  Awareness.  Clarity.  Knowing from within.  YOU are the hawk.  The hawk is always with you.  You have become one with the hawk.

Ok, I know this may sound crazy, but you probably don’t get how intertwined with the hawk I was during this time, and when you get a knowing from within, there is no doubting the message.  When I got that message about being one with the hawk, I almost fell over.  It was so incredibly clear, and there was a deep truth that I felt throughout my being.  After all I went through to walk through my fears, to face my doubts, to ignore those who may have thought I was a little bit nutty trying to move to an affluent county with my income (or lack thereof), I realize that I need to keep following the path of my inner knowing.  I need to trust in that place of myself that sees beyond what my five senses tell me is true.  I’ve got to continue “feeling” my way through my life, rather than placing so much weight on the way society identifies with how things work, or buying into an idea that the odds have authority over my life.

You don’t know how many times I’ve heard really nice, logical people tell me that if I want to get where I’m trying to go, I need to have a college degree.  Well, tell that to Mark Twain, Andrew Jackson, Christopher Columbus, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller Sr., Rachael Ray, Simon Cowell, Thomas (freaking) Edison and Walt Disney (to name a few successful people who never finished college).  The only reason I have never gone to college is because I have never felt drawn to college.  I simply don’t, so I keep moving along, reading the signs, practicing being present, trusting in my inner guidance system.  I have held a career for over 21 years without a college degree, but more than anything, I’ve taken the world head on and gained experience and wisdom that I would have never gotten by sitting inside of a classroom.  I’m not drawn to classrooms – that’s just me.  I’m not opposed to them.  I appreciate people who study hard and work toward their goals, no matter if they do it in a classroom, through the military, or simply through life experience like myself.  It doesn’t matter how you gain your knowledge.  What truly matters is if you are following your heart’s desire for your life.

I’ve been beating to my own drum since I was a kid.  My drumbeat was awkward at times, and for a very long time, it was off.  I’ve drifted and failed and found myself incredibly confused – enough that I needed to ask for help, but I kept moving forward.  I rarely got stuck in one place for very long.  In the grand scheme of my life, my addiction years were very brief.  I don’t look back.  I do not worry about what’s ahead.  Now that I know the beat of my own drum, and now that I am accepting the beat of my own drum – the drum works for me.  I am in harmony with my drum, just like I became one with the hawk.  My life is now working for me, after years of feeling lost and confused about everything.  After years of life NOT working for me.

I got a message from a friend last night asking what I thought about a decision he was making.  I don’t know why he is asking for my acceptance of his decisions.  I want him to stand on his own two feet and to know what he needs and wants in his life.  I want this for everyone, because it’s important that we accept ourselves and that we know where we are headed in our lives.  Trusting yourself and loving yourself should be your top priority.  Looking for acceptance from another human being is not going to help you find acceptance for yourself, nor is it going to get you very far.  It feels good to be accepted (I know), but it is not necessary.  My point of view of someone else’s life is completely jaded by a limited perspective.  If I would have allowed people to give me advice last year when I was following my good old fashioned gut, I doubt I would have gotten much outside encouragement because the odds were against me.  People want to give you good advice, but a lot of times, the advice is based in opinion and from a very limited perspective.  Don’t allow people to stifle your experience of your own life.  Learn to trust your inner guidance system.  Learn to see beyond what your five limited senses are saying.  This is what living is about.

This last year I have had more adventure in my life than I’ve ever had in several years combined.  I’ve made more friends in a shorter period of time than ever.  I’ve had more fun, been more motivated, I’ve had more opportunities, and I find myself so excited about waking up in the morning to start my day that sometimes I can’t even sleep.  THAT’s LIVING!  That’s being ALIVE.  That’s where I wanted to be four years ago when I decided it was time to get sober.  I knew I wanted to LIVE – not just survive.  I was tired of merely surviving.  Life is too short to simply get by.  You’ve got to take chances and jump the hurdles when they appear, and wonder about things.  Wonderment – now that’s exciting.  I wondered about that hawk, and look how far that hawk got me.  It wasn’t just a coincidence.  The hawk became part of who I am, but it is only because I was interested in knowing something deeper than the mere physicality of the hawk.  The hawk represented something for my life.  You can call me delusional, but if it wasn’t for my wonderment of the hawk, I do not think I would be where I am right now.  I wouldn’t have gotten this far.

Forget about what other people say and what other people do.  Beat to your own drum without hesitation.  Discover your own harmony.  Be who you are without fear.  It is so fantastically liberating.  There is so much magic in life – It is simply up to you to be aware of it.  If you have a dream, follow it.  You may not ever get to the top of the mountain you are climbing, but the view along the way is soooooo worth the journey!

Why I’m Suddenly Obsessing About the Number Zero

Possibilities

Zero is the greatest number of all.  You want to know why?  Are you curious?  Well, it’s a lot like the word, “surrender.”  If the number zero had a word counterpart (and it probably does, but I can’t find it online this morning), I would suggest that the word be “empty.”  When there is emptiness, there is endless possibility.  This is why zero is magnificent.  Zero is another way of saying “all things are possible.”  When you are void of all your ways, the only thing you have left is just about everything.  You don’t believe me?  Well, I’m no mathematician (by any means – I frigging hated math in school), but I did happen to hear one on the radio the other day who stated that in geometry, when there is nothing (zero-point), the possibilities are endless.  This is why I decided to start figuring out ways to empty myself each day so that I could open up the possibilities of my life.

Surrendering is about letting go – completely.  Giving up the fight.  It’s knowing that you have absolutely no control, but being willing and courageous enough to admit it.  It’s ground-zero.  It’s emptying yourself of everything because you need to discover a new way to be.  We’ve all been there at one point or during certain moments of our lives, but for many of us, everyday is about remaining in a humble place of surrender so that we don’t get ahead of ourselves again.

I’m a big fan of the word “surrender” because it’s what keeps me sober, but I’m always open to deeper insight, which is why I am so incredibly excited about knowing and understanding how when you have “nothing” that everything is possible.  I like the idea of being a blank canvass and clearing my mind so that I’m not disturbing the peace of my experiences.  The idea of having a blank mind means that I’m not blocking things from occurring in my life because I’m not tossing any doubts or negativity toward possibility.  It’s like constantly having beginners luck when you are open to all things being possible.  Let me explain how – I was invited to a Giant’s game the other day.  I like the Giants and everything.  I’m from the Bay Area, so of course I root for Bay Area teams whenever I do watch sports, which is rare, but I wanted my children to have the opportunity to go to a ballgame, so we went.  My friend bought the special events tickets, which only occur twice during the season.  I knew nothing (there’s that word again) about this.  I had no idea that people weren’t allowed to go on the green except during these special events.  Apparently going on the green is like a really big deal.  I wasn’t that impressed about it because it takes a lot to impress me, but it was really cool, especially because my friend was super excited about being on the green.  Anyway, we started doing the special event Yoga and there standing on a stage right before us was Michael Franti doing the music for our yoga session.  The Yoga session was incredible and it was occurring just as the sun was setting behind the stadium, so it was pretty surreal, but I was just taking it all in, incredibly grateful that we didn’t take off after grabbing our Giants yoga mats.  We stayed for the whole thing and the experience was beautiful and so much fun for all of us.  If I had expectations about what was to come that afternoon, I don’t think my experience of it all would have been so pure, unidentified and incredible.  I’m pretty certain that I would have jaded it with my expectations and notions.

Beginner’s luck is not knowing the odds, and not blocking the possibilities with fears or ideas by dwelling on the odds.  If you know the odds, you tend to focus on them which create an experience of odds.  If you don’t know anything about the odds, well – you’re open to the possibilities.  So there you go.  Surrendering is a really big clue about how to live in a way that opens your life up to all things possible.  If you empty your mind of odds and negativity, you are creating a wind tunnel for everything good to come through.  Clear the slate today.  Be present.  Experience life with beginner’s luck.  Stand in the ground-zero of your life and open yourself up to everything possible! Let’s see how far we can go. (I’m not even aiming for the stars anymore because that would be limiting myself from what’s beyond them!)